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Politics

Detroit Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire: Freman Hendrix

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Published 1/28/2009

Freman Hendrix

Q: If elected in the May special run-off election, and, assuming you are among the two finishers in the August primary, what three things can you promise to accomplish before the November run-off election?

A: Ethics and Integrity are key values in a well run city. Without these values incorporated at every level of city government, we see a breakdown of systems and process affecting employee morale and ultimately the city's service delivery to its residents.

Therefore, it is imperative that immediate steps are taken to send a strong message that in a Hendrix Administration there will be zero tolerance for all forms of fraud and corruption.

The following three steps will be immediately initiated:

  1. A strong ethics ordinance, precluding appointees and high-level city managers from accepting gifts and gratuities (similar to the state of Michigan), as well as jobs (for a period of time) from city vendors and contractors, will be enacted.
  2. Executive Order #1 in my administration will prohibit civil servants from selling political fundraising tickets. This is important initiative is necessary to send the right message to city workers that message being that the way up the ranks of city government is not based on political connections, but instead on training, education and performance.
  3. The appointment of a Corruption Task Force made up of a half dozen or so of the Detroit Police Department's finest internal investigators to go after corruption and fraud throughout city government.

B: Restructuring city government by empanelling a city-wide task force made up of internal (city workers) and external (community) people to make recommendations on how to bring the size of city government down from 43 departments by consolidation, as well as eliminating appointed staff at director, deputy director and assistant director levels.

C: Fighting crime by placing a strong emphasis on community policing. One of my first actions would be to increase the ranks of our reserve police officers and have those reserve officers staff mini-stations, direct traffic, etc., while redeploying sworn officers to patrol our neighborhoods.


Q: Depending on who is doing the estimating, the city of Detroit faces a potential budget deficit of $100 million to $200 million by the end of this fiscal year in June. Name three specific cuts you'd make to help balance the budget and the savings they'd achieve.

A: The notion that we can cut our way to a balanced budget is flawed. Services have been so decimated that the thought of cutting any further is not the option that is was 10-20 years ago.

We can address the budget deficit by implementing the programs I suggested in your first question because:

  1. There is money to be saved in eliminating fraud and corruption
  2. There is money to be saved by investing in our workforce, and
  3. There is money to be saved by going after and eliminating/consolidating certain director and top level administrator positions

Beyond that, the city must turn its focus to generating more revenue.

I'm proposing a change in our economic development/tax abatement policy and also a change in how we tax vacant land and buildings (particularly in downtown Detroit) as a potential source of revenue. Additionally, I want to increase tax revenue by creating a friendlier business development climate free of bureaucracy and fraud.

Also, given President-Elect Obama's urban agenda and the attention that he promises to focus on big cities in America, I would look to my experience and personal relationships in Washington to work with the incoming administration and Congress.

Finally, on the revenue side, I would appoint an executive assistant to the mayor whose express purpose is to seek out and obtain private and foundation dollars for programs to benefit the city of Detroit (much like we did during the Archer administration when we brought in more than $250 million through this type of a position).


Q: The city of Detroit continues to lose thousands of residents a year. Name one innovative program that you'd implement to reverse that trend.

A: Safe, clean, well serviced neighborhoods with good schools represent the foundation for stabilizing and repopulating Detroit's neighborhoods and stopping the flight of families from our city.

This task is not so much innovative, but it is fundamental to what a city can and must do to address this situation.

To that end, I propose:

  1. an emphasis on community policing by reopening mini-stations and staffing them with reserve police officers
  2. supporting the city's strong network of nonprofit CDCs to assist in neighborhood stabilization
  3. implementing a demolition program to raze those homes beyond repair/rehabilitation (there is federal funding available for this).
  4. stepping up the mayor's involvement and participation in Detroit's K-12 public school system by prioritizing city resources that are available in and around schools (DPD/DPS Public Safety working closely together; demolition around schools and snow plowing around schools).


Q: Do you think Detroit should continue to send garbage to its waste-to-energy incinerator?

A: I believe that we should use a combination of landfill and curb-side recycling, as well as continue to use our waste to energy facility. However, given environmental concerns, I would retrofit it to be a state-of-the-art facility that limits emissions and particulates to the air.


Q: To reduce dependence on foreign oil and address the problem of climate change, President-elect Obama is promising that the federal government will make significant expenditures to promote the development of green technologies and energy-efficiency programs. What would you do as mayor to help Detroit become a leader in the "green economy"?

A: I would:

  1. convert Detroit buses and city-owned vehicles to natural gas
  2. institute a city-wide urban farming initiative given the 40 square miles of vacant land in the city of Detroit this initiative could not only help supply food to the needy of our city, it could also help supply local and regional grocers, thereby cutting down on the drive-time of delivery trucks (cutting back on emissions)
  3. develop strong, effective weatherization programs within the city helping people understand the value of dialing down and weatherizing their homes and workplaces to save energy
  4. change zoning regulations to require new construction to meet LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] standards and offer tax incentives to buildings in downtown Detroit that retrofit their buildings to meet these standards (similar to the regulations that Boston has put into place).


Q: Can you recount a difficult situation that required you to display a high degree of personal integrity?

A: I remember a situation very early on in my tenure as chief of staff in the Archer administration, where our open-door policy put me into a dinner meeting with a city vendor who, before the evening ended, offered me money for no particular contractual reason, but presumably to build favor at a high level within the administration.

I very quickly set the vendor straight that it was an inappropriate gesture and told him that we had a very level playing field when it came to awarding contracts that they could compete in like everyone else.

While this was not a difficult decision for me, it was clearly a situation that represented a test of my personal integrity and I did not hesitate to push back and send a strong, clear message.


Q: What is one of the biggest mistakes you've made in your life, and what did you learn from it?

A: As a recruit brigade commander, the highest ranking position in Naval Boot Camp, I was extended the offer to attend the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. After thoughtful consideration and much discussion with my parents, I declined the offer.

Although I don't consider this the biggest mistake of my life, I often have wondered how choosing to go to Annapolis would have made my life different.


Q: Name one of your favorite books (other than the Bible). Why is it significant?

A: "Rise of the Creative Class" by Richard Florida

It is significant because it speaks to a real strategy for the rise of urban centers by taking advantage of a diverse class of citizens.


Q: Tell us what one of your favorite movies is, and why it is that you like it so much.

A: More recently, "The Contender" starring Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges and Gary Oldman.

I liked it because the lead character, played by Joan Allen, risked her career, her reputation and the opportunity to by Vice President of the United States by taking a very principled stand.


Q: Is their a piece of music or work of art that moves you deeply? Tell us why.

A: There is definitely no piece of art that has deeply moved me. As for music, I have a broad range of tastes from R&B to Jazz and Smooth Jazz to Rock and Hip Hop.

However, has any of it moved me deeply? No, not really.


Q: What was your nickname as a kid?

A: As a child, my mother and immediate family called me "Skipper." In my pre-teen/teen years friends and family shortened it to "Skip."

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