Detroit City Council District 7 August 3 Primary Candidate Guide

Get to know the candidates running for Detroit City Council for District 7 in the August 3 primary election.

The August 3 primary is fast approaching. Get to know the candidates running for local office in your community with 101.9 FM WDET’s Candidate Guides. Surveys were distributed to candidates to complete and you can see the responses for candidates for Detroit City Council for District 7 below.

See a full list of races covered here.

Related Races: MayorCity Council – At Large

Jump to a candidate:
Regina Ross
JoAnna Underwood
Angy Webb
Fred Durhal
John Bennett
William M Davis

Courtesy of Regina Ross
Courtesy of Regina Ross

Regina Ross

Age: 53

Current job: President of Detroit’s Community Advisory Council and Certified Teacher with the Detroit Public Schools.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree Wayne State University, Master’s Degree Education Wayne State University, Master’s Degree Administration/Design Instructional Technology Wayne State University, Ashwood University Online Educational Specialist Doctoral of Education

About Regina Ross: I am currently elected to District 7’s Community Advisory Council, serving as President; assisting residents of Detroit. As a certified teacher, I serve young children, youth, and adults in Detroit, developing great minds, positive dispositions, and assisting learners with academic achievements. I have been named Teacher of the Year on 3 occasions. Being President of the BCP block club, I assist neighbors with community needs, opportunities and news. I am dedicated to families, politics, community, faith, and educational services. One fond memory of assisting others in the community was being honored by Oprah Winfrey for extraordinary community work and teaching. The honor included a two-week vacation with her in Los Angeles and Australia. I was given a “charge” by Oprah to continue serving others in the community. Oprah stated, “Do not stop here, continue to rise higher”. 

Currently, I am the Director of “Keri Korner” Community Group. Other Director and Coordinator positions I have held were with Detroit Public Schools and Wayne State University. Other political positions I serve on are Precinct Delegate, Statutory Executive Board Member of the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party. Board Member of Detroiter’s United LLC, and Representative (Statewide) of the Progressive Caucus for 13th District.

Why are you running for Detroit City Council? I am running for City Council to represent the people of our City. I will be a voice for the people, making correct and fair decisions. I bring skills in negotiations, budgeting, managerial, director, and coordinating program skills. As a Leader, Business Owner, Director, and Union Representative, I have obtained budgeting analysis, negotiation, business operational, and financial skills. I am running for City Council to bring good representation to our Detroit City Council.

 “I will be a voice for the people, making correct and fair decisions.” — Regina Ross

What is the most important issue facing Detroit? The most important issue facing Detroit the Quality of Life. Detroit is one of the poorest cities in America. Cleveland, Ohio is poorer than Detroit by less than one percent. Underemployment and unemployment, a lack of health benefits, affordable housing, clean water, Flooding streets, basements, and higher wages for the employed residents.

How would you address that issue? I will address these issues through the Community Benefits Agreement. If businesses give the community monies due to neighborhoods, we will be able to lift one of the poorest cities in America. 

What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? There are many items of disagreement. Let’s start with facial recognition, over taxation, flooding streets, basements, lack of affordable employment and houses among other items.

JoAnna Underwood

Candidate did not respond to survey request. Visit her campaign website.

Angy Webb

Candidate did not respond to survey request. 

Myron Watkins
Myron Watkins

Fred Durhal

Age: 37

Current job: Community Liaison, Michigan State Housing Development  Authority (MSHDA)

Education: Attended Eastern Michigan University, Political Science, Wayne County Community College, Liberal Arts

About Fred Durhal: From January 2015 to January 2019, I served as State Representative for  Michigan’s 5th House District. During my tenure, I served as the Assistant  Democratic Leader of the House in my first term. In my second term, I served as the Minority Vice-Chair of the House Appropriations Committee (Ranking Democrat). I am the proud sponsor of Public Act 111 of 2016, over 20 pieces of legislation, and the Co-Sponsor of many Public Acts. I have been on the front line to work for solutions of some of our State’s most pressing issues such as the Flint Water Crisis, and the DPSCD Rescue Plan to prevent Detroit  Public Schools from bankruptcy. I have worked to protect close to $790 million dollars of Revenue Sharing that was threatened to be cut, delivered over $100,000 dollars to local community groups, fought to save programs for our youth and seniors, and passed laws that protected our citizens. I possess legislative acumen and a keen understanding of how to make policy that benefits our state, city, and citizens. Additionally, my budgeting acumen affords me a deep understanding of state, county and municipal finance and understanding the importance of maintaining a balanced budget that is fiscally responsible. 

Why are you running for Detroit City Council? I am seeking the office of Detroit City Council for District 7 because our district needs experience, integrity, and a vision to improve the lives of residents. After speaking with many community leaders about their concerns and their desire for me to represent them on the Detroit City Council, I decided to announce my candidacy. City Council District 7 has many challenges, and many residents feel forgotten. The challenges possessed by District 7 need to be met with comprehensive solutions that will stabilize neighborhoods, create jobs, foster an environment conducive for economic development and small business, address Detroit’s housing crisis, and address the intergenerational poverty that exists for our residents. As Detroit grows, there is a need for leadership that ensures that Detroit remains fiscally stable and services for residents are maintained.

“I am seeking the office of Detroit City Council for District 7 because our district needs experience, integrity, and a vision to improve the lives of residents.” — Fred Durhal

What is the most important issue facing Detroit? There are many issues that are facing Detroit that need to be addressed and require the utmost leadership and vision to solve. One of the most pressing issues facing Detroit currently is the stabilization of its neighborhoods. There are many components that contribute to this issue:

  • Intergenerational Poverty  
  • Unemployment 
  • Affordable Housing and Home Repair 
  • Abandonment, Blight, and Illegal Dumping 
  • Public Safety

How would you address that issue? To address neighborhood stabilization, each component that contributes to a  stabilized neighborhood must be tackled. Suggested solutions for each component is as follows: 

Intergenerational Poverty: Two-thirds of Detroiters live in poverty or have an income less than the AMI of $28,000 (Detroit Free Press, 2021). Addressing intergenerational poverty is a solution that will not be quickly realized, however, increased funding in programs that close the wealth gap is necessary. Utilizing the city budget, there must be an increase in funding to provide wrap-around services to those in need. These wrap-around services include access to public health care and local health clinics for preventative care, educational and financial literacy programs, and programs that link low-income Detroiters to State and Federal funds that provide assistance. 

Unemployment: We must get Detroiter’s back to work. This involves creating more jobs for citizens and programs for apprenticeship, skilled trades, and preparing our residents for the jobs of the future. Continued investment in programs such as  Detroit Works, will assist with preparing our citizens. Entrepreneurship is also an important component. The encouragement for Detroiters to start their own business not only bring fresh ideas, but it also creates an avenue where local Detroiters can hire other Detroiters. Additionally, increasing economic development, small business growth, and creating commercial empowerment zones that provide access to retail and community accessibility will assist with lower the unemployment rates in Detroit. 

Affordable Housing and Home Repair: Detroit faces a serious housing crisis. This crisis involves housing that is affordable for residents and the ability to repair homes that are structural damaged. Housing instability in the City of Detroit is a serious issue. With nearly 10,000 of Detroit’s 22,000 affordable housing units set to expire by 2023 when low-income housing tax credits expire, the threat of homelessness is severe. Additionally, more than 3,500 Detroiters requested rental payment assistance in Michigan in 2021. Detroiters contribute 48% of their income to housing (Detroit Free Press, 2021). Housing is considered affordable when it consumes less than 30% of household income.  

The development of new housing and development in communities that contain vacant Land Bank-owned properties are needed. Creating an environment that attracts developers and is conducive for them to build housing is imperative. These developments should provide increased percentages of low-income housing while utilizing federal and state LIHTC  credits to spark new development. Increased advocacy for more affordable housing units and development within the City of Detroit and working to create programs that assist renters in becoming homeowners will assist in stabilizing communities. Additionally, creating programs that allow legacy Detroiter’s preference and access to Land Bank-owned properties will assist with populating neighborhoods. Residents would not only receive preference, but the city could create a low-cost and low-interest loan that would be provided to them if they could not afford to directly bid for the home. 

As it relates to home repair, I will work to create a program that will give tax credits to contractors who voluntarily repair the homes of our senior citizens. This program would only allow certified and qualified contractors to perform work, and after work is completed a tax credit will be issued. Further, establishing a City tool rental program that also provides access to building materials for those who can fix up their homes assists homeowners. Often, many residents want to fix their homes themselves, however, they do not have the necessary funding for resources or tools. Finally, the creation of a competitive grant-funded city neighborhood enhancement program where community groups can apply and repair several homes throughout their communities can be fast-tracked. This program would be funded through the city budget and allow up to 10 communities per year to apply for the grant. 

Abandonment, Blight, and Illegal Dumping: The issues of abandonment and blight must be a priority. In District 7, particularly, there are many abandoned homes, dilapidated structures, and blight is a significant problem. Assessing what homes should be demolished or rehabbed is the primary step. Second, the utilization of increased funding from Proposal N must be targeted in areas that that are in most need. Finally, investing in mechanisms that assist with reducing illegal dumping is necessary.  Programs should be established in the City of Detroit encouraging residents to report offenders who dump in our communities. This program should contain a  reward program for citizens who report offenses. Additionally, in areas that have Green Light capability, there should be an increased presence in alleyways and corridors. Working in conjunction with DPD, an enforcement patrol team should be deployed in areas that are known for illegal dumping.

Public Safety: Providing better public safety, increased police response time, and improving police/community relations by establishing programs for implicit bias and sensitivity training is a priority. Our city needs an increased oolice presence,  particularly in the neighborhoods as speeding in residential areas has increased. Increased funding and raising the pay of officers so that it is commensurate to other municipalities throughout our state and country, will increase attraction and retention of officers. The increased presence allows the DPD the opportunity to assist more in neighborhoods with the issues such as speeding, illegal dumping, other crime issues. Additionally, as we face police/community relations issues around the globe, there should be more of an effort to create implicit bias training, sensitivity training, and accountability programs within the department. 

What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? 

Mayoral Administration: While there are many mayoral agenda items that I agree have improved our city, I have historically disagreed with the mayoral agenda and support of the D-Insurance Plan that advocated to change Michigan’s No-Fault Insurance Policy. While I believe the Mayor and I shared a common interest in ensuring that Detroiters receive fair and affordable car insurance rate relief, we disagreed on the method in which it could have been achieved. 

City Council: While I am appreciative, agree, and commend much of the hard work and decisions that our Council has made, I disagree with the lack of funding and resources that have been deployed within the city budget for District 7. The  lack of resources mentioned includes but are not limited to: 

  • A focused and concerted effort to prioritize funding for the demolition and rehabilitation of structures within District 7, as it is one of the hardest-hit districts. 
  • Limited funding for parks and the building of a recreational center within the District. 
  • Limited funding and deployment of speed bumps within the neighborhoods of District 7. 
  • Limited revitalization and development of commercial and retail corridors within District 7.

Montez Miller
Montez Miller

John Bennett

Age: 58

Current job: I am a retired Detroit Police Officer after 20 years with the department.

About John Bennett: I am 58 years old and a lifelong Detroiter. I’ve been living in what is now the 7th District for 52 of my 58 years. I was born in Detroit raised in what is now the 7th District. My family moved to Appoline street in 1969. As an adult, I settled in District 7 where I purchased my home on Cheyenne street 21 years ago. I’ve only ever run for city council in Detroit. First 2009 and then again in 2013 when I lost to the now-former City Councilman Gabe Leland by 50 votes. After that, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be involved in politics anymore but I kept getting asked by everyday Detroiters, neighbors and friends what I was going to do and why wasn’t I running anymore. It was those people who led me to this point. They want clean, honest, trustworthy government. 

Why are you running for Detroit City Council? My neighbors want safe, quiet streets. So the police have to show when called. The drag racing must be stopped. Blighted buildings must come down and most important to my neighbors is stopping the growth of the junked car lots. Currently, there are more than 40. We feel neglected in District 7 which is why I coined the phrase ‘WHAT ABOUT US’. We want the people downtown to understand there aren’t 6 Districts,  there are 7. We may be the last in numbers but by no means should we be the last in recognition and resources. 
“We feel neglected in District 7 which is why I coined the phrase ‘WHAT ABOUT US’. We want the people downtown to understand there aren’t 6 Districts,  there are 7.” — John Bennett

What is the most important issue facing Detroit? The primary issue holding back Detroit is a lack of accountability. There is no accountability from the government or its partners. If we have that and people are acting accordingly and ethically in their assigned roles we could avoid many of the problems we have and deliver quality services to the people.

How would you address that issue? If I’m elected I intend to hold everyone at every level of government accountable and use the power I have as a city councilperson and my office to obtain the right action as opposed to wrong behavior. 

I think I’m the best candidate for the job. I have the experience of having worked in city government for 20 years and most importantly, I’m not looking for a job. The majority of the people I’m running against have had their names on ballots several times for numerous positions. That could lead one to question their level of commitment. I’ve ever only sought the office of City Council and that’s because I’m singularly focused on the people of Detroit and the residents in the 7th District.

What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? I’m sure there are numerous council decisions I could take issue with but I will give them the benefit of doubt in that they were privy to more direct information that I didn’t have. In general, anytime you’re voting against the interest of the people and not protecting city workers I’m concerned.

It goes without saying that I’ve often disagreed with Mayor Duggan in how he goes about his job. I’m often not sure who’s best interest he holds. However, given the fact that I may have to work with him, I will keep an open mind and have an open door in order to best serve my constituents. I think they would want me to do so. We are all accountable to the residents of this city. Sometimes I think that gets lost. 

As an elected official I want Detroiters to feel like my word means something. We must honor our promises as a city to our city workers and city residents. It will be my duty to hold people accountable and I want the residents to hold me accountable as well. 

Courtesy of William M. Davis
Courtesy of William M. Davis

William M. Davis

Age: 64

Current job: Elected District 7 Detroit Police Commissioner

Education: Associate of Arts in Law Enforcement Administration WCCC, Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration WSU

About William M. Davis: My career started with the City of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department where I advanced from helper to shift manager at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. I served as Chief Union Steward for AFSCME and the UAW. 

Current: President of Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA) and National Action Network-Detroit (NAN). Executive Board member of the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party Organization, Barton-McFarland Neighborhood Association, and the Michigan Democratic Party Black Caucus. I am also the Detroit Precinct 410 Democratic Delegate.   

Why are you running for Detroit City Council? I am running for District 7 City Council to assist in making our district an example of best practices for other districts. We need someone with a vast amount of experience in City Government that can get things done. I am the one. We need a strong voice and equally strong commitment to the residents of District 7. I am the one. We need someone who will listen to neighborhood concerns, grievances, issues, and triumphs. I am the one!

I will invite ALL my fellow residents to voice their concerns and not be intimidated by others. District 7 residents have a right to be heard. I am the one who will listen AND act to gain what is needed. I will commit to working with all other Council members to ensure the most positive impact for our District 7. Now is the time for workable solutions for Detroit. Voting for me means voting for a better community. A better Detroit.

“We need someone with a vast amount of experience in City Government that can get things done. I am the one.” — William M. Davis

What is the most important issue facing Detroit? Blight/The Detroit Land Bank is the most important issue my neighbors and other Detroiters discuss regularly. Abandoned homes, vacant lots, and empty unkept commercial buildings encourage neighborhood blight. It causes a loss to our property values.

The abandoned properties and homes of the Detroit Land Bank are frequent places for criminal activity and targets of arsonists. This blight is an economic crime to all of Detroit’s neighborhoods.

How would you address that issue? Selective enforcement of property maintenance codes to our residents and not the Detroit Land Bank needs to stop. Universal enforcement would ensure the decrease of blighted properties and, in essence, increase our property values.   

These Detroit Land Bank properties need to be transferred back to Neighborhood Associations, Block Clubs, and Religious Institutions to maintain. They would put these properties to the good use of and benefit of the neighborhoods.

What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? I disagree with the decision on the planned spending of the American Rescue Plan Act monies by the Duggan administration that was supported by the City Council. The Act allows for $826 million to be spent by the City of Detroit to “provide direct relief to Americans, contain COVID-19, and rescue the economy.”  

The Duggan administration plan, called the “Detroit Future Fund”, does not allocate enough money for home repair grants, or to build low-income housing. More money is needed for small businesses and to encourage entrepreneurship. 

No money was mentioned for neighbor resource centers, libraries, or the much-needed neighborhood police Mini-Stations. Also, no money was mentioned for the Neighborhood Police Officer (NPO) division of the Liaison office. That unit helped to thwart another Detroit uprising during the Black Lives Matter and other protests. It should be expanded. 

Nothing was mentioned about the removal of the bike lanes causes traffic issues and take up too much of the city’s parking spaces in condensed areas.

Too much money is being allocated to the streetscapes that citizens have repeated stated they do not want and no money was mentioned for the repair of alleyways.

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