ElectionDetroit City Council Candidate Questionnaire: Shelley Iris Foy
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About 50 percent of the city's $1.8 billion general fund 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 cut?
The workers of the city of Detroit have fought long and hard to get decent benefits for themselves and their families. Although there may have to be some concessions of lay-offs, I don't believe the workers should bear the full brunt of balancing a budget and erasing a deficit that they did not create. However, I am sure some type of negotiated settlement with the unions may be possible. Example, have we ever looked at a 10 hour 4 day work schedule that may reduce costs at some department but certainly not all of them? This is only one example; I think the city and unions could sit down and maybe take an unpaid furlough day once a month if it would help reduce costs and save jobs. However once we look at each city department I am sure we can find the internal savings that may save jobs by reducing costs by being more efficient. The issue of the city budget is that of sustainable long term revenue, growth and keeping operational costs under control. However, whatever we do are band-aid approaches to the real problem of an eroding tax base, poor city services, declining population, and an educational system that is in transition. The real issue is creating jobs, job retention, and job training in areas of rapid and changing growth and attracting new businesses and residents to the city of Detroit. We have a lot of vacant buildings and office space within the city. These places are ripe for potentially new and innovative jobs. By offering the right tax incentives and credits to small and medium firms, it will attract investment capital to help revitalize this city. Many jobs are created by small business in areas of technology, medical services, and in the future hydrogen and fuel technology as well as other "green jobs". We must encourage companies to come and relocate to the city and retain those that are already doing business. However, we have to produce an environment for people and business to return to the city to increase our revenues. Our city residents pay some of the highest residential mills in the state. This certainly is not an incentive for people to stay when they are paying high taxes with minimal services. Attempting to plug a city deficit on the backs of workers is only a temporary solution when we as a city must look to permanent and sustainable revenue sources if we are going to be successful.
Do you have any other ideas as to how the city can either significantly cut costs or raise revenue?
We need to look at every department in the city and determine if they are operating efficiently. Do we have any workers who can multi task? Do we have competent managers who know how to identify tasks or duties that are redundant and sometimes duplicated? Yes, we have to right size our costs based on population loss but it must be sensible, clear, concise and in the best interest of our citizens.
Would you support changing Detroit's city charter to allow district elections for some or all council members?
Yes, I support this agenda if this is what the citizens of Detroit desire. This matter will be on the ballot and if the referendum passes we should yield to the wishes of our voters.
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.
My support or rejection would be based on several issues. First, as to to the public plan, how will it be funded? Will the taxpayers foot the bill, and if so what is the cost benefit for taxpayers and how many jobs will it create? I think a public plan may offer competition to the private plan which may be good for the region. Also, who will have oversight and authority regarding operations of the bridge? How much revenue do we anticipate for the region and how much of that will come to the city? As to the private plan, one of my concerns would be lack of a competing entity, which may mean higher toll fees, without public hearings or involvement of public stakeholders. Also, what is the revenue that will go to the City of Detroit; will it be more under a private plan as opposed to public plan? Does this plan spur additional economic development in the area? These issues as others must be addressed.
The City Council has twice voted to send the city's trash to landfills instead of the incinerator, and is exploring its legal option in an attempt to make that happen. The administration, meanwhile, is considering purchasing at least a share of the facility, and possible all of it. As a council member, would you support or oppose continued use of the incinerator?
I would oppose continued use of the incinerator for many reasons. The incinerator is harming the environment and working against the "anti-green" movement. It risks plant workers health and promotes pollution of the air and quality of air. This endangers public health and safety.
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?
We must continue to find corporate and individual donations to keep these entities striving. The cultural center is first class and visited by citizens from all over the state not just Detroiters. I believe we can set up the appropriate private foundation to assist in funding which ultimately benefits the entire region.
What have you done personality or professionally to help advance civil rights, regional cooperation, race relations, poverty reduction, pro-environmental efforts, or any other similarly significant cause?
What an excellent question. As a retired African-American police lieutenant, I along with many other African-Americans were not welcomed with open arms when we were hired by the police department during the 60's and 70's. However, as time went by African-American officers and white officers had to learn to co-exist with each other for the betterment of our community. Although African-American officers were met with resistance in this area, it was still important to have an understanding that sometimes change is not easy and can be difficult for many. However, it was important for the community to see a police department that was diverse and appropriately representative of all groups. I have also in every step of my life attempted to be an advocate for our children. As the former Commanding Officer of the Child Abuse Unit, I fully understand that our children are our most precious commodity. Many times I had to remove abused and neglected children from dysfunctional environments and placed them in a facility or home where at least they would have the opportunity for a better future and hopefully become productive citizens. My friends and colleagues sometimes joke that I was the first to promote "No Child Left Behind."
As a council member, what could you do to help Detroit capitalize on the burgeoning green economy?
We have great universities in our city that can assist in this area by offering research, technology, and education to advance this cause. Wayne State University is doing a great job at its mid-town tech center as well as other universities. A private-public partnership should be forged to ensure that we maximize this potential.
What innovative ideas do you have in regard to dealing with the massive amounts of vacant and abandoned property in Detroit?
Very interesting question. Recently, the Governor has dispatched food trucks of fresh fruits and vegetables to the City of Detroit in certain designated areas where people do not have access to traditional food marts. Why don't we at least take some of this land and allow members of the community to form food cooperatives and grow their own fresh vegetables that can be sold at a discount to citizens in on own neighborhoods. We can spur development, create jobs, and develop entrepreneurship that will provide a great service to our residents. Additionally, we need to let our neighbors purchase adjoining lots for a dollar. This would relieve the city of the responsibility of maintaining hundreds of vacant lots that we do not have the resources to maintain, and help reduce some of the blight associated with vacant lots.
Name one of your favorite movies about politics? What is it about this movie that made an impression?
My favorite movie about politics would be Michael Moore's
"Capitalism: A Love Story". This movie highlights the role of investment banks and corporations, the economic bailout, and the failing mortgage industry. It opens Americans eyes to the injustice, greed, and imbalance that is present in American government and politics today. This can explain why the "rich get richer and the poor gets poorer" which is a sad and unfortunate situation that continues to happen everyday.
What book dealing with politics or government ----either fiction or nonfiction---would you recommend others read? Why?
I would recommend others to read, "How Barack Obama Won", by Chuck Todd and Sheldon Gawiser. This book analyzes the historical 2008 presidential election and is organized by states outlining the voting trends of each state. This can give you further clarification on the past election and highlights some important facts. Although this book is an analysis, other readers can find it to be very enjoyable.
What piece of music (other than Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On,") has affected you in a political, moral or social sense? Please explain why.
The Whisper's "The Beat Goes On", has affected me politically. This song highlights, for me, the same political strife and corruption in Detroit government and politics. There has been the same motive and response towards our city government and not much change has been made. With all of the past and immediate controversy, there has been no positive advancement and examples that should define what the city says it stands for. The image of the city of Detroit is negative and it's negative press isn't leading to any new growth. We can't grow until we put away the past and step out towards a new beginning for the city defined by its people, integrity, justice, and cooperation. The citizens of Detroit deserve to be represented by honest and motivated city officials that will make the best and will put the citizens interest at heart. Without this, our city will continue to fall into the depths of where it already stands, and "the beat will continue to go on."
What question should have been included in this, but wasn't? And what would your answer to that question be?
For me as a candidate for city council, we should have a clear and direct vision and purpose in addressing what direction we want this city to move. In the past, there have been master plans created for the city that never came to fruition. However, we need a clear and convincing mandate of where we are going and how we are going to get there. We cannot continue to talk about what we want to do, but we must develop a plan and a method of achieving our goals of employment, education, and quality of life.