Politics Mondays: Detroit's Mayoral Election - Incumbent Kwame Kilpatrick And Challenger Freman Hendrix Present Themselves To The Electorate.
In A Time Of Great Change, Our City Is On Course To Prosper by Kwame Kilpatrick
No American city in the 20th Century had its fate tied more closely to industrial America than Detroit.
From a population of 200,000 in 1900, by the early 1950s we had grown with the auto industry to nearly 2 million residents with a prosperous blue-collar middle class.
In the second half of the century, jobs began leaving Detroit as machines and computers started taking the place of workers, auto plants were decentralized throughout the country, and foreign competition cut into the U.S. automakers' share of the market. The outflow of jobs and people was accelerated by the dynamic of race, which spurred white flight to surrounding suburbs.
Today, early in the 21st Century, we are at a critical milestone in Detroit's history, demonstrated most recently by the bankruptcies of Delphi and Northwest Airlines and the continuing financial difficulties of the auto companies.
The fundamental challenge facing us as we choose our mayor on Nov. 8 is how does a city whose fate has been tied to heavy industry adapt to a new high-tech world economy? And which candidate offers the combination of vision, energy and courage of his convictions this city must have in its leaders to adapt to this rapidly changing world economy?
I believe our record of achievement in beginning to transform Detroit to meet the challenges of the 21st Century has earned us a second term to continue that transformation.
A little more than a week ago, we began to demolish the cement silos on the riverfront that have stood for decades as a very visible symbol of our industrial past. It was a tremendous milestone that resulted from 3 1/2 years of intense effort by my economic development team.
(The Detroit Free Press), which has not always been a fan of this administration, praised our progress on the riverfront, declaring: "Tangible signs of progress along the Detroit River keep the momentum rolling for the natural remarkable asset that gives this region its name. Soon, much sooner than later, the draw of the waterfront will become strong enough to mark -- and even remake -- this region's identity."
Contrast our achievement on the riverfront with the record of the previous administration, in which my opponent was deputy mayor, which tried to turn the riverfront over to our casinos. In the process of pursuing that ill-considered and failed endeavor, they destroyed a growing restaurant and entertainment district while accumulating $150 million in debt for a city that couldn't afford it.
One key to our future is the $56-million NextEnergy Center at Wayne State University, which opened last spring. The center is a key part of our strategy for diversifying our manufacturing base and attracting clean technology companies.
Equally important is our historic partnership with Dr. Michael Porter and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a nonprofit organization founded in 1994 by the Harvard Business School. The ICIC's mission is to promote a market-based approach and cutting-edge solutions to build healthy economies in America's inner cities that create jobs, income and wealth for local residents. It will help give Detroit the competitive advantage we need for future growth, particularly in emerging industries such as health care and technology.
Even as we have pursued these visions for the future, we have successfully found ways to do more with less in our day-to-day management of basic city services. We are building more houses than we have built in 50 years. We reduced crime to its lowest level in 40-plus years. We built the first new police precinct since 1991. We built a new state-of-the-art Computer Aided Dispatch Communications Center, to coordinate our 911 operators along with fire/EMS and police dispatch.
We have plowed the snow when it snows, we have mowed the grass in our parks, and we have repaved a record number of miles of streets. The previous administration, in which my opponent was in charge of operations, couldn't carry out those basic functions.
My opponent likes to brag that the administration he was a part of balanced seven budgets in a row. What Detroiters should ask themselves is what they got from these balanced budgets.
The record shows that the Archer/Hendrix administration ballooned the city budget by 50% to $3.3 billion, enlarged the city workforce by 20%, made no investment in infrastructure, and left behind a $100-million deficit. That's not managing.
Earl Ryan, president of the highly respected Citizens Research Council of Michigan, said earlier this year that the spending policies of the Archer/Hendrix administration are directly responsible for the problems we face today.
"Detroit laid the groundwork for its current financial mess in the economic boom days of the 1990s," he said. "Despite a declining population, it used surpluses to hire more workers instead of upgrading technology, which might have saved money now. That simply was not a sustainable policy. Had the city adopted a strategy of downsizing in the mid-1990s when it had substantial resources, the crisis of downsizing today wouldn't be necessary."
I have made mistakes in my first term. I believe the things I have learned from those mistakes will help me to move this city forward to a position where we can compete successfully in a new 21st Century economy.
In my 2005 State of the City message, I referenced a quote from Abraham Lincoln, who said, "I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday."
I believe I am wiser today than I was yesterday.
And I believe I offer the vision, the strength of conviction and record of achievement that this city needs to grow and prosper in the 21st Century.
That is why I ask for your vote for mayor Nov. 8.
To Meet Challenges, Our City Needs A Change Of Leadership by Freman Hendrix
The death of Detroit has been greatly exaggerated.
Yes, we're facing some huge challenges -- first among them, a city budget deficit that has us heading toward insolvency. That deficit has led to shortsighted cuts in police and fire protection, which will make Detroiters less safe and actually hinder our recovery.
After two years of meeting and talking with thousands of Detroiters, I'm more convinced than ever that we can get our city back on track. It starts with a leader who respects the people he serves. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for the past four years.
I like Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. He's a very engaging person. His election four years ago brought energy and excitement to City Hall. But it also brought an arrogance and sense of entitlement that have not served our city or its taxpayers very well.
We've all read the stories about the personal use of the city's credit card and petty cash fund. We learned about the Navigator leased for family use out of funds that were meant for our hard-pressed Police Department. These repeated incidents reveal a mind-set in which Mayor Kilpatrick seems to think that the people of Detroit work for him, rather than the other way around.
This mayor has rewarded many of his friends and family members with positions on the public payroll and contracts for city business. That would be questionable, but at least defensible, if his hires were doing their jobs well and giving Detroit taxpayers their money's worth. But again and again, that simply has not been the case.
The people of Detroit deserve far better from their leader. Removing an earring just isn't enough.
I come to this campaign from a very different place. I wasn't born into a political family. My father was an Army veteran and a factory worker. My mother was a nurse's aide. I joined the Navy to earn money for a college education. I've spent almost 30 years in public service to the people of Detroit and Wayne County, working my way up from the bottom to chief of staff and deputy mayor.
I've always viewed public service as a means of building community and helping others. And I've always remembered that every tax dollar spent by government comes out of somebody's hard-earned paycheck. That's a lifelong philosophy that I'll bring to City Hall.
I also believe that the voters of Detroit need to know what my plans are. During the past four years, they've received a steady diet of speeches and press conferences from Mayor Kilpatrick. But it's not enough just to announce things. A mayor has to make them real.
Two years ago, I started meeting with Detroiters in backyards and living rooms, union halls and church basements, to share my ideas for Detroit's future and hear theirs. I've compiled these plans into a "Roadmap to Detroit's Future," which is available from my campaign and on my Web site at www.fremanhendrix.com.
This plan encompasses many ideas for tackling the critical challenges we're facing. To fight crime, it proposes the reopening of closed mini-stations, restoring laid-off police officers to street patrol, expanding police reserves and citizen patrols in the neighborhoods, and placing surveillance cameras on light poles in crime-plagued areas to deter gangs and drugs.
To encourage housing and business development, the plan calls for turning over tax-delinquent properties to neighborhood organizations, and encouraging them to partner with reputable developers to get those properties back on the tax rolls.
To lower insurance rates, my plan proposes that insurance companies rate Detroit by neighborhood instead of ZIP code, which is more comparable to how they rate the suburbs. (That, alone, should help lower insurance rates for many Detroiters.) Working with police to reduce crime in each neighborhood, we can push city insurance rates even lower.
To improve our schools, my plan embraces site-based management, which means giving parents, teachers, principals and staff more say in how individual schools are run -- and holding them accountable. I've also proposed character education in every Detroit classroom, so our young people learn civic responsibility and respect for others -- and themselves.
My roadmap contains plans in many other areas -- from improved transit to expanded recreation, computer programs and summer jobs for our children. It discusses in detail how to pay for these ideas, through consolidating city departments, increasing our revenue base, and building stronger partnerships with the business and charitable communities.
But ideas aren't enough without the experience and commitment to make them happen. I'm proud of my track record of delivering for the people and taxpayers of our city.
From the three casinos to the two new downtown stadiums, Compuware and American Axle, I helped lead an administration that rewrote Detroit's skyline. These projects are generating millions of dollars in revenue that, if managed properly, should help finance city services and neighborhood improvements. But that will require new leaders in City Hall who put the interests of Detroiters ahead of their own perks and privileges.
Finally, any plan for Detroit's revival will require the full participation of its people. We have to bridge the moat that currently surrounds City Hall, allowing mayoral friends and relatives to prosper while residents and taxpayers are shut out.
Throughout this campaign, I've pledged to run an open, honest and transparent administration. We will introduce new rules -- with teeth -- governing personal travel and petty cash. We will work cooperatively with members of Council on the challenges facing our city. They will not have to issue subpoenas to get answers from the mayor's office. We will hold regular town meetings in neighborhoods across our city, so Detroiters can ask questions of the mayor and top department heads and share their ideas and concerns.
Detroit needs a change -- in leadership and attitude. I have a record of bringing people together. I have the experience and ideas to hit the ground running. I love this city and can't wait to start working on its revival.
We don't have a day or a dollar to waste.
*Editor's Note. Kwame Kilpatrick's editorial and Freman Hendrix's editorial appeared in The Detroit Free Press.
Monday, November 7, 2005