Detroit City Council At Large August 3 Primary Candidate Guide

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Image credit: Meta Stange/WDET

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

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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 At Large below.

See a full list of races covered here.


Related Races: MayorCity Council - District 1City Council - District 4City Council - District 7


Jump to a candidate:
Jermain Jones
Nicole Small
Janeé Ayers
Coleman Young II
Mary Waters


Jermain Jones

Listen to a conversation with Jermain Jones:


Nicole Small

Listen to a conversation with Nicole Small:


Courtesy of the City of Detroit
Courtesy of the City of Detroit

Janeé Ayers

Age: 39

Current job: Council Member At-Large (City of Detroit)

Education: Bowling Green State University, B.A Political Science and Public Policy

About Janeé Ayers: For the past six years, I have been honored to serve the people of Detroit. 

Before joining Detroit City Council, I worked as a hospitality worker at MGM Grand Casino, I become a member of the UNITEHERE! Local 24 contract bargaining team, negotiating on behalf of thousands of hospitality workers with some of the region’s largest employers. The labor movement is where I found my voice as a former Vice President of the Metro AFL-CIO.

I’ve served Detroit youth at youth recreation programs, and as a teacher at a Detroit Public Schools alternative education facility.

I am a proud graduate of Renaissance High School and Bowling Green State University.

Why are you running for Detroit City Council? As a lifelong Detroiter, this City is an integral part of who I am. In my At Large position, I represent every district and it is my mission to build a better city for ALL Detroiters. My background as a labor organizer and DPS educator taught me how to always fight for the most vulnerable in our city and ensure that all of us have access to jobs and opportunity. Growing up seeing my father go in and out of prison taught me how much that access can change the direction of someone’s life. That’s why I founded the Returning Citizens Task Force, to ensure that people coming out of incarceration have access to jobs, training and housing so they don’t return to a life of crime. It’s why I work to improve and spread awareness of resources for skilled trades training or small businesses. As Chair of the Budget, Finance & Audit and Public Health & Safety committees, I have been committed to a financially strong, safe and vibrant Detroit and worked to ensure that through pragmatic leadership.

As a lifelong Detroiter, this City is an integral part of who I am. In my At Large position, I represent every district and it is my mission to build a better city for ALL Detroiters.” — Janeê Ayers

What is the most important issue facing Detroit? The next four years are crucial to the financial health of the City. Bankruptcy allowed us to pause some of our financial obligations, particularly our pension obligations. The City’s plan of adjustment created in the bankruptcy process requires us to start making significantly higher contributions to the City’s two pension systems over the next few years. Because of this, financial responsibility and management will be one of my top priorities for this next term.

How would you address that issue? Every year since I’ve been in office, Council and the administration have worked together to maintain a balanced budget and set aside funds to help offset pension payments in the future. If we maintain this course, Detroit will be able to meet its obligations. When it comes time for Council to amend the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the fact that we have these payments coming up in 2024 is always at the forefront of my mind. I’ve returned $742,555 from my office budget since 2015, and made tough decisions to hold back on spending additional funds on projects and issues that are near and dear to my heart because I know that the future of our city depends on being fiscally responsible during times when it seems like we’re flush with funds. I will maintain the level of fiscal prudence that I’ve always had unless and until the City is able to comfortably meet its future pension obligations.

What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? A criticism I have in all levels of government is the inadequate outreach to residents regarding education on the vaccine before the rollout. Detroit still ranks far below other major cities in vaccination rates.

Listen to a conversation with Janee Ayers:


Coleman Young II

Listen to a conversation with Coleman Young:


Courtesy of Mary Waters
Courtesy of Mary Waters

Mary Waters

Age: 65

Current job: Instructor, Wayne County Community College District

Education: B.A in Communication and Behavioral Sciences, University of Michigan

About Mary Waters: I am a dedicated public servant with a history of community advocacy. I have previously served on the Detroit Charter Commission, and I am a former State Representative for District 4 in the Michigan House of Representatives. In the Michigan House, I had the honor of serving as the first African-American floor leader.

In my personal life, I work as an instructor for the Wayne County Community College District and am a breast cancer survivor. My experiences with breast cancer prompted me to be an active member with the Sister’s Network, an organization dedicated to helping women through breast cancer. 

Why are you running for Detroit City Council? I am seeking an elected position because I see a profound lack in the representation of the will of the people. Elected officials should strive to be the mouthpiece of the people. I believe that listening with care, concern and compassion is the first step to identifying and improving Detroit. Not only that, but I believe that affordable housing, water shut-offs, and home repairs in Detroit are contentious issues. I believe that Detroit can come up with a plan that will protect citizens from the issues that plague them such as water shut-offs, while still supplying the city with the necessary funds to maintain the aging infrastructure. I want to be a part of the conversation that extends beyond temporary aid, and that branches into permanent solutions.

Elected officials should strive to be the mouthpiece of the people. I believe that listening with care, concern and compassion is the first step to identifying and improving Detroit.” — Mary Waters

What is the most important issue facing Detroit? The single most pressing issue for the entire city is housing. Issues with housing in the city run rampant. There is not enough livable housing, renovation costs are astronomical, property taxes are a significant burden, and homeowners are being crushed under the weight of repairs they cannot afford.

How would you address that issue? If elected, I would focus on working with lenders to fund forgivable loans for home repairs, protecting residents from property tax foreclosure and bringing more actual affordable housing units to the city. There are some citizens who live in deplorable conditions in a home they own, simply because financing for repairs is out of reach. There are already a few banking entities that work with Detroit homeowners, but I would attempt to expand the partnerships and increase the types of financing available for home repairs. I would also seek grant funding and federal programming assistance to ensure success. To shield more Detroiters from property tax foreclosure, I would like to work to intensely promote the Homeowners Property Tax Assistance Program and other flexible payment options offered by both the Detroit Tax Relief Fund and the Wayne County Treasurer’s office. To bring more affordable housing units to the city, my office would need to hold certain corporate entities to their promises of building such units, as well as support smaller development companies who solely focus on affordable, sustainable housing.

What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? I disagreed with the current Detroit City Council when it approved the use of a facial recognition technology that has been shown to misidentify black and brown people. In a city where a great majority of the population is composed of people of color, it is unacceptable to use a technology that is inaccurate and can lead to the worst imaginable consequences. The use of this technology without proper screening for bias and misidentification is just asking for another way to violate the civil rights of black and brown people.

Listen to a conversation with Mary Waters:


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