Voter Voices on Safety, Blight, Youth

In advance of the Nov. 7 general election, WDET is checking in with people who live and work in Detroit to find out what issues they think are important and what they expect city leaders to do about them.

Click here for all WDET’s 2017 election coverage.

WDET/Laura Herberg

James Ballard, a boxer, would like to see more police in his neighborhood.

Shooting Hoops, Not Rounds

When James Ballard sees a crowd of people chanting things like “Increase the peace” at a gas station at the intersection of Gratiot Avenue and 8 Mile Road, his mind imagines the worst.

I seen everybody out here and I’m like, ‘Oh what happened?’” Ballard says. “First thing popped into my mind was a murder.”

But this is no crime scene. It’s actually a demonstration to prevent crime. The protesters want the gas station here to install high-definition security cameras and join the City’s Green Light program. When Ballard hears that, he wants to get involved. He says his neighborhood is not as safe as it used to be.

I remember when officers used to get out the car and shoot hoops with us. I remember they used to ride up the street constantly. In one day you would have seen probably like 4 or 5 cop cars in one day,” recalls Ballard. “I don’t even see that no more. I see officers taking rounds, I see that now!”

With the election coming up, Ballard says, he would like to see the mayor and city council spend more money putting officers on the street.

WDET/Laura Herberg

Yulanda Burgess want to see Detroit get cleaned up.

Clean Up Detroit

Yulanda Burgess, a 55-year-old who attended the protest, looks down at a pile of trash at a bus stop in front of the gas station.

I guess somewhere along the lines people started to accept the fact that we have to live in garbage. You can look at this corner, it’s filthy! But it’s not acceptable,” says Burgess.

She wants Detroit’s elected leaders to get the city cleaned up. She says one way to do that is to crack down on absentee landlords.

Because they don’t seem to maintain the properties that they have. Normally we find that they’re in Florida, California, Australia… and you’re sitting next to a house that they’re trying to rent and it shouldn’t even have an occupancy sign on it,” says Burgess.

There just seems to be a disadvantage for people trying to rent here because the properties are not kept up. They expect people to pay rent for living in garbage,” she says.

There are ordinances already in place that require landlords to maintain their properties. Burgess would like to see those enforced.

WDET/Laura Herberg

Toni Owens, a young mother, wants her elected officials to provide more opportunities for the city’s youth.

The Future of Detroit

Like Ballard, Owens was just passing by. A mentor and young mother, she wants to make sure the city’s youth are not overlooked. She says she’d like to see her elected officials invest in sports and recreation centers to keep kids busy. And she thinks politicians should be better role models.

Everyone look at politics and think politics is such a bad thing but I think that if the people who are in politics spend more time with the youth, show their face more to the youth and teach them things, then I think that they’ll have a more interest in it and won’t think so much negativity about the people who are in politics,” says Owens.

After all, she adds, “the children are Detroit’s future.”

Click on the audio player above to hear Ballard, Burgess and Owens.


Image credit: WDET/Laura Herberg

This post is a part of Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

The DJC is a partnership of six media outlets focused on telling critical stories of Detroit and creating engagement opportunities on-air, online and in the community. View the partners work at

Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.



This post is a part of 2017 Local Elections: How’s metro Detroit doing?.

This series includes WDET's coverage of candidates' in local elections -- including Detroit's mayoral, clerk and council races.

This post is a part of How's Detroit Doing?.

With voices, data, news, and experiences, WDET is answering the question "How's Detroit Doing?" Find a collection of responses at If you have a question about how Detroit's doing, ask it here.

Support for WDET's work with The Detroit Journalism Cooperative comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.



About the Author

Laura Herberg

Community Reporter

Through sound-rich storytelling, Herberg covers stories about the people inhabiting the metro Detroit region and the issues that affect them. Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter 2018 and 2017.

Follow @HerbergRadio

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