The Sisyphus of Jefferson Avenue
The MT interview with Tom Barrow
Published: July 24, 2013
MT:If you do get elected, what would your administration’s top three priorities be and how long should people wait until they see results?
Barrow:I think the first priority is to get back control of the city. Put it back under [the people’s] democratic ownership and control, I think that’s lost. How do I do that? I do have a plan to do that, because I do not think that the mayor and council have lost their ability to pass ordinances and to pass rules. If he [Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr] locks us out, we’ll meet out in front on the sidewalk. We’re going to be the mayor and council. It’ll make national news. We’ll stand up. The thing is we’re going to get back control of our city. Secondly, I think the police chief is going to have to start reporting to me. He’s not going to be able to report to Mr. Orr, and I’m going to make that explicitly clear. What’s happening here is they’re creating a chaos that doesn’t need to be created, and they want to do it with impunity, because they want this city’s assets. So public safety to me is the second item. I think we’ve got to make the community safe. I think we have to do it by seeking new sources of revenue to do that. That’s why we’re talking about our 4 percent “heroes tax” on entertainment. I’ll go to the legislature and I’ll make my case with them and to the governor, why we need to begin to place a surcharge on a ticket to the Lions game, on a ticket to a Red Wings game, ticket to a Tigers game and the like. And then take that money and hire police officers and firefighters — 500 new police officers, 200 new firefighters, 67 new EMS personnel, 13 new EMS rigs, and put them out on the streets in the neighborhood.
MT:That’s two things. What would be the third?
Barrow:I think the third thing is economic development. I think creating jobs. If you want to impact crime, you gotta be able to get people a way to be able to earn a living, but a living that pays a living wage, something that they can do something with. I’ll create a deputy mayor of small business development. We’ll also have someone who’s in charge of larger business development. We’re going to be able to create an atmosphere to create those jobs.
We have a lot of old housing stock. I think it’s really good housing stock that the city owns. It’s old, and it needs rehabbing and the like. So we’re going to create these nonprofit housing corporations and, using grant money, we’re going to hire ex-offenders who are coming out of the system who want to work, who want to do something, but they just can’t find that job because they’ve been blacklisted. And then we’re going to hire them, pay them a decent wage, and we’re going to rehab those houses. And then we’re going to take the money from that and do other houses, and so on. We’ll be able to create thousands of jobs. And then I’m going to go to the business community. I like what Dan Gilbert is doing downtown, quite frankly. I like the idea of having outside cafés and being able to walk around and have dinner or lunch or something, I mean, that’s great. But it’s gotta reach out. We gotta branch it out, so something’s happening in the neighborhoods.
City ordinances, you know, you see merchants who don’t take care of the front of their property — there are ordinances against that, who don’t sweep and pick up the weeds or whatever it is in the property, there’s ordinances. Residents who don’t cut their grass and let it grow high — there’s ordinances. So I’m going to empower the block clubs. Bring them all down to Cobo Hall, and instruct them on the city ordinances, then that block club president, vice president and secretary are going to write a letter to that homeowner, they’re going to put it on the owner’s door and give them 72 hours or whatever the ordinance says — it already exists. You gotta cut your grass. At the end of those 72 hours, we’re going to cut. And then they’ll have a number to call, we’ll have a vendor go out, cut their grass and we’ll put it on their tax rolls. We’ll do what we gotta do to be able to create, to get our pride back. Our spirit is just broken. So that’s our three — economic development, small businesses and jobs, public safety and getting back control of our city.
MT: There has been a certain influx to parts of the city, but the net is that the city continues to still lose people. And so how do you address the situation to stop it so that the population doesn’t continue to decline?
Barrow: I guess I would probably reject your premise. I think your premise is flawed. I think that we have a lot of folks moving in, a lot of folks moving in. I think we’re having net gains. I don’t think anybody can tell whether we have a net loss or a net gain. I know that we have had some loss of population; I think that our population is higher than the 714,000 that they’re saying. I think that there’s — you know when Coleman Young was mayor, and you were going to do a census, he made sure that people knew that the census would have nothing to do with your aid, nothing to do with your status, all we want to be able to do is get our money… Coleman Young would tell folks that when the census taker comes, just tell them the number of folks in the house. We don’t care about the — it’s not going to affect your aid, not gonna affect your legal status. But it will affect what we’re going to get for revenue-sharing and all the other kinds of things. And folks talked to them. That didn’t happen this time, because again, we had an ineffectual leader. I think that our numbers are larger. Having said that, I think that the number of folks that are coming into the community, I think we’re getting more of those than are leaving, and I see the evidence of that, primarily in the Corktown area, in the Cass Corridor area. I see it on the east side where I live at. I see lots of families coming in who are with young children, I see lots of that. I don’t see an increase in number of vacant houses. I don’t see that, so I think there’s a net growth going on. It’s just that it’s part of the paradigm that creates this devaluing of Detroit to make it sound like everybody is still leaving. I don’t think that’s happening.
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