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Politics

Detroit Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire: Nicholas Hood III

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Published 1/28/2009

Nicholas Hood III

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: 1. Place a turnaround specialist team on staff immediately after the May election that reports directly to the Mayor with the mandate of developing and executing the plan by October of 2009.

2. Establish a series of free "healthy activities" for the city such as city wide bike ride / walk with the mayor, city wide emphasis on healthy life styles (nutrition, diet, etc.). These activities would not require an allocation of city funds.

3. Replace Police officers that perform administrative functions with civilians and put those officers on the street to help make our city safer.


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: 1. Cut the administrative staff assigned to the mayor by at least one third – including the executive protection unit of the police.

2. Reduce the City Council Staff budget allocation by one third.

*Note: Potential cuts would not be limited to these three cost centers, but these are three areas that could be addressed immediately.  Reducing the City Council Budget by a third would produce at least $18,000,000 in savings.

3. Work in partnership with the city work force to put the City on a Four Day Work Week until the budget Deficit is Eliminated.


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: Many of those who leave Detroit annually are young adults with children in search of better schools.  I would petition the State of Michigan to allow additional "magnet or test for entrance," charter schools to be established within the City of Detroit.  At the same time, I would petition the Detroit Public School System to do the same thing.  Many young parents are frustrated with the lack of educational opportunities for their children.  Magnet schools would provide these parents quality education across traditional geographical lines for neighborhood schools.  For example, such a school could be located downtown and the New Center areas to encourage workers to have their children educated near the work place.

As mayor, I would personally reach out to the automotive industry to request that the auto companies share what they hope the public educational system would produce from the students. At the same time I would ask General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to allow engineers on a pro bono basis to volunteer in the schools to encourage our youth to focus on math and science.  For too long the city government and the school system have functioned with very little coordination of services and objectives.  While I am not in favor of the city taking over the school system, I believe the mayor and city council have a moral and practical obligation to help to enhance community education on all levels.


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

A: The Incinerator is an environmental risk and its use should be replaced by recycling and other more environmentally friendly waste solutions. The conversion to a replacement technology may not realistically happen immediately, but it is a goal the city should pursue.


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: As I stated in my announcement for Mayor, I promise to actively recruit environmental remediation companies to our city using tax breaks and other incentives. I will commit to converting our bus fleet to BIO Diesel fuel by 2012. I will further commit to converting our service fleet to natural gas power by 2014. I would also order an evaluation of all city departments to ascertain opportunities to make each department environmentally progressive and friendly.


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

A: Many of the votes that I made as a city councilman between 1994-2001 were contentious with strong support pro and con - The vote to bring casinos to Detroit, the decision to acquire property by eminent domain to develop market rate housing on the east side of Detroit (The Jefferson East Development), the decision to build a K Mart on Myers at Seven Mile and a K Mart on Telegraph at Eight Mile, and a supermarket on Warren west of the Lodge Freeway were all tough votes that challenged my personal integrity.

What made some of the votes difficult was because I had friends who wanted me to vote one way or another because of personal interest. At the end of the day, I made my decisions based on what was best for the city.  In some instances even to this day there are persons who have distanced themselves from me because of the decisions I made as a councilman.  In cases where the vote was contentious, I often drafted written statements to explain my rationale.  In the case of friends and strangers who wanted me to decide differently I always sat down with them and gave them a chance to make their case.  I then would explain to them those things that I thought were most significant to influencing my vote.

The most painful vote in my eight year career as a councilman was when a friend wanted me to support his development project. A competitor proposed the same project but required no city funds.  My friend's group said they needed one million dollars from the city for their proposal to be viable.  I explained to my friend that I could support his project if he and his partners did not require the financial assistance of the city. They said it was impossible.  I ended up voting for the other proposal and jeopardized a friendship.  Integrity is something a lot of persons claim to have.

For me, I strive to do what is right.  I do not claim to be perfect, but I do make a sincere effort to do what is right and fair. As an elected official the question of personal integrity is not just what is right, but what is best for the city.  Often when those types of decisions are made, feelings are hurt and sometimes never repaired.


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

A: As a little boy in New Orleans, somewhere between four and seven, I asked my younger brother to stand under the palm tree while I threw a knife over his head, like William Tell shot an arrow through an apple over the head of a person.  The knife missed the tree and cut my brother over his eye.  As the blood gushed out I ran inside and said, "Dad come out, a bad man came out from the alley and cut Emory in the eye."  My Dad ran outside and instead of immediately running to look after my brother he looked at me and said, "Where is the man?"  The only thing that saved me was that my parents took my brother to the hospital to get stitched.  I never received a spanking for this. Here is what I learned from this horrible event:

• Don't lie.
• Don't' beat your children when they do dumb things.  Talk with them. Discipline them, but don't hurt them physically.
• When you mess up, don't just stand there, go get help.
• Don't throw knives at other people

As an adult I have followed these principals. When I make mistakes, I own up to them. If a challenge is too great, I seek help. Most of all, I try to tell the truth.


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

A: One of my favorite books is "Freakonomics" by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. This book is one of my favorites because they look at real world issues from both a sociological and economics perspective and come up with real world observations and suggestions. For example, one chapter is titled, "Why do Drug Dealers still live with their Moms?" The point their research shows is that the bulk of drug dealers don't make enough money to live on their own. Yet, with a illegal drug world that is organized in a stratified manner, the often younger drug dealers look up to the leaders of the organization with the hope of one day leading a similar type of monetarily rich life style. Many of the chapters come to conclusions that are basic and common sense in understanding why many of the phenomenons we see in the world exist.


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

A: "Slumdog Millionare" is one of my more current favorite movies.  It is about poor children from Mumbai, India and how their lives intersect and diverge and come back together.  Perhaps because it is about the growth, transformation and friendship of children, perhaps it is because the movie was filmed in India, and most of all it is a love story that begins in childhood, for these reasons I like this movie.


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

A: "Stand" by Sly Stone is a piece of music that moves me.  I find this song motivational because it challenges the listener to "stand, in the end you will still be you…" I resonate with this song because to me the challenge of modern life is to push for those things that are right, challenge those things that are wrong and sleep well at night because you know you stood up for something that mattered.

Many years ago I had an opportunity to ask Andrew Young what Martin Luther King Jr.'s favorite song was. I though he would answer, "We shall Overcome, " or "If I can help somebody." To my surprise he answered, his favorite song was, "I've been down so long, getting up ain't crossed my mind." In a sense, Sly Stone and Martin Luther King are talking the same language – "stand there's a midget standing tall and a giant beside him about to fall."

To me life is an incredible gift and we are charged with the responsibility of making this world the best it can be for all of its citizens. This means we need to stand to challenge poverty, hunger and war. The challenge in rebuilding Detroit is no less – our challenge and the reason why I am running for mayor is to make the city a place people want to come to, not run away from.


Q: What was your nickname as a kid?

A: The name I was called by my parents and others in New Orleans when I was very young is Robin – like Robin Hood!

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