- Experience: Current mayor of Pontiac, an opthalmologist
- Education: Bachelor’s degree in biology and political science, Medical degree
- City Website: Pontiac Mayor
- Facebook: Mayor Deirdre Waterman
WDET’s Ruby Duffield spoke about the 2017 election and what it means to the residents of Pontiac with Natalie Broda, a reporter at The Oakland Press who covers Pontiac. Click on the audio link above to hear the full conversation.
Here’s a full transcript:
Ruby Duffield: What are the main issues in Pontiac for residents this coming November?
Natalie Broda: I would say first and foremost is definitely jobs. The most recent labor study on Pontiac showed an inverse relationship between who lives and works in the city. While 90 percent of the people who live in the city work outside of the city, 90 percent of the people who work in the city live outside of the city. So if you were to look at a graph, it is a complete inverse relationship of who works and lives there. At the same time, 20 percent of Pontiac residents don’t have access to transportation, so that’s a whole chunk of the population that in the first place, can’t get jobs in the city and now in the second place can’t even get jobs outside of the city.
RD: What can city government do to alleviate that?
NB: I think that there needs to be a more active, purposeful role in who is coming into the city and what kind of jobs they’re bringing. So comparatively to Detroit, Pontiac dealt with the exact same issues. They lost their major employer when GM left, and now the hospitals are the major employers but who in Pontiac graduating from that school district is going to be able to get a job at the hospital? It comes down to these companies are coming in and they’re asking for millions of dollars in tax abatements. And they’re getting them, pretty much every one of them. That’s something that I think needs to happen but there needs to be a more purposeful role on which companies are coming in and what kind of jobs they’re bringing, and if there isn’t a workforce development, community benefits agreement, there probably should be.
RD: Who is running in the November election?
NB: There’s Mark Holland, he is the current city council District 5 city councilman. He also works on the real estate subcommittee. Mayor Deirdre Waterman is the incumbent.
RD: What are the candidates saying they would do to alleviate these problems?
NB: The No. 1 issue that could help to alleviate the workforce development, job issue would be what’s happening with the Phoenix Center right now. When the emergency manager of Pontiac left, he put a demolition order. Subsequently what we’ve seen is years and years of litigation, and also the person who owns Ottawa Towers has not been able to bring in any new tenants there. That was a major plan for how to get Pontiac residents hired because there were going to be county and state offices there that would work for workforce development. So there’s not really an easy answer to what the mayor of Pontiac could do but it is their responsibility to set the tone.
RD: From the residents you’ve spoken with in covering Pontiac, what are they saying their major concerns are?
NB: Crime is still a major issue there. Pontiac is policed by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department so whatever the city can afford to contract them for, that’s what they get. There is a huge, huge drug problem still in Pontiac. The opioid epidemic touches every section of the nation, southeast Michigan. It definitely touches Pontiac. We’re seeing countless Narcan saves every day coming out of there. What that really relates back to is the school districts. I would say even above jobs, even above all that. The school districts are the major issue. Over the past year, we almost saw Pontiac lose their only high school because they had just been below the 5 percentile for too long. They’re working on this turnaround plan, and they’re doing what they can. We all know without students, without tax base, it’s kind of hard to build that.