Voters are meeting face-to-face with candidates for Detroit city offices and police commission at Citizen Detroit events this month.
WDET’s Laura Herberg attended the first forum on Oct. 12. Click on the audio player above to hear her discuss what happened with WDET’s Pat Batcheller.
A second event is scheduled for Thursday. Click here for information about attending.
At the event, the candidates are allowed one-minute introductions, moderated by former Detroit city council member Sheila Cockrel. After the candidates introduced themselves they participated in a “speed dating” style event where they took turns sitting down at tables of citizens from their districts, engaging in dialogue for about 12 minutes at a time before rotating to another table of citizens.
City Council District Candidates
As noted in CitizenDetroit materials passed out at the event, Detroit’s city council is a legislative body that adopts city ordinances and resolutions. They also approve the city budget, sale of city property, mayoral appointees, and development agreements and contracts. They oversee and can investigate all city departments. There are seven district council members and two at-large. They serve four-year terms.
Cockrel, while emceeing the event, made a point of telling the crowd that all candidates received invitations to appear, including phone calls and texts from her personally. She also said some of the current police commission district members were not able to attend due to a meeting conflict.
The following candidates attended the first event.
Click on the district title to see WDET’s Voter Guide to the race and click on the candidates’ names to listen to their introductions at the Citizen Detroit event.
“Good evening. My name is Tamara Smith. I am running for City Council District 1. I am an advocate for the citizens in the city of Detroit. I’ve been advocating my entire life. I’ve lived in District 1 my entire life. I’ve decided to be a policy maker because I’m dissatisfied with the things I see going on within my community. I live in 48227, which has the highest auto insurance in the country. Not Detroit, the country. (That) results in being a serious financial strain on Detroiters. Being a councilwoman I would like to implement the bait car program, which has been proven to drive down auto theft, essentially lowering auto insurance, which has been do so in other cities, lowering auto theft by 71 percent. So, if other cities can do it, we can too.”
“First of all I want to give honor to God who’s head of my life. My name is Roy McCalister, Jr. and I’m the candidate for Detroit City Council District 2. I have a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma. I’m … retired from the Detroit police department, your former commanding officer of Detroit homicide section. I’m also retired from the United States Army and the Army Reserve, where I was the regional commander for the five northern provinces (in Afghanistan). Dealing with a $200 million budget, dealing with different, diverse people. Ladies and gentleman these are the things that I want to bring to this Detroit City Council: my background and to serve you. It is not about a job, it is not about trying to elevate to another position. It’s about serving you because that is what I have done all my life. I am Roy McCalister, Jr., candidate for Detroit City Council, District 2. Thank you.”
“My name is Virgil Smith. I am a candidate for City Council in District 2. I have a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, in political science, and a master’s degree from Western Michigan University in public administration. I served in the Michigan House for six years and I served in the Michigan Senate for six years. My No. 1 issue is to bring resolution to the auto and home insurance problem that we do have in the city of Detroit. Thank you.”
“My name is Russ Bellant, District 3. I’m running in that race because I believe that there are policies and practices going on that are deleterious and harmful to our neighborhoods around tax foreclosures, our water policies, which are … costing about five times as much as they did 12 years ago in our district, I think that’s indefensible. I think the drainage fee is indefensible. I think the existing resources that we got from the federal government to be used to help low-income folks pay their property taxes should be used for that, and you would stop the growth of blight from the mass displacement that occurs after every tax foreclosure season. We’ve got to do things differently if we’re going to get a different result and attacking the blight and dispossession of the poorest among us is one of those tasks.”
“Good evening everyone. My name is Latisha Johnson. I am a City Council candidate for District 4. I’m a native Detroiter, graduated from Kettering High School in 1993, went on to get a finance degree from the University of Michigan, spent 10 years professionally working in the hospitality and tourism industry, negotiating million-dollar contracts to bring national conventions to Detroit. I’ve spent 10 years volunteering in the community, the last three years I’ve been a full-time volunteer. I run a non-profit organization on the east side, I serve on the Board of Zoning Appeals and I also represent the 5th precinct Police-Community Relations Council as the treasurer. I am running to… improve accountability in City Council, to tackle blight, and also to create job training programs because we all recognize that there are jobs available but a lot of people claim that our residents are not prepared for those jobs so I want to make sure that they are.”
“Good evening I am Andre Spivey, candidate of District 4, native of Detroit, wonderful DPS graduate, graduate of Morehouse College and grad degrees from Colegate Divinity School and Central Michigan University. Married. Two teenagers. I am the pastor of St. Paul A.M.E. Church for the last 14 years. I was elected first in 2009, citywide, (then in) 2013 by District 4. I look forward to being a continuing legislator. And as we come through the next calendar year, we’re going to find ourselves out of Financial Review Commission (oversight), and we will be in charge, full in charge of all our financial resources with the knowledge, those who’ve been there, to continue to have fiscal responsibility. Look forward to hearing your questions tonight. Thank you very much and God bless you.”
“I am Councilwoman Mary Sheffield and I have had the privilege of representing District 5 for the last four years. I actually live in Hyde Park, Lafayette Community area. I was born and raised in Detroit, graduate from Wayne State University, also Eastern Michigan University and also Central Michigan. I believe in building one Detroit, in which everyone, no matter your age, your race, your background, you have access and opportunity in “New Detroit.” Over the last four years since I’ve been in office I have been huge housing advocate. I have fought for and secured $2.5 million for housing grants for low-income people and seniors in our city. I have also been a huge voice around the need for affordability in the New Detroit. When we talk about all of the new development that is coming to our city, it’s so important that people can actually afford to live in those units. And so I have advocated very, very hard to make sure that we talk about affordability and what the meaning of that means in the New Detroit. Also, I’ve been instrumental in youth empowerment and youth development. We’ve toured almost every single high school in my district to try to get people civically engaged and I’m looking forward to continuing the work.”
“Hello everyone. Let me say peace and blessing to you. I’m Jewel Ware, City Council Candidate for District 5, and I know that we have a lot of issues. But, what I would like to say first is it’s one thing to be a part of government, and there’s a lot of ordinance [sic] on the book and you continue to write ordinance [sic] and you don’t enforce them. I’m very concerned that we have resolutions, ordinance [sic] and they’re not enforced regardless of what they’re written for. Detroiters have stayed here and they’ve suffered, and I think it’s time for us to work hard for Detroiters to get their fair share. I am not a rubber stamp. I’m running to look out for the people that I love so dearly. My first issue that I would like to tackle is to help restore neighborhoods. I live in the neighborhood. I don’t have the luxury of living in a gated community. But, I think it’s important that we try to restore these neighborhoods for our young people.”
“I’m Tyrone Carter, candidate for City Council District 6. I’ll give you the quick, one-minute version, and then we’re going to sit down and have a conversation in District 6. I was born and raised and I still live in the house I grew up in after 40 years. And why that’s important is because… residents outlast politicians. We’ve had enough people come in and go out and nothing has happened. Since 1918, City Council was supposed to, it was by, at-large. Districts were supposed to level the playing field for neighborhoods that have never had access. I live in one of those neighborhoods that has never had access, and we still don’t have access, just like many other communities. It’s wonderful to see what’s going on downtown, but if you look out… if you can’t ride your bike at night, I you can’t walk your dog at night, then you feel shut out of the process. I retired from the (Wayne County) Sheriff’s Department after 25 years. Everything I’ve done has been in community service. I graduated from Central Michigan, the Police Academy, FBI National Academy, all of that good stuff. But it doesn’t matter, we need people to get out and vote.”
“Good evening everyone. I am Councilmember Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, you don’t have to be able to pronounce it. It’s the longest one you’ll see on the ballot. I was recruited to run and to represent District 6 in 2013, so this was not a life goal that I had growing up. My background is in social work. I have my bachelor’s and my master’s in social work and I have over 15 years of service working in the community, working in non-profits, teaching as a Head Start teacher and giving back to everyone. On council, many of you may have recognized just a couple days ago we passed Indigenous People’s Day. We were the pilot of the program for Detroit ID. Every single year we’ve introduced new policies to break down some of the old barriers and bring change to the city of Detroit to help pilot a board-up program in the city of Detroit for some of our most blighted communities, to make our community safer through community patrols and we have one of the only safety hubs in the city as well. I’m running for re-election because there’s a lot more work still to be done. We have fought tirelessly for community benefits and brought over $65 million to the city as a whole and $10 million for jobs specifically. So, I hope I can count on your support one more time.”
“My name is Gabe Leland. I represent District 7 on the far west side. District 7 is a great place to live, to work and play and as I look over to this board here, Rouge Park, Brennan Pool, this was a, just a small example. Brennan Pool was an Olympic pool that was built for the Olympic Trials in the 1950s. It is now back and open and that just kind of gives you an idea about some of the good things that are going on in our neighborhood. But certainly blight is a big issue, and so I’ve fought tirelessly to help residents stay out of tax-foreclosure through our Defend Our Neighbors program where I went, literally, door-to-door talking about programs that exist to help you stay in your home because we know that what the fiscal crisis did 10 years ago to our neighborhoods. Everyone deserves to stay in their home, and this council person is one that everyone believes to stay in their home. And so, that’s just a small example of some of the work I’ve been up to.”
Police Commission District
As noted in materials passed out by Citizen Detroit, the Board of Police Commissioners members are civilians who oversee the Detroit Police Department. They monitor investigations of civilian complaints against the police as well as develop policies for the police department with the mayor and police chief. There are seven elected district members who serve four year terms and four at-large members appointed by the mayor to five year terms.
The following candidates attended the event. The times denote when you can hear them speaking in the audio here.
Conrad L. Mallet, Jr. (11:25)
Scotty Boman (12:30)
George Adams, Jr. (13:40)
William M. Davis (14:50)
Citizen Detroit has been educating people on policies and election issues that impact Detroit since it was co-founded by Cockrel in 2012. She spoke about the event series on Detroit Today. Click here to listen to that interview.