McNamara, son of former Wayne County Executive Ed Mcnamara, he lives in Belleville with his wife, Aida, and son, Cullan. McNamara, 57, currently serves as a Wayne County Commissioner and on the board of the Wayne County Airport Authority.
Metro Times: Why are you interested in running for Wayne County Executive?
Kevin McNamara: I have the only real, sustainable plan to rebuild Wayne County government for the 21st Century. I understand what’s under the hood of Wayne County government so that we can first address the most pressing challenges and lead through honest government. Transparency in the Kevin McNamara administration will begin by educating the communities about what services we do provide and our path to rebuild the county to work for the people. Of course, we will place the county checkbook online and staff bios and salaries. Real transparency, however, is being an honest partner with the communities. Together, we will take Wayne County back for the communities: back to honest government; back to funding the prosecutor’s office as first priority; back to balancing budgets; and back to restoring Wayne County as the economic powerhouse.
MT: The county has an accumulated $175 million budget deficit. Is there a way to address that and avoid the risk of insolvency?
KM: First and foremost, balance the county budget must include the communities at the table. We affect real, sustainable change by getting the communities to buy into the plan, not by selling them out. I did not support Bob Ficano’s deficit elimination plan because it places a $120 million tax on the communities by moving the county debt to the communities. I am the only candidate for Wayne County Executive who has balanced the budget – without my leadership in 2010 with the McNamara Ordinance when I capped the 13th pension check to save the other 12 checks – it saved $20 million that in turn balanced the budget. As the next Wayne County Executive, if voters give me the privilege, I have a plan to lay out all the departments with the communities at the table to determine what is most needed; what county services are redundant; and what county services we can do without. For instance, most of the 43 cities and townships have assessment services. The county does not need to provide redundant assessment services. Additionally, we should be charging jail inmates a fee who are on tether, like Oakland County and other counties do to recover costs. My plan quickly saves $30 million, then we will re-engineer the departments to save further dollars. Eliminating the deficit and restoring fiscal stability, is a task that I will undertake immediately.
MT: Do you have any ideas as to how the county can cut costs or raise additional revenue?
KM: My plan to re-engineer the county departments to deliver only the services that the communities need will save at least $30 million. We will bring more dollars from Lansing and Washington DC back to Wayne County – more than we have in the past 12 years. Because we will go to Lansing and DC with our economic power – both Democrats and Republicans – to bring state and federal funds back to the county. I will travel there with the economic power of this county: corporate leaders, labor heads, and community leaders who have skin in the game in Wayne County. Furthermore, we will re-engineer the way we do economic development as a county. Now, under the Ficano leadership, the county tells the communities where the new businesses and projects will be placed. Instead in my plan, we will partner with the 43 cities and townships, most of which have economic development staff of their own – to place jobs where jobs are needed most.
MT: Is there any aspect of the incumbent’s record that you believe are commendable accomplishments?
KM: The current county executive, Bob Ficano, has been an example of diversity inclusion. His staff has represented women in leadership and diversity inclusion among African Americans, Arab Americans and Asian Americans. As the next Wayne County Executive, if voters give me the privilege, the county staff, vending and contracting will reflect the county population. I support diversity inclusion.
MT: Do you have any criticisms of the incumbent and how his administration has ran?
KM: The record shows that I have been the most critical leader of Bob Ficano. It began when he chose pet projects over essential services by proposing to move the county headquarters from the Old Wayne County Building by purchasing the Guardian Building. I voted against that purchase. When I stood up against the Guardian Building purchase and the abandonment of the Old County Building to a potential wrecking ball, the executive’s friends put out a YouTube hit on me. When I stood up and brokered a deal that has moved millions of dollars in parks money to local communities, and successfully fought to fully fund Meals on Wheels, Juvenile Justice and the MSU Extension Program, I got redistricted. When I found out about the severance deals, the golden parachutes, and the bribes and side deals in the Technology Department and Health Choice under Ficano’s leadership, I called for change. And to keep me quiet they released a video of a traffic stop to the press. Wayne County is a tough place. My toughness has been proven. I will fight on, and I will not be stopped by intimidation. This election, the primary on Tuesday, August 5, is about taking back Wayne County for the communities.
MT: If current plans with Bedrock Real Estate Services to redevelop the downtown Wayne County Jail site fall through, how would you address the failed project?
KM: I have a different view and perspective on Ficano’s jail debacle than the other candidates for county executive. I am leading the investigation into the jail debacle because the commission was shut-out of the process and the public deserves answers. I fought for third-party oversight of the Wayne County Consolidated Jail project, only to have it stripped in secret months later. I saw two jails of similar size built for under $200 million and still cannot understand how our jail was not built for under $200 million. Although the county has an offer from a private entity to sell the jail property, I just cannot let go of the $160 million we have already sunk into the project and will need to repay, with interest, no matter what happens. Until such time that the county is in strong economic shape, we leave the project alone, keep the current jail, until we have the bonding capacity to complete the jail. I just cannot walk away from the investment we have already made on the jail project, the investment you and other taxpayers have made. By the way, I am not the only leader investigating the jail debacle – there is a one man grand jury.
MT: The incumbent has indicated the downriver wastewater treatment facilities could be sold to compensate for the budget deficit. Would you support the move?
KM: I do not support the move at all. I voted against Ficano’s deficit elimination plan because it transfers $120 million of county debt to the communities through the wastewater treatment plant. That cost not only affects the downriver communities, but communities from Northville to the Grosse Pointes. Downriver communities had already invested in the wastewater treatment facilities through bonding. Because Ficano’s plan transfers debt to the communities, and many of those communities will likely sue the county, it surely will bring an emergency manager to Wayne County. In my plan to eliminate the deficit in three years, we get the community to buy into the plan rather than selling them out.
MT: What have you done personally or professionally to help advance regional cooperation, or other significant causes?
KM: I have long-time working relationships with the regional leaders which is essential to moving forward with regional cooperation. We need to move forward on a regional transit system and this begins by acting as one voice as a region on the same message with the same plan. We know from example, the Cobo Convention Center is the finest example, of how effective regional cooperation can be to enhance our assets and provide better quality of life to our residents and opportunities to dramatically increase the number of visitors who come to our region. Furthermore, as the executive finance chair with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), I have working relationship with leaders across this region who have entrusted me to oversee hundreds of millions of dollars for this region. And, by the way, the SEMCOG budget has been balanced for three-straight years.
MT: Would you support the creation of a regional water authority to oversee the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department? If not, why?
KM: First off, I do not support the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department being sold or leased to a private entity because eventually the rates will increase significantly to generate investment returns for shareholders. I can understand the apprehension of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel in signing on to a regional agreement because the system is antiquated and there will be significant costs of upgrades to recover. However, a regional system is the best alternative and it should be negotiated in a room with the county and city leaders, outside of the Detroit bankruptcy case, until we get an agreement in place.
MT: A number of communities in Wayne County have either faced the prospect of emergency management, or have seen Lansing appoint one to handle their finances. What are your thoughts about the current emergency manager law, PA 436?
KM: I do not support Public Act 436. I walked the picket line with many residents and members of labor who also do not support the emergency manager law because it’s draconian and takes away democracy from the local communities. In Wayne County we don’t need an emergency manager, we need a new leader who will bring honest government and transparency by involving the communities – all 43 cities and townships – in rebuilding Wayne County. That’s my plan as the next county executive, if voters give me the privilege.
MT: What’s your favorite book and movie about politics?
KM: My favorite book is the “Tale of Two Cities.” My favorite movie is “The Candidate” with Robert Redford.
MT: What’s the best restaurant to dine at in Wayne County?
KM: My favorite restaurant and one I frequent often is Fishbones in the Greektown district of Detroit.
MT: What did we miss? Anything you’d like to touch on?
KM: I’m only seeking the office of Wayne County Executive because I want to rebuild the county to better serve our communities. It’s about time the county works for the people. Our county is rich in diversity and we need to show our economic power again. Unlike many leaders, I will ask the residents of the county to revise the charter to restore some power to the commission, taking away some power from the county executive, in order to have greater checks and balances which is necessary for honest, transparent and effective government. Rebuilding the county is my focus. I have no aspirations for any other office beyond county government.
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