On the Issues
Detroit has been making a dramatic comeback in the last few years, and it's a comeback that few people believed was possible. However, the rebuilding of Detroit still isn't being seen or felt for many of our neighborhoods. This election, Detroiters must come to a crucial decision. Should we continue to give power to the very people who have made false promises to Detroit for years, only to serve their own interests and the interests of the well-connected while ignoring average Detroiters and taking their vote for granted? Or should we stand up, say enough is enough with the status quo and business as usual, and demand that city officials represent the progressive values that will bring safe, clean good paying jobs to residents, protect our environment and beautify our city, and end the plague of crime that has held our city hostage for decades?
Will we continue to do the same things that haven't worked, and elect the same people who haven't succeeded, expecting a different result, or will we send a message that our neighborhoods and our people will no longer be ignored? We are at a crossroads in the city of Detroit, and the decisions that we make now will determine whether we rebuild a city that works for all Detroiters, or remain in a situation where a few reap the benefits while the majority of the city is forgotten.
LIST OF ISSUES
Before the recent, impressive round of demolitions to rid our city of dangerous abandoned housing, Detroit already had many square miles of vacant land. The demolitions, while greatly needed, have only increased the amount of Detroit land that sits empty because of a lack of urgency to put that land to good use.
I pledge to work with all interested parties to put every square inch of Detroit's vacant land to use. Whether that land is put to use as urban gardening, new parks and sports courts, or affordable housing, my office will be a welcoming place for ideas to rebuild our neighborhoods. There should never be a week where plans aren't actively being developed or finalized to put our vacant land to use.
A truly progressive society must welcome and accept people from all walks of life. Detroit must continue to live up to its status as a welcoming city by guaranteeing to protect the human and civil rights of all of its residents, regardless of legal status, gender, race, ethnicity, disability, religion, or whom they love.
In the current national political climate, it is paramount that Detroit leadership clearly speak out against any attempts by federal or state officials to abuse their authority and violate the rights of citizens, and pass any and all necessary ordinances to guarantee protection within our city for every Detroiter.
Quality of life is intrinsically linked to environmental quality, and city government must act aggressively against any efforts to pollute our air, water, and land. We've seen the devastating results of mismanagement and lack of action in Flint, Michigan, and Detroit has various issues that could lead to environmental degradation and declining health of residents.
City council must be proactive rather than reactive to such pending crises, focusing on improving the air we breathe through better regulating pollutants from various sources. We must also, knowing that water is a necessity of life and a human right, protect our water supply through the use of widespread green infrastructure and other progressive solutions.
Detroit must also do its part in combating the very real threat of climate change, a threat that I believe is an existential. We must start be doing all that we can to lower our carbon footprint. This can be accomplished in many ways, including expanding and improving our transit system to encourage its use, mixed-use development to reduce the need to commute, and pursuing renewable energy wherever possible to make Detroit a green city that others can look to as an example of success.
Detroit has the highest local income tax in Michigan at 2.4% for residents. By contrast, non-resident workers pay only 1.2%., and the city's corporate income tax rate is 2%. To top it off, Detroiters pay 5% tax on utilities (that's phone, electric, and gas). The question that we need to ask ourselves is, why is the burden of revenue being placed, disproportionately, on the average resident? At the very least, residents, non-residents, and corporations should proportionately share in the funding of the city from which they benefit.
For too many of our residents, access to adequate affordable housing seems like a distant dream. They face outrageously high rental bills, and they struggle, each month, to make ends meet. Other Detroiters are, literally, living on the streets, sleeping in doorways and under bridges. In the richest nation in the history of the world, this is an intolerable reality.
We need to reach out to every available source in the public and private sector to bring an end to the unaffordability of shelter. No one should have to choose between a roof over their heads and the other necessities of life.
We must also come down hard on slumlords who are taking advantage of the desperate need for housing by our poorest residents. We must pursue every legal means at our disposal to help such residents and punish said slumlords.
Unemployment and underemployment is a serious issue that affects every resident of the city, regardless of their own employment status. Many criminal activities can be linked to the lack of quality employment opportunities, and poverty leads to declining neighborhoods.
We must invest more effort and resources into ensuring that every Detroiter not only has access to jobs that pay a living wage, but have the means and opportunity to obtain those jobs. We must encourage and facilitate small business growth throughout the city, with new business startups and expanding current businesses that want to grow and benefit the community.
While the City of Detroit has made great strides in combating violent crime, much more needs to be done. The crime rate in our city prevents children from being able to play peacefully in their own neighborhoods and walk safely to school. It prevents our seniors from enjoying their retirement, and prevents every resident from being able to live a life free from fear of being a victim. It also prevents new businesses from opening up shop in the city and drives too many of our small businesses out of the city, taking with them jobs that Detroiters could be doing.
The only way to truly move Detroit forward is to have a citywide plan to drastically reduce crime, and any plan must be centered around progressive ideas that have been proven to work. We must not be hesitant to look everywhere for ideas that have worked for others, whether those ideas come from other cities in the United States, from our neighbors to the north in Canada, or across the Atlantic in Europe.
Community policing efforts have been shown to be effective nationwide, and Detroit has already moved in this direction with the Neighborhood Police Officer initiative. We must continue on this path, and we must expand our efforts in community policing so that our police officers are more effective and efficient when dealing with violent crime. We need trained volunteers and non-sworn peace officers to take the strain off of our sworn officers when dealing with nonviolent incidents that could benefit more from de-escalation techniques. In this way, we will be able to have every sworn officer laser-focused on reducing the most serious crimes and bringing violent perpetrators to justice.
To that end, we need to invest in multiple satellite centers around the city so that we have officers in our neighborhoods that know the people in them, and the people get to know these specific officers as well. These satellite centers can allow dedicated neighborhood officers to respond quickly to crime in their area, discourage crime simply from their presence, and become a part of the neighborhood rather than just policing it.
We must also improve the relationship between police officers and the community. Recent incidents involving police and unarmed people of color has only served to increase the distrust that many have for our men and women in uniform, and every officer is painted with a broad brush that isn't deserved. Likewise, the antipathy that many citizens have for police puts officers on a higher guard that can lead to escalation and end in tragedy. These negative views on both sides lead not only to heighten discord in the community, but to a less safe community because residents don't trust police and won't cooperate to keep neighborhoods safe.
If we are going to truly reduce crime, we must have cooperation between residents and officers, and this can only come with familiarity and trust. The Neighborhood Police Officer initiative was a good start, but isn't widespread enough, and one or two regular officers in each neighborhood is not enough to gain the trust of the large number of residents necessary to affect the crime rate. This is why I propose neighborhood events that bring together police officers and residents on an equal level where they can familiarize themselves with each other, develop a rapport, and begin to bridge the divide. Combining this with progressive community policing ideas rather than platitudes like "getting tougher on crime" will truly make Detroit a safe place for families, businesses, and residents of all walks of life.