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Flint, MI—Arguments among council members, violation of charter rules, how to decrease crime, and fixing Flint schools were just some of the topics discussed among the five write-in candidates running for city council at a July 24 forum.
The forum, held at Berston Field House, was an opportunity for the write-in candidates to introduce themselves and their platforms while also urging the public to vote for them at the primary election on August 3.
Here is what each candidate had to say about each topic:
Tanya Rison, 1st Ward
Tanya Rison, a write-in candidate for the first ward, is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in psychology, and she has over 1000 “credit hours” of service to Flint. She believes that “it’s time to rise up in our city to get what we deserve.”
Rison believes that the council needs to “start over with a clean slate” to smooth out problems in the council internally as well as the tension between the council and the administration. She said she would implement Robert’s Rules of Order, encourage a baseline understanding of respect from the council as a whole, and hopes to have regularly scheduled meetings that would last 2-3 hours.
“We should stick to what we are supposed to be doing so that every time we speak everybody is on the same page,” Rison said. “The whole city (should) know what we’re talking about, it’s not any confusion, and nobody’s into an argument about it. And people can respect those when you can’t seem to agree eye to eye with someone else. There’s a way to compromise. And that’s just what has to be done in order to do the job for the people.”
Rison said that if she were in council she would push for the $99 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Acts to be spent on police, a Flint-based trash collection company, employment, small business assistance, road infrastructure, education and recreation.
Rison also hopes that money from the general city fund will not be used to lease a helicopter, as proposed by the Flint police chief at a council meeting on July 12. She suggested that the money can be used for existing officers and encourage the hiring of new officers.
During the forum, write-in candidates were also asked about their opinion on the Flint Master Plan, which proposes that vacant and underutilized communities be repurposed into “green zones.” According to Don Hinton, the moderator of the forum, 80 percent of the green zones would be on Flint’s north side. Rison believes this part of the plan is not a good idea because “it’s a way not to rebuild our community.”
“It’s a way to squeeze us out,” Rison said. “We do need places for our kids to go play safe… but at one certain point, you are pushing people out of the area… When I was going out and taking signatures, so many people complained to me that they went to the Land Bank, and Land Bank won’t even sell us the property to turn it over. So then, if it was not about us building our neighborhood in our wards back on the north, what is it about?”
Rison also believes that the lottery system for Flint public schools operates in a contradictory manner, asking why Flint public schools are shutting down when the lottery is for these schools and if elected to council, she hopes to push for better Flint public school education.
“You got to stand up, and you got to make a change in what’s going on around here,” Rison said. “If not, the city of Flint will no longer be your city of Flint or my city of Flint. It is going to belong to either the county, or it’s gonna belong to the state, because they’re gonna keep squeezing and squeezing until they squeeze us out of here because we’re tired. So that definitely is something that needs to be addressed yesterday.”
Eric Mays is on the ballot for the first ward seat. More information about council candidates and concerns of first ward residents can be found here.
Rich Jones, 3rd Ward
Rich Jones, a write-in candidate for the third ward, has been active in Flint since he was 19 years old, coaching a basketball team at Christ Fellowship Church. He also used to work as a night director at the Berston Field House.
Jones proposes having more frequent council meetings to shorten the time for each meeting, which currently can last as long as nine or ten hours. He said would be communicative with the constituents in his ward while also being willing to “agree to disagree” with somebody to speed up meetings.
“I’m going to do as I expect others to do,” Jones said. “I’m going to follow the charter. If there is something in the charter I don’t understand, I will read the charter. I’m just hoping that everyone else on there does the same thing I do, and I think we’ll be alright.”
In regards to the $99 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Acts, Jones would prioritize providing reparations to Flint residents from the water contamination crisis, such as relieving them of their water bills and improving existing water infrastructure. With any additional money, he suggested that it would go towards increasing Flint-owned businesses, increasing police, parks, and pushing for schools to be opened.
As for ideas as to how to increase the number of police in Flint, Jones said he would bring an expert from the Michigan State Police department to assist Flint in “getting the money that was really needed to fund a real police department.”
“So we need to find some kind of way to increase the number of police officers in the city of Flint,” Jones said. “And another thing that we need, we need more investigators. … Just because you put a million police out on the street, that don’t mean ain’t nobody going to break the law. But we need to do it, let them know, if you do something wrong, we’re knocking on your door. Some of these people are getting away with multiple bad things. So we got to find a quicker way to get these people out of the street and send a harder message to these people.”
One of the main issues on Jones’s platform is to return Flint to the way it used to be in regards to education and property. Jones pointed out that the third ward does not have any schools and he wants to push for more attention to the Flint public school system to it to “how it was back in the day.”
Jones also would like to obtain property from the Genesee County Land Bank that he believes was “improperly received.” He proposed a solution of building houses at “good prices” for people living in apartment complexes instead of the green spaces proposed in the Flint Master Plan. He is also opposed to the idea of tiny homes because he doesn’t “want to give up our city the way it’s been given up.”
“But I’m up for the fight and I’m going to fight because, to be honest, we don’t want to give up our city in the way it’s being given up and there’s a lot of people like me that walk in the streets,” Jones said.
A.C. Dumas, Quincy Murphy, and Kerry Nelson are on the ballot for the third ward seat. More information about council candidates and concerns of third ward residents can be found here.
Leslie Haney, 6th Ward
Leslie Haney, a write-in candidate for the sixth ward, is the business owner of Sparkled Bombshell Blessings, an online jewelry store, and devotes her free time to volunteering at local animal rescue shelters.
To Haney, the current city council is “not getting the business done.” She is hoping to bring compromise between the council and administration because “the only people suffering are the residents” of Flint.
“I can work with anybody,” Haney said. “I have dealt with a lot of people I haven’t agreed with but I’ve got the outcome we needed to move something forward.”
Haney said she would push for four main uses for the federal funding from the American Rescue Acts: responding to public health emergencies, premium or hazard pay for frontline workers, replacing lost revenue from the pandemic, water infrastructure, and broadband. She also wanted to prioritize negotiating favorable contracts to increase police hiring and increase community policing.
“Today’s a tough day to be a police officer anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world, and that’s part of the problem,” Haney said. “I think with community policing, if we have neighbors that are involved, opening these mini stations are going to help. You get the community in the mini stations to help man them. You’re talking one on one with fellow residents and they’re going to feel comfortable talking to a resident as opposed to a police officer. And I think that is the direction we’re headed and that’s the best thing right now that they’re going to do.”
Growing the community is a priority to Haney and she said that only happens if Flint public schools are brought back. She proposed more tutoring and after-school programs.
Haney also opposed the Flint Master Plan, which she said would “wipe out a whole side of town and make it green space.” She suggested instead using abandoned land to create subdivisions and space for businesses.
“I would like to see Flint go back into the town that it used to be, where you can have your children, your grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all grow up here,” Haney said. “I don’t agree with all of the green spaces up north in Flint. … We need to bring people back to Flint and we need to start by cleaning up Flint. Get rid of the blight, and get rid of crime, people will return… If we can get all that together, Flint will be the beautiful city it used to be when General Motors was big.”
Deltonya F. Burns, Chris DelMorone, Terae M. King Jr., and Claudia E. Perkins-Milton are on the ballot for the sixth ward seat. More information about council candidates and concerns of sixth ward residents can be found here.
Lakeisha Trueaud, 7th Ward
Lakeisha Trueaud, a write-in candidate for the seventh ward, is a lifetime resident of Flint and is a mental health advocate who has provided housing and support to mentally disabled adults in Flint.
A single mother of two sons, Trueaud urges that the administration and city council remain civil, likening the relationship of the two governmental bodies to two divorced parents who can put their differences aside to raise a baby: the city of Flint. Although the city council responds to an Ethics and Accountability Board, Trueaud believes that a committee of citizens that can hold the Ethics Board accountable will also be helpful. She also proposed having separate council meetings for citizens and separate meetings to run through the agenda.
“The current council is dysfunctional and that is one of the reasons why I decided to run at this time, because they’re not getting anything done, which means that the city of Flint is not progressing,” Trueaud said. “I’ll definitely bring a change in demeanor, a change in the way that things are handled at the Council. But I believe it takes a team, it can’t be just one person coming up with their own idea. It has to be teamwork. We have to function as a body and work together.”
Trueaud said she is tired of the council making decisions without input from Flint residents, and she would prioritize Flint residents’ input on ideas to spend federal funding from the American Rescue Acts. She suggested that the funds can be used to focus on crime and policing, not just “police on the streets, ” but developing a rapport between citizens and the police.
“In order to stop the brutality of the police, it’s going to have to be people from the community that care about the people and the community that is willing to work with the community,” Trueaud said. “You cannot just say put more police on the street. I have two young black sons and I’ve dealt with police harassment. So it’s a double edged sword, when you say just put police on the ground, boots on the ground, there has to be some community mending and there has to be some kind of training that we’ll deal with the mental aspect of our young people right now.”
Trueaud believes that Flint’s priority is to develop and bring in residents, which she said would also bring back Flint schools. Although she agrees that there needs to be more green spaces in the city, she doesn’t agree with the Flint Master Plan, because it would decline the potential number of residents that can live in Flint.
Trueaud instead proposes that the space in Flint’s north side should be used to build residences. Trueaud is a member of the Catholic Charities board in Flint and she said they have a program to develop tiny homes on Flint’s north side using land from the Genesee County Land Bank.
“If we create whole neighborhoods of green space, we are a city of approximately 90,000 residents (and) that is another way to decline residency, if that green space is not being utilized for houses,” Trueaud said. “So you have to be mindful that the more green space they create, the more in decline we have as residents, which means that the taxpayers who are currently paying taxes would have more taxes implemented on our home, which causes more impoverished neighborhoods. I’m all for green spacing (but) it is not done equitably.”
Monica S. Galloway, Allie L. Herkenroder, and Shannon A. Searcy are on the ballot for the seventh ward seat. More information about council candidates and concerns of seventh ward residents can be found here.
Steve Barber, 9th Ward
Steve Barber, a write-in candidate for the ninth ward, is a physical education teacher at the International Academy of Flint and is heavily involved in the Flint Public Art Project.
Barber believes that the current city council is dysfunctional and does not get things done. If elected, Barber said that he will be in attendance at the meetings and he will maintain two traits: accountability and transparency.
“My solution is really simple: be the change that I wish to see,” Barber said. “By doing that, I just won’t contribute to (the dysfunction). There must be a voice of reason that sits on the council and I hope to be that voice of reason. Council isn’t run off of people’s opinions. It’s about the constituents.”
Barber also wants to prioritize funding to the Flint police department, such as a three-month leasing of a helicopter that was discussed in previous council meetings, and incorporating community policing, which provides for “equitable inclusion.”
Three other main issues that Barber advocates for through his platform are education, access to city-wide WiFi, and cleaning up blight. The Flint Master Plan is a possible solution that could contribute to the “success and viability” in Flint, Barber said.
“I think it is important that the community looks at alternative uses, whether that be a park, whether that be a community garden, whatever might be, that it can become to contribute to the success and viability in the city’s sustainability,” Barber said. “… We have to be very critical in what we turn these properties into, but I do think it’s important that we take an approach to deindustrialize our city a little bit and create some community open green space.”
While Barber acknowledges that the city council and the Flint Board of Education are separate entities, he hopes that future decisions of education will have every organization and individual involved in decision making for Flint schools “on the same page.”
“Flint used to be a primary example of what education used to look like and I would love to see everybody get on the same page,” Barber said. “And at the top of that page, everybody (should) write kids in capital letters and focus on that when they’re making their decisions.”
Eva Worthing is on the ballot for the ninth ward seat. More information about council candidates and concerns of ninth ward residents can be found here.
Don Hinton moderated the conversation while Jalil Carter fielded questions from the public. The event was sponsored by Hall and Hall and presented by three organizations: Man Up, Black Lives Matter, and Former NFL player Andre Rison.
Flint voters will head to the polls on August 3 to decide who will make the ballot for the Flint City Council in November. For more election coverage, including other information about other council candidates, visit our elections page.