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Eric Mays – Ward 1
Family: Son of the late pastor Louis H. Mays and Rosie B. Mays, and I have a son Eric Mays
Education: Graduated high school class of 1976, graduated Michigan State University with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Pre-Law in the class of 1981
Occupation: Currently serves as first ward Flint City Councilman, Worked for General Motors, UAW
Why do you feel you are a good fit for Flint City Council?
Because I understand the duties, the responsibilities, and my job as it relates to serving and representing the citizens of the city of Flint and particularly the first ward. In other words, it takes knowledge of the budget, it takes knowledge of the rules and regulations, and it takes relationships. And then you have to do the basic stuff like answer your phone and return calls. When you have experience dealing with folks’ business in the UAW, you just going from representing then the UAW to now [Flint’s first ward]. I’m a good fit as a public servant and a voice and a fighter for what the people in my district need.
What are the top five issues you want to focus on as a City Council member?
The top five issues I will focus on will be jobs, water issues, blight (which includes abandoned houses, and high grass, and dumping), police and public safety, and making sure that I serve each individual for their different needs. Some council people don’t answer their phones and don’t return calls, and that’s an issue.
How would you help the city navigate through the water crisis?
I would hold the state and the Governor more accountable and the Republican legislature. We operate with a general fund of about $53 million. The state operates with a general fund budget of about $55 billion, and nearly a $1 billion surplus. And in order to navigate the water crisis, you cannot and should not charge the highest rates in the country for water people cannot fully use and the state should not be sitting there with all of that money on something that they created and people are not holding them more accountable to drop them dollars in an amount that can fix pipes and repair things. This could be done in a year. So I think I want some council folks who will fight and hold the state more accountable than the ones that I’ve been working with so far. I would hold the state accountable until we get the amount of dollars specifically that are needed to get this behind us in a twelve month period of time. It has gone on far too long. I think the state should be putting towards the city another $300 million, but then in terms of the lives that have been lost in terms of legionnaires disease and pneumonia and things like that the state might need to set aside another $2 to $3 billion to settle some of these class action lawsuits and claims from individual residents. In a leadership capacity, we should not only be worried about settling for infrastructure and pipes being fixed and lower water rates, you can have people die and we should also be interested in helping navigate some of these lawsuits and claims for some of the residents in our city and we should be holding the Governor and the legislature accountable.
What would your water source recommendation be?
My water source recommendation is a little complicated. For one, right now we’re getting water from Detroit, and the Great Lakes Water Authority is going to have to remain the source under all circumstances for at least the next two to three years because we don’t have a plant that’s able to treat water coming from the KWA, we have not had a city council to make a decision on an alternative plan. Right now, my position as we speak today is that the State of Michigan should be liable for the bond debt on the KWA because of a suspicious bond sale under the emergency manager. My position is that the completed KWA pipeline is an asset that I don’t think people should squander at this point and giveaway and give up water rights, we have water rights from Sanilac County to Lapeer County but also all the way to Birch Run because of what I’m going to call the watershed, and people right now are trying to put the last nail in the coffin to take water rights away from the residents of the City of Flint over the next thirty or more years. I have to break down where we should get water from in the short term, medium term, and long-term. In the short term for the next two to three years at least I see our water source being Detroit, and in the medium and long-term it’s possible we might just do better for the residents of Flint if we can hold onto our assets and make the state financially responsible for something that they’ve created. And I need to be around to fight for that for my kids and grandkids. I’m probably one of the best voices with the best understanding of the complexity of those water issues and that’s my view.
How satisfied are you with Flint’s current administration?
We have a new administration and I compare the new administration to the old administration, and so the best way for me to talk about satisfaction with the new administration is to say how disappointed I was with the old administration, that would be the Walling administration. I could not get them to declare an emergency as it related to the water crisis, for months people said the water was safe. And not only that, under the old administration people, were arresting me when I tried to speak in council meetings and taking me to court for trying to speak in my elected position. In my opinion, the old administration was in cahoots with the emergency manager, and I don’t believe in emergency managers and dictatorships I believe in democracy. Now, when I was able to get a new administration under Mayor Weaver when I got taken out of my council seat wrongfully I was able to settle that damage claim. And when I asked them to declare a state of emergency over the water crisis, they did and it worked – it brought in over $400 million, President Obama showed up in the first ward which is the ward I represent, people have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and other criminal acts for this man-made disaster, I’m able to pick up the phone and call the police chief and get responses in my ward, and on some occasions I’ve been able to get 200 or more houses demolished in my area, we’ve been able to get Dupont St. paved and sidewalks redone, I’ve been able to call and get houses boarded up, and so forth and so on. This administration for Councilman Mays has been a relief compared to the old administration and so I’m thinking that no administration is perfect, but I’ll take the new one over the old one any day of the week as we continue to try to educate each other and move forward. I think it would be six times better if I could get at least three or four new council people to work with me on the City Council and if so then I think I would enjoy the government of the City of Flint a little better. The city council and the mayor’s office have to work as a machine. So I’ll be watching the city council election really close, because if I can get three or four people who really understand government I’m hoping that I can be president of the city council, and then surely I’ll be able to enjoy the administration and the work we do a little better.
Millions of dollars have been poured into the development of downtown Flint. How would you develop other areas of the city and what areas do you think need more focus?
You’re 100% right, millions of dollars have been poured into downtown Flint, and we’ve seen a change. First of all, millions of dollars need to be poured into some of our industrial property, where Buick City was at so that we can market them like we want to. General Motors should be held accountable to pour millions of dollars into those properties and to clean it up. Some of us believe that they left the property and the Flint River somewhat contaminated and they need to pour millions of dollars into that property and clean it up. What I’ve said for three budget years, and I’ll say it for the fourth and the fifth, we’ve got to reactivate our department of economic development. Back in the day, we had staff in that department that knew how to put together those innovative projects – $32 million for Water Street Pavilion, $64 million for Autoworld – so you can put together packages and you can funnel money into other parts of town rather than downtown. With the vacant property we have in my ward you can have ranch style houses, you can develop new subdivisions, you can help entrepreneurs have vibrant businesses if you put the money into other parts of town other than downtown, and we can create a better quality of life for residents. That’s why I want three or four new council people who understand economic development. People deserve a better quality of life; we can do better.
A complaint from some millennials is the lack of opportunity in Flint. How would you tackle that issue in hopes of keeping young people in Flint?
I just answered that question in my previous answer when I talked about economic development, job opportunities, so forth and so on. When I grew up, I could put an application in with General Motors on Monday and be working by Wednesday. We have to put plants back on our industrial property, we have to develop and fund our commercial property, and we have to provide housing in our residential area for young people. We have enough housing in Flint because people have left, where we could give young people their first house and help bring it up to code and rehab it, if not build it anew, and that’s a training program in itself. We have to be creative and do things by thinking outside the box. We’ll keep our young people here if we can create jobs and provide them with some of their first housing and real estate. I want to teach young folks how to legitimately get money. In school they learn about jobs and working for folks, but in the real world, in this capitalistic society, you’ve gotta show them how to own businesses, you’ve gotta show them how to own corner stores, laundromats, barber shops, clothing stores, grocery stores – everything in this free world is sold legitimately. For the most part, we are consumers, and I want to show young folks how to be entrepreneurs. You can manufacture from Flint, Michigan and ship your products all across the world.
What is your opinion about blight in Flint and how would you tackle it?
The blight in Flint, in my opinion, comes because at one point we had 80,000 GM/UAW workers in Flint, and now we’re down to 8,000. People have moved out, you’ve got boarded up and abandoned houses, you’ve got people dumping where they shouldn’t be dumping. Once you create jobs, once you beef up your city employees such as police, you can kind of tackle it. The way I would go about it, rather than tearing everything down, there are houses that can be remodeled rather than tore down. We used to have programs where we gave houses away for $1 – I would bring some of that back. When people own stuff, they take care of it better. Blight will continue to be an issue, but it can be done better. We pay a park millage countywide, but we’ve only got one park in Flint. We pay a senior millage countywide, but we’ve only got two out of fifteen senior centers that we benefit from. I propose a countywide millage that would raise between $5 million and $7 million so the Land Bank would be able to cut grass more than once a year. That’s the majority of the blight in the city of Flint.
How would you build better communication with the administration in hopes of unifying the two bodies to work for the betterment of the Flint community?
I’ve already got good communications with the administration. It’s those colleagues of mine who seem to have a problem communicating with the administration. I just pick up the phone and call and talk to folks. I will have a better communication as it relates to the administration if I can get three or four council people so we could control the majority, I could become the President, we could elect a Vice President, I could appoint a finance chair, a legislative chair, governmental operations chair, and grants chair. We would hold open meetings, transparent meetings. We would communicate with the citizens better when they approach city council, and the administration wouldn’t feel like they’re approaching a hostile body. I want to create an atmosphere by changing the leadership of the council. I make no bones about it – I’m looking for changes in the second ward, third ward, fifth ward, fourth ward, and eighth ward. If I get those changes, then Scott Kincaid won’t be able to lead my administration and other council people like blind sheep.
What are the top three top goals that you hope to accomplish as a City Council member?
One, I want people to function and operate decent and orderly. I’m a Christian, I go to church. No matter what the denomination is – Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, whatever – I want to end up going down in history as a councilman that was a Christian, that was honest and truthful. Two, I want to have a long list of accomplishments that people can touch, see, and feel. Third, my goal would be to eventually move from City Council to Mayor, and then after Mayor retire. I want my political legacy to be that of success.
If there was one thing you could tell all Flint residents what would it be?