Editor’s Note: Before we ask our first question, Clarke begins talking about his past. He talks about his childhood, and the role art has played in his life.
Hansen Clarke: I thought I could never make a living as a fine artist because I wasn’t into commercial applications and I was so afraid I’d be destitute. So I never even tried it. That was the one big regret that I had. So I quit for 18 years. The reason why this is important to me, one of your former staff persons actually helped me. Not to get into psychoanalysis. I want to tell you a little personal tragedy. I think I want to be a little bit of a martyr. I think that’s why I’m running for mayor to be elected. I’m almost certain that I won’t get re-elected, but I don’t care because I’m going to make all the decisions that we need to balance the budget and get things right. But, if you can imagine that for every day of every month of every year for 18 years, I wanted to paint and I didn’t. It was just unbearable. I would do all sorts of other things to keep myself occupied. I can’t remember how this happened, but I met Ann Mullen and she interviewed me about the Detroit Institute of the Arts. I think some funding was being cut there or something like that. In that period of time I wasn’t in the state Legislature. I was working at the purchasing division of Wayne County. And I had actually thought that was what I would do for the rest of my life. Either that or work for some company. That wasn’t me at all. But I was going to make that myself. Anyway, she interviewed me because of this. I was the first person in my family to go to college. And I was able to go to college because my elementary school teacher recommended to my mother that I take Saturday classes at the Detroit Institute of the Arts. My mother was a school crossing guard at the time and could afford to pay for it. The DIA gave me a scholarship. Because of those Saturday morning classes I was able to learn to paint and draw and work with clay and all sorts of things that I never would have had the chance to do. And that led me into college years later, because when I was applying to college, I was interviewing at Cornell and the college would say, well your SATs aren’t great. I said, "Look man, I’m applying to the art program. Look at this portfolio." And I opened it up and that was it. That was how I got into the college, because of the DIA. And at that time I had a scholarship, so I was able to go and my mother didn’t have to pay. I blew the scholarship right after that, but that’s neither here nor there. But Ann wrote the article and recommended that I read a book about bringing the art out of you. And I started reading that book. And I tried to start painting again, and I couldn’t, and then like two years after that I had a breakthrough and I got through it.
Metro Times: Where did you get your degree?
Clarke: I ended up going back to Cornell, but I was an older student. I mean, I can say on the record, I’m a lawyer now, a state senator, but I was unemployed a lot. I was very embarrassed about that. I would never talk about it. Now I am because I’m so far a way from it, in a sense, in time and maybe in appearance. But also too, those experiences, which I considered a liability, those are my greatest assets in leading the city. Balancing the budget. Spending money on what it needs to be spent. I draw on those now. I was talking about art, but because I started to paint again, I became closer to my feelings, and not try to hide from things, and not be into power and control, which most politicians are into, but to be allowed to open myself up to really try to serve and help people. Sometimes I do get very angry because of that. It may not be the best sound bite but that’s how I feel about the issue. So I started taking painting courses steadily in the last year or so. It’s just because, growing up in Detroit — if any of you are Detroiters — little kids draw pictures, not grown men. So, it was like, I was studying art, but people were saying but what are you going to with that.
The culture is different now. Because now I can say I’m a painter and an artist.
MT: Given the structural nature of the budget crisis facing Detroit, what is the very first thing you would do as mayor of Detroit to address that?
Clarke: Here’s the very first thing, which may not be directly to the budget itself, but it is the fundamental issue. In order for me to transform the city — I think it will be a thriving place where people can succeed and neighborhoods and businesses can succeed — is to change forever character of the office of mayor. For decades that office has been an arrogant political institution that expected to be served by the people and was motivated primarily by paying off political favors. That’s why the budget looks the way it is. We hire people — we being political folks in government — and put them on the payroll so that they can help us campaign and pay off political favors. So by changing that culture away from power and control, and making that office a job committed to serving the public in a professional, responsible way, that’s how we begin to change everything. Now, that change of character, that change of culture, that change of mindset and attitude will drive the way we spend our money. Not to pay off political donors or to pay people high salaries so that they can help campaign for me and keep me in office. That’s how things have been in city driven in city government. Even the most well-intentioned politicians, once they realize they want to be re-elected mayor, they start making decisions like spending taxpayer dollars in a way that will help them win re-election. I can go into details on how we would handle the budget.
MT: Why don’t you do that?
Clarke: First of all, to rely on accurate revenue estimates when we set our budget. And to come to agreement with city council on that. Here’s how I’ll do that. Our finance director, city council’s fiscal advisor and leading economists from the region will get together at least twice a year, more likely ongoing to determine what the revenue estimates are for the city of Detroit, so that we will have a good assessment on how much revenue we anticipate coming in when we set the budget, and then during mid-year we will see if those estimates are still accurate, and if they’re not then we adjust the spending.
By doing that alone we will avoid these multimillion-dollar deficits that we are experiencing right now.
MT: But you are starting $300 million in the hole.
Clarke: I believe that the budget I will receive will be balanced in January. But my job will be to keep it balanced.
MT: But what if its not balanced?
Clarke: Then I’m going to approach it the same way, because we first have to understand what our revenues are. Here’s the reason I say its important. I’m on the senate appropriations committee. I’ve had to balance the state budget, which is much larger than the city’s budget, in tough fiscal times, and we’ve been able to do that successfully. But we have a consensus revenue estimating conference, where we have the leading economists from throughout the state meet together with the legislature and the governor, and we all come to an agreement on how much revenue we anticipate coming in. This is basic stuff. We just need to do it. That’s all we have to do. That’s in terms of getting a good picture of what’s going on. It works for the state; it will definitely work for the city of Detroit. Then we must save money. But I’ve got to save money in a way that provides better service to people. Because my objective as mayor is to attract families, business and investment here, and to keep business and families here.
MT: How do you do that?
Clarke: Businesses and families want the same thing. I believe that in order to have Detroit be a good place to do business, it must be a great a great place to live for everyone. So, we spend our money on making our streets safe, making them clean, we strengthen our public school system so that every school is a good school, and then we make it affordable for people to live here and work here. After I balance the budget, by cutting property taxes, and then looking at ways we can lower home and automobile insurance rates. Many of my friends have had to leave the city of Detroit. The love the city, but they couldn’t afford to live here. They moved out to the suburbs because, overall, it was cheaper for them.
MT: How would you get insurance rates lower?
Clarke: I’d work with the governor with her proposal to set up self-insurance pools,
which can help drivers that have good driving records. That’s a start. I’ve been working with her on that since I’ve been in the state Senate. Second, I’d also work with actuaries and the governor’s office to look at the feasibility of setting up a separate insurance company that would be capitalized like any other insurance company under state law, but that wouldn’t be driven by earning profits for their shareholders, but to provide insurance that’s affordable for people living in Detroit and for car insurance here. There are other models that I’ve been able to look at in other states. For example, New York State has a medical malpractice pool for those physicians that aren’t able to get any malpractice insurance because of their liability history. So we have models to look at. But I’m going to work with actuaries to see how this would be feasible, how it can be done.
MT: If you cut property taxes, what are you going to replace that revenue with?
Clarke: We’ve got to make the streets safe because we want to keep people here and attract people back. So I’ll move police officers out of their desk jobs onto the street. I’ll start developing a lot of these vacant lots into housing that people can afford. Then we’ll partner with businesses and community organizations to provide mentoring, training and tutoring programs in our elementary school. Like the one I had when I was at Jones Elementary School. My art teacher had some relationship with the Detroit Institute of the Arts and was able to refer me to that. There’s a lot of programs I can cite by example. Once we start doing that, fewer people will want to leave. and many people who always wanted to come back to Detroit or move to Detroit will likely do that, so you’ll see a stabilization at least in terms of the income tax that’s been decreasing. You’ll find more density in housing, which means safer neighborhoods. At that time, I will then cut the operating bills, likely by half its just a proposal. That would mean a loss of $60 million to our budget. But what I would have done is save enough money in budget by eliminating all the unnecessary political bureaucracy.
MT: You said you would take cops from behind desks and put them on the street. How many of them are there?
Clarke: We have administrative functions in the police department. Again, I’m going to cite the police department because that’s the budget I would cut as a last resort. But even in that budget as recently posted, we have police officers, inspectors, third deputy chiefs, in the following sections: the payroll section, facilities management, asset and inventory management. Civilians can do those jobs. And we definitely don’t need third deputy chiefs in those positions. They’re just there for patronage. Even the crime lab, definitely there are officers trained to do that. But we can also have civilian technicians in each one of those jobs. There are probably at least, in those areas alone, nearly 100 police officers that are budgeted in those positions. And that’s just a first glance at the budget. So when I look at other departments in other areas, even the very setup, the structure of the police department — again, I’m not a law enforcement professional, I’m going to defer to my our chief and the professionals. That’s one way I’m going to increase moral in the police department. I will not get politics involved in police department investigations. If our officers feel they need to investigate somebody, they could be my best friend. They could go do that.
The police officers, their morale is down. That’s why they treat people the way they do. I have to change the entire culture there.
What I’ll do during my first 90 days as mayor is conduct an extensive review of every department to determine what its function is, how to measure it, and what’s the right number of employees needed to get the job done well. Then I’ll be able to eliminate all the unnecessary political appointees, right then and there. I won’t fill those positions. Then we have 2,000 nonunion employees, many of which have gotten put in that position by a mayoral appointee. Many of those positions will be eliminated.
I’m going to save money by eliminating those positions that cost taxpayers the most and provide the least value. All of those jobs are people who sit behind desks, political appointees.
I know what I’m talking about. You know why? I was one of those people.
When I was with Wayne County, I worked for six years with people who felt that they knew what to do to run that division well, but they didn’t have a college degree or, most importantly, political connections, so they could never advance.
MT: How do you get elected to any office in this country without owing political favors?
Clarke: Things are so bad right now in this city, and it has taken this kind of a crisis. People are leaving the city in droves. Friends of mine have been murdered recently. We’re in a time of crisis. We’re on the verge of receivership. For years Detroiters have put people in office and put them on a pedestal. Well, maybe that was justified years ago with Coleman Young. But, you know what? I’m not Coleman Young. People are tired. They want basic services like everyone else has. They’re ready for that.
MT: Do you think you have a prayer of getting elected? Listen to this answer
Clarke: Absolutely. When I returned to the House of Representatives, I had virtually no endorsements. Mayor Archer opposed me. Labor opposed me. Then-state representative [Kwame] Kilpatrick opposed me, and his mother the congresswoman opposed me. I was able to win in a 10-person race in 1998. Then I challenged incumbent state senator who had defeated a popular U.S. Congressman four years before that. I challenged him in 2002. I got no help from anyone politically. As a matter of fact, the political system supported that incumbent with a lot of money. He got endorsements. In fact, virtually all of them. I had one organization endorse me and then choose note to because, "The writing was on the wall." I’m the state senator anyway. I’m born and raised in this city. Raised by a single parent. She died when I was 19. My dad was already dead by then. I never had brothers and sisters. I didn’t know my grandparents. I was out there hustling. And I’m here today. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, ended up on food stamps myself. But I’m here. Same way with the elections. I’ve been considered an underdog politically, too. Maybe I invite that. Maybe it’s the thrill of being able to succeed. But you know, the thing is, I intend as mayor to represent the underdog, because there are many people here who are like my mother, they are women who work hard for little money, they don’t have a man to help them.
Yeah, this isn’t easy for me. But, you know, I didn’t look at the polls and I didn’t call one donor before I decided to announce to run. A little boy that I knew growing up on Baldwin Street grew up to be 31 years old, got out of that neighborhood and visited that neighborhood recently and was gunned down by a drive-by shooter. And the home that my mother raised me in, that I sold, was now abandoned and being used to sell drugs. That was enough for me for me to say this is enough. I didn’t care about politics. I knew that I had to become mayor of Detroit and start spending this money right to protect people so people wouldn’t lose hope. For months I’ve been trying to help the city as a senator to get money, but the state officials didn’t have confidence about how the city was managing its money. I’ve got experience as a legislator at balancing budgets. I’m from the streets. I’m from Detroit. I know what people want and need. I want to use that experience and my commitment to help the people as mayor. I don’t give a darn about the campaign contributors. Yeah, I know I need money. We’re going to get it. There’s a way to do it. People are now so fed up, when their children are being murdered left and right, they don’t care about those ads the see on television any more. They don’t care about that. They don’t care about what the mayor looks like. Some people don’t even know what ethnicity I am. They don’t care anymore. They want somebody that’s going to protect their neighborhood and save their children’s lives. Its gotten so bad right now we’ve got to take drastic action. I’m prepared to do that. I’m prepared to give up my political career to do it.
MT: Has anyone connected with the political system asked you to run?
Clarke: No. Not at all. Because the party is going to be over when I’m mayor of Detroit. Everybody that’s on the political gravy train that’s getting over with our taxpayer dollars, they’re gone. Because the taxpayers can’t afford it anymore. That’s where the waste is. Every other city — Baltimore, Atlanta, Cleveland — have been able to balance the budget and provide basic services. It’s not rocket science. So it’s not the how, the reason why you and many people ask how are you going to do it. Because it hasn’t been done here in 40 years. It’s a fair question. But first you have to have it in your heart to do it.
MT: But then you have to know how.
Clarke: Yeah. But I know how. We can hire the right people to do it. There are so many people that would love to come back to the city, with leaders of labor unions, of community foundations and business that would come here together to help us to balance this budget. Even I, by reviewing the budget, can see clearly glaring waste of money there. It can be done. But the politician must be willing to give up the imperial perks of the mayor’s office and then realize your job is to humbly serve people. That’s very critical. I know it sounds soft but it is the most important thing. The mindset of the elected official must be committed to helping and serving people even at their political peril.
MT: As a practical matter, you get rid of trappings and everything else, in the bigger picture, it’s not that much money. The main problems with that are symbolic problems. Then you’ve got the reality of a $300 million deficit.
Clarke: We can save millions of dollars by cutting those appointed, high-ranking positions that aren’t necessary. I’m willing to do that. And to cancel those contracts that are clearly wasteful.
When we attract people back, that’s when we’ll be able to get more revenue through income tax and more property taxes, even though it will be reduced. People really want to come to this city.
We have one hidden area that can bring the city down. That’s retiree health care costs. It’s unfunded to the tune of over $7.2 billion. I’ve got to start putting money into a trust fund. I have a plan for that.
I’ve been the underdog my entire life, as a person and a politician. And I’ve been able to win elections, by earning peoples’ votes. Not through a sound bite, not by raising money to find out what the message should be and the manipulating my message to them. I don’t go that way. I’m trying to be straight up with people.
I’ve got be very clear and very decisive and very open and real with people to give them the hope to stay in Detroit and come back and contribute. I’ve got to do that. Yeah I’ve got the experience of an elected official, winning elections, balancing the budget, but, no, I’m not like the rest of them right now. I’m campaigning not by reaching the donor’s checkbooks so that I can buy the ads on TV, I’m hear to try to reach people’s hearts and inspire them to take control of their government. I’ll tell you what I want people to do. I’ll say it on the record. My advisers told me not to do this. I want the people of Detroit to overthrow city hall. I don’t mean a violent revolution, but to throw out that attitude of arrogance and entitlement that has been there for decades. I want them to take over their government and hire me as their mayor so that I can work with them. Everything else flows from that.
MT: What equips you to run a corporation the size of the city of Detroit? Listen to this answer
Clarke: Three things. Number one, I have the experience. As a state senator, as a member of the senate appropriations committee, I’ve helped balance the state of Michigan’s budget, which is many times larger than this budget. And I’ve done it through tough fiscal times. And, on top of that, I’ve had to do it with the geographic competition of many Republican legislators trying to take money away from Detroit institutions and spread it out to their communities
MT: But the buck doesn’t stop in one place in a committee or the legislature. Or any body of that sort. The buck stops with one person in the city.
Clarke: As a member of that committee, I’m the only one there advocating many times for the city of Detroit, so it is on my shoulders to do that. Yes, I do work with a group, but the mayor does also. The mayor must work with a team of people. As a matter of fact, the problem with the mayor’s office is that the mayor has always worked in isolation, not with city council and definitely not with the residents.
I’m not in this because it’s a sure thing. But I do know this — I must inspire people to take control of their city. That’s so critical. I’m talking about the poorest. I intend to represent the guy who gets his breakfast outside my building at the garbage dumpster there.
MT: Do you have any position papers that detail your programs?
Clarke: We have outlines. But also, the managerial experience I had in the county bureaucracy, I understood the rank and file there, who don’t have degrees, people who are at the lowest pay scales; they are the ones who know how to save money. They know where the waste is better than anyone else. That’s why they are demoralized. They see all the money that’s being wasted by political appointees. That’s why they are so bitter. They know how you can get the same job done by processing one form instead of four.
What I’ll do is, I’ll meet with the rank and file. Cuts across the board in areas of service delivery, I don’t want to do that necessarily. These are the people that are paid the least, but they are the ones who deal with the customers. Its up to me to inspire them in a meaningful way by listening to their recommendations and getting them implemented and then providing them with ongoing customer service training that I will require everybody in the city to be involved in ongoingly, including myself so that we all know that our job is to serve the people of Detroit. It’s basic stuff.
I’ll also upgrade the skills of people by having good active tuition assistance programs with Wayne County community colleges and other local universities. Also, training them on jobs in case they may need to be laid off. I believe the unions will cooperate with me because I will have led by example in terms of how I operate myself symbolically, giving up the trappings, and also, fiscally by giving up all those appointed positions that are unnecessary and then going after the other level of appointees that are in there and not really adding any value to city government. There’s a big cost me to do that. I understand that. But I’m prepared to make those decisions.
MT: How important do you see the issue of regionalization being to Detroit’s revitalization, and what would you do to promote it.
Clarke: We have downtown development, which is a way to revitalize the city and attract visitors downtown. We’re been doing that pretty well for the past 40 years, from Cobo Hall to the Super Bowl, with the Renaissance Center, the stadiums and the casinos all in there. But then it’s rebuilding our neighborhoods. Making streets safe, building the streets so they’re clean, housing parks neighborhood centers,
Building regional alliances is very critical. One of the first things I would do as mayor, while we are doing our assessment of all of our departments, is I would work with the state and the tri-county leadership to development a regional development plan that recognizes the city of Detroit as being integral to the economic growth of the region. That would have several components to it. It would have a regional transit system that would link up with our bus system. I’ve got to get that running on time and efficiently. Also include educational partnerships (with businesses and nonprofit agencies) throughout the region. For example, I met with the director of Automation Alley, and he told me he’d love to bring Automation Alley into elementary schools to help mentor kids who have an interest in technology. So there are a lot of resources out there.
I would work with Mayor Francis of Windsor to make sure that we get an additional international border crossing so that Detroit and Windsor make sure that we don’t lose out to other cities like Buffalo and all that commerce that would come in because of that international border crossing. Also, Cobo Hall is an extraordinarily powerful economic asset for the state, definitely great one for the region. That would be a great institution that could be funded by a regional arrangement.
MT: How do you get something like a regional public transit system when a great deal of the tri-county area doesn’t believe that is important to them?
Clarke: By improving neighborhoods, and by changing the culture of the office of mayor, they’re going to see me as a hands-on person who’s not blowing money. And they will see the city being safer and cleaner. Once Brooks Patterson’s own constituents really want to come to Detroit to visit, and want to come here without the hassle of driving and parking, that will drive the regional transit system to happen.
MT: Don’t you think that kind of tourist is the least important part of regional transit?
Clarke: I believe we can have a great tourism industry. One thing I’d do I would ask the Clinton-Huron Metro Park Authority, which all Detroiters pay property taxes to and we don’t hardly get much back from, just a little development out at the state fairgrounds. I would them to develop campsites at Belle Isle and Fort Wayne. There would be a lot of people who would come down to those. That would generate new jobs in Detroit. It would bring people down here. Also, we have the automotive heritage tours, which are being linked, throughout the state. I world connect our historic neighborhoods with those tours, probably the Manoogian Mansion in there. That would be another way of building tourism here. There are so many ways that we can attract people here that we haven’t thought about. But I have to start all these things at the same time so they can all develop in concert because they are all related. What I have to do as mayor is hold people accountable so that we could get all these things done by certain timelines, and letting the public know about the timelines so that their expectations will drive a demand for them. My assumption is this: years ago, people were leaving out of my neighborhood because of racism. That’s fine. If somebody’s not comfortable living in the city of Detroit, then I don’t want them to stay here. But then there were people leaving in droves that really wanted to be in Detroit. They felt they had no choice because of the safety of their kids, and now it’s because of money. You probably take even the most racist former Detroiter, everybody has nostalgia for the city. They love the city. It may bring them to tears to see their old neighborhood the way it is if they ever come down here again. Everyone would love to see the city as a thriving place. I’m going to seize on that.
I could choose to further divide people for my own political gain. I choose not too. Just like I’m not in this race to split up anybody’s vote. I’m here to become a mayor to bring everybody together. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll do that by who I am as person. You know, I’m the product of the union of a woman raised on the North End who was African Methodist Episcopal who married a Muslim guy from India. I’m their only child. I can be the perfect symbol of welcoming everyone to the city, regardless of who they are.
MT: How does race play into the problems of regionalization, and how do you deal with that? Listen to this answer
Clarke: Detroit and this country have a racist history. My father, who was not African-American — I wish my parents were still alive, because I’d love to find out how they really met, because they were so different. My mother cooking soul food, my father cooking curry. It was a great way to be raised. My dad had to live down in Black Bottom because in the ’40s, or maybe late ’30s when he came here, he couldn’t live in other parts of the city because of the color of his skin. That’s how he ended up meeting my uncle who introduced him to my mother, so the story goes. Look, I understand that. But my role as mayor is not to provide excuses or lay blame. There hasn’t been a white man in my neighborhood for 40 years. I can’t blame racism for what’s happening there. I believe that if I reach out to the suburbs and work on a plan like that that will make money for the entire region. You see there are employers out there who would love to get employees from the city of Detroit but they can’t get out there.
Here’s a personal experience: I was trying to find a job after I lost my car in the ’80s. I’d look in the want ads and all the jobs were out in the suburbs even back then. So I take the bus out there to Southfield, look for a job interview, I’d have the darndest time getting back to Detroit because there wouldn’t be a bus running back and things haven’t changed. Regional alliances are good for the regional economically because it’s as a region that we’re able to compete globally. So the color that will matter is the green of money. That’s how we’ll do it.
My job is to appeal to the best in people. Yeah, I can appeal to the worst. A lot of politicians do that. What gain is there? You see right now when we are at such a bad point in our city’s history. We’re on the verge of receivership. We’re on the verge of people leaving the city, abandoning the city entirely. I can’t afford to play those political games anymore. What I do sense, is that people love the city. Even the folks that left the city do. They want to see the city come back. You know why: the one city that people associate Michigan with, it ain’t Warren, it’s not Grand Rapids. It’s Detroit. People know that.
As a state senator I work with people from throughout Detroit. I work with legislators that have all these impressions of Detroit. I’m able to change that. Even ones that have viciously tried to take money away from Detroit, they all respect me. Because they see where I’m coming from. I’ll be able to work with them as mayor. I can bring them on board. They know where I’m at. All I have to do is be myself and be real and look at what’s best for everybody. I choose to do that.
OK, look, there’s 10 ways to go. Nine of them are about the fighting and separating and controlling. I choose not to go those nine ways. I’m going to go the one way to bring everybody together immediately for the quickest economic gain to transform the city within a six-month period of time. I have to be bold. I have to be dramatic.
You have to listen to people and give them what they want. The Super Bowl is great, but nobody on the street ever asked for that. They want safe, clean neighborhoods — give it to ’em. They want reliable public transportation — give it to ’em. There are people all around the country who know how to run a police department. They’re all around, and they are committed. I can find those people. That’s not a problem. So can any mayor if that’s what they are oriented toward. If they are oriented toward power and control, then their positions are going to be about power and control.
MT: What about the size of the security teams surrounding other mayors?
Clarke: All that protection is to make that person look important, and to make that person feel important. It’s not necessary.
MT: Regarding the issue of crime, what sort of plan do you have to help address that? Listen to this answer
Clarke: My plan would involve several things. Putting more police officers on the street, we talked about that. Then they have to be properly trained. As you are aware, we have two consent judgments against the city of Detroit posed by Judge Julian Cook in the federal court. He was actually a mentor to me when I was in law school. I’ll work as mayor personally with him, the federal monitor and our police chief on a quarterly basis because that’s when the monitor meets with the prosecutor and the police chief to make that sure that our training is in compliance with what the monitor wants. The Police Department had not been respecting the legal rights of the suspects they were arresting or the witnesses that had been detained. I going to make sure those officers are properly trained according to those federal standards.
Also, in addition to having police officers on the street who are properly trained, we’ll also have programs to keep our young people off the street, like the after-school programs I was talking about, created through partnerships with nonprofits, children’s services organizations and businesses. Many of our young people having nothing to do right now. They get out on the street and get involved in crime, either as a victim or a perpetrator. So that’s going to be a key component. Another component to that is that — many people are leaving the city. But, we are also attracting 7,000 people a year back to the city. They are mostly men, and they all come on a one-way bus ticket from the state correctional system. Those ex-felons who are nonviolent, who are rehabilitated, who are ready to work, I will try to get the work they need so they don’t go back to into crime.
MT: In terms of education, what could you do as mayor to help improve Detroit’s public schools?
Clarke: What I will do is focus on creating those educational partnerships. These are services that can be provided without relying on additional governmental dollars. I want to keep school buildings open that are slated for closure. I want to keep them open as neighborhood centers, with health care services delivered there, our child- and day-care services there, some job-training services — conveniently offered in neighborhoods. When I was growing up my elementary school was a place you went to class, but it was also the center of that neighborhood. I want to restore that role for our school buildings. And we can find tenants for them that will pay for them.
MT: Is there anything else you could do as mayor regarding education.
Clarke: Not just focus with the children, but to help the parents. Many of our parents can’t read. The United Way has a literacy program that I would work to have expanded to almost every neighborhood school to provide after-school programs for the parents. My mother, I was a little embarrassed she was a crossing-guard lady, and me friends would joke with me about that, and she would clean this house. She wasn’t a professional lady, but I’ll tell you one thing — she knew how to read because she helped me read. She would read with me every night. A lot of these kids now don’t have parents who can do that. I need to provide those parents with those basic skills immediately. Because they are at risk as well as their children.
MT: We’ve been talking to candidates about character issues. Do you have any flaws?
Clarke: Even though my mother raised me on food stamps, that’s fine. That’s how she did it, and I had everything I needed. But even after two years of college, with all my insight and acumen, I still ended up on public assistance as a young man. That was the most humiliating thing. I ended up being vice chair on the appropriations subcommittee that funded the Family Independence Agency. I couldn’t go into a family independence agency office. I felt like such a loser.
The reason why I’m offering myself as mayor, the reason I’m able to talk about it now, even though I’m still not that comfortable with it, that experience qualifies me to be mayor, because that’s what drives me to make sure that our money is going to be spent right. The budget will be balanced properly. I’m not going services that help people.
I’m looking at the humiliation I had to deal with as a guy who could never hold a steady job until he was 30 years old. That’s why its gong to be my number one priority to make sure people get the training they need to get a job. I felt hopeless at that time, like there wasn’t a future for me. I don’t want other people to experience that. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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