The MT interview with Krystal Crittendon
Published: July 24, 2013
A graduate of Wayne State University and the Detroit College of Law, Krystal Crittendon has long served in the city’s Law Department. Interim Mayor Ken Cockrel made her the city’s top lawyer in 2009. She served as corporation counsel until Mayor Dave Bing and a six-member majority of the City Council removed her from the position earlier this year after she challenged the legality of the consent agreement with the state.
Metro Times:Why do you want to be mayor?
Krystal Crittendon:Because I’m crazy. But what I’m crazy about is this city and its prospects — its residents and its future. I want to be a part of the recovery that we know is going to take place — it’s taking place really quickly now, and I think that I’m the candidate most qualified to help make some of these changes to turn things around. You know there are a lot of problems in city government, there are people who want to blame those problems on the city workers. It’s only a small part, if any, of how we got into the situation that we’re in.
MT:Why do you think voters should give you their support?
Crittendon: Not only do I know city government inside and out, and know what the problems are, and how to fix [many of them] quickly, I’ve already demonstrated that I’m going to stand up for the people in this city. I’m also someone who can compromise. As a trial attorney, you’re used to fighting with folks in the morning and having dinner with them at night, but I’m only going to compromise if it’s in the best interests of the city of Detroit. I’m not someone who’s going to go along just to get along, and I’m not someone who is ever going to compromise my principles or compromise the people in this city.
MT: What are some examples of how you would use your knowledge of how city government works?
Crittendon: What we’ve done is make across-the-board layoffs in in all departments. Everybody’s suffered the same percentage. So those departments that actually provide services for the people suffer the same percentage cut as those departments that didn’t. Those departments that generate revenue for the city of Detroit suffered the same percentage cut — in some cases, larger than some of the other departments. I was speaking to an employee the other day who works in income tax collection and she actually goes out on audits. She’s the only person, now, doing it, and in an 18-month period, she singlehandedly collected $11 million. So we just do the math: If we need to add people, they would more than pay for themselves and bring some much needed revenue into the city.
We need to invest in the city’s computer equipment. Our infrastructure is antiquated in so many departments. There are still people who have to open file drawers to find out information. When you go to the city of Detroit, no matter what department you’re in, you should be able to speak to a clerk, you should be able to — by your tax ID number, your address, your social security number, your whatever — be able to see everything that you owe the city: every outstanding parking ticket, business license fee, inspection fee, in order to get a clearance, for instance. The way it’s set up now, it has to be manually checked in each department and forwarded to another department, and so it creates an inefficiency.
I’m just going off here.
MT: That’s OK.
Crittendon:One of my problems is that I know too much. One of the problems is that a lot of our equipment is not even Web-based in 2013, and so where everybody is cloud computing and doing things of that nature right now, we’re still opening file cabinets. And so we need to integrate the equipment so that it speaks to each other and those types of fixes are easy. Those things can be done in the first 30 days of whoever’s administration.
MT: Is there the money to do that? Because the computer stuff is not an inexpensive fix.
Crittendon: We are spending millions of dollars right now on software for consultants to use to try to advise the city as to how to restructure itself out of existence, basically, is what it is. Since January of this year, which is just now five to six months, there have been $17 million, probably more now, $17 million in contracts awarded to restructuring. … $17 million. And so, for a fraction of that, we could’ve integrated this equipment. We are spending, for example — the emergency manager’s law firm gets $450,000 a month. Things of that nature.
One of the biggest criticisms that I had with Mr. Orr’s report, financial review team’s reports, the financial advisory board reports, is that it doesn’t concentrate or even very rarely mentions the revenues that are owed to the city. And our debt, which is increasing by a billion dollars every time there’s a press conference, it started out at $14.9 billion — less than $2 billion of that was short-term debt. It’s going to come due over the next six years over a rate of about $300 million a year. But the rest of it is 30-year debt. Some of it, $6 billion or so, is water department revenues that are secured by the revenues that come into the department. Another roughly $6 billion is long-term health care and pension costs for the retirees that are going to be paid out over the next 30 years as well. So if you take those two long-term debts out of the situation, you show up at the bankruptcy court and say, “This is my short-term debt, $1.8 billion. I’ve got these assets and I’ve got these debts owed to me by a bunch of debtors.” I’m wondering what the judge would say. He would probably say, first, “Go get your money, because you have assets that are out there that are sufficient to satisfy your debt. So I’m wondering, in terms of qualifying for bankruptcy, how that’s going to be maneuvered.”
MT: Do you think Mr. Orr should or should not pursue bankruptcy?
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