ElectionDetroit City Council Candidate Questionnaire: Mohamed Okdie
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About 50 percent of the city's $1.8 billion general fund budget is spent on salaries and benefits. Is there a way to address an accumulated deficit of at least $300 million and avoid the risk of insolvency without significantly reducing those worker costs? If not, by what percentage overall do you think they should be cut?
If, after an outside audit of all city departments and functions reveals no other option than cutting salaries, I would recommend an across-the-board graduated cut from Mayor, to administrative (the 10% recently added plus any additional recommendations), to Council and then to workers. As the City becomes more solvent, the workers would be the first to get refunded. The audit should reveal the amount needed for cuts.
"Detroit should not have to be dependent on outside institutions and corporations for its livelihood. Why can't the city be its own banker and issuer of credit cards and mortgages? With proper oversight and management, the city could certainly be the one to be offering affordable and negotiable mortgages. We should not standby while some mortgage company in Florida or the Netherlands, for instance, destroys our neighborhoods by refusing to renegotiate a mortgage and thus forecloses on desirable property. Why can't we issue credit cards at affordable rates of interest? If this allows people to stay in their homes, the city has a better chance of collecting taxes and of staying solvent.
Why can't the city be its own cable or wifi deliverer? Other cities provide wifi for its residents. Why do private companies get to reap the benefit of what residents are going to be purchasing anyway?"
I would urge my colleagues to be working on making arrangements with empty factory owners to transfer ownership to the city. Simultaneously, I would want us (Council) to be wooing non-polluting industries that could adapt their operations to those worksites (preferably those receiving ARRA funds) to move here and take over those sites in return for hiring Detroiters to the jobs created there. Some production possibilities might be solar equipment or high-speed rail cars.
b. No one (except maybe the Mayor) should be getting a car at city expense. If workers must pay for their own cars, so should everyone else employed by the city.
c. Anyone doing business with the city should have an office in the city that houses its Detroit employees. For instance, if the city and its employees are leasing a large amount of autos per year, it seems the rental companies should have offices somewhere in the city---not just at the airport.
Would you support changing Detroit's city charter to allow district elections for some or all council members?
The Detroit International Bridge Co. is attempting to purchase a section of Riverside Park so that it can build a new span adjacent to the Ambassador Bridge. At the same time, a publicly owned bridge is being planned for the Delray area. Explain your support for or objection to each plan.
I am opposed to the privately owned bridge and am quite appalled that Detroit and the State are apparently looking the other way as it's being built. I would have expected the city, at least, to object to the private entity taking city-owned land for its personal profit. To my knowledge the only objections to date are those raised by community residents. As I see it, installing a privately owned bridge that counts on public access for its livelihood, is a very dangerous precedent to set. It's like allowing a private entity to build a public highway. It can be closed without regulation or guidelines and fees can be assessed without public input.
On the other hand, a publicly-owned bridge with public input on structure, location, transportation and future fees is by far the better way to proceed.
The City Council has twice voted to send the city's trash to landfills instead of the incinerator, and is exploring its legal options in an attempt to make that happen. The administration, meanwhile, is considering purchasing at least a share of the facility, and possibly all of it. As a council member, would you support or oppose continued use of the incinerator?
I strongly objected to the monstrosity when it was originally built and am even more opposed to it today. It has not only prevented us from installing recycling programs while every city around us has, there is evidence that it has been the source of a high incidence of cancer and related problems for those living and working in its path of burn-off.
Given the city's fiscal crisis, what, if anything, would you do as a council member to help support the arts and culture in the city?
With the average concert-ticket now in the $65 range and the industry doubling its revenues in the last 10 years, (Rolling Stone, July 2009) I would recommend a very minimal amount from every concert ticket sold for a Detroit concert and entertainment venue be set aside for the arts and cultural events. We should be encouraging the arts by offering grants and subsidies to amateur visual artists, filmmakers, dancers and musicians and then providing venues to them, residents and school-children to enjoy and appreciate their endeavors.
What have you done personally or professionally to help advance civil rights, regional cooperation, race relations, poverty reduction, pro-environmental efforts, or any other similarly significant cause?
As a council member, what could you do to help Detroit capitalize on the burgeoning green economy?
In addition to objectives mentioned in question number 2, I would suggest fostering organic gardening on neighborhood lots and in public spaces by offering gardening information sessions in area communities where requested. The city should also be able to provide free seeds for a variety of vegetable plants and flowers. Community adoption of open and closed schools for planting and caring of a garden should be encouraged. We should be doing a better job of clearing out all the dead ash trees and replanting other trees in their place. Where trees are replanted curbside, residents should be given credit on their water bills for watering them.
What innovative ideas do you have in regard to dealing with the massive amounts of vacant and abandoned property in Detroit?
I am alarmed that business speculators from around the globe are coming to Detroit to buy up city blocks and tracts of land. I think the city should prohibit these actions which by the way are probably encouraging mortgage holders to foreclose on homes at a greater speed. I think the city should be taking a stronger stand against mortgage holders---wherever they are located--- to help homeowners keep their homes as a means of preventing vacant and abandoned property from being established in the first place.
Name one of your favorite movies about politics? What is it about this movie that made an impression?
Good Night and Good Luck---the George Clooney movie about Edward R. Morrow. It demonstrated individual integrity in the media, something that except for a few instances is unfortunately lacking today. I also took the time to watch "Ghandi." He is a personal hero of minefor his personal (and ultimate) sacrifice for the freedom of his contry and people.
What book dealing with politics or government — either fiction or nonfiction — would you recommend others read? Why?
Recently re-read the updated edition of Detroit: I Do Mind Dying by Dan Georjakas and Hardball by Coleman A. Young