Detroit City Council Candidate Questionnaire: Alberta Tinsley-Talabi

Oct 14, 2009 at 12:00 am

About 50 percent of the city's $1.8 billion general fund budget is spent on salaries and benefits. Is there a way to address an accumulated deficit of at least $300 million and avoid the risk of insolvency without significantly reducing those worker costs? If not, by what percentage overall do you think they should be cut?

In order to address the deficit, worker costs must decrease as well as operational costs.  We must continue to negotiate with the unions for wage concessions.  We must look at consolidating departments and then evaluate eliminating departments.  I think we should look at rethinking employee compensation to reduce wage premiums and perhaps look at higher salaries in an effort to reduce the cost of benefits.  This approach has allowed me to noticeably reduce my office budget.


Do you have any other ideas as to how the city can either significantly cuts costs or raise revenue?

Cost cutting measures were discussed above.  Revenue generating measures should include small business development.  Small businesses create jobs.  The city spends hundreds of millions each year to purchase goods and services.  The city can generate property & income tax revenue as well as create jobs by focusing on small business development and concentrating our buying power on Detroit-based businesses to the largest extent possible.


Would you support changing Detroit's city charter to allow district elections for some or all council members?



The Detroit International Bridge Co. is attempting to purchase a section of Riverside Park so that it can build a new span adjacent to the Ambassador Bridge. At the same time, a publicly owned bridge is being planned for the Delray area. Explain your support for or objection to each plan.

A major project such as a new bridge would generate jobs and produce millions in revenue for city government, businesses and residents.   I support a bridge project but the Riverside Park issue is a major concern for me – particularly as it relates to the health and environmental concerns of the effected community.  These matters are currently being addressed in litigation.


The City Council has twice voted to send the city's trash to landfills instead of the incinerator, and is exploring its legal options in an attempt to make that happen. The administration, meanwhile, is considering purchasing at least a share of the facility, and possibly all of it. As a council member, would you support or oppose continued use of the incinerator?

While I support the call to reduce the use of the incinerator, Detroit is obligated by contract to send our solid waste to the incinerator thru 2021.  To do anything different would expose the city to severe liability and monetary damages.  I want to expand recycling in the city in an effort to reduce the use of the incinerator.


Given the city's fiscal crisis, what, if anything, would you do as a council member to help support the arts and culture in the city?

I have always supported the arts and culture in the city and will continue to do so.  I fight to make sure that city grant dollars support the arts and culture as well as our public library.  I make sure that the public has access to our local institutions and worked with the DIA to have its free night on Friday to provide opportunities for a wider audience.


What have you done personally or professionally to help advance civil rights, regional cooperation, race relations, poverty reduction, pro-environmental efforts, or any other similarly significant cause?

My 19 years in public office have been dedicated to helping the less fortunate through my social work programs, substance abuse prevention and working for civil rights for all people.  I have been a vocal advocate for environmental programs and recycling as Chair of the Keep Detroit Beautiful Task Force.  I continue to support regional cooperation with my involvement with the Tri-County Summit.


As a council member, what could you do to help Detroit capitalize on the burgeoning green economy?

I think we can develop incentive programs to attract companies in an effort to expand the local green economy and spur green development.  I continue to advocate for more green products and supplies throughout city operations.


What innovative ideas do you have in regard to dealing with the massive amounts of vacant and abandoned property in Detroit?

I will soon introduce an ordinance to require banks and mortgage companies maintain foreclosed and vacant property to prevent vandalism and the need for demolition by the city.  I think the city should make sure that demolition debris is recycled to the greatest degree to generate revenue.  Some property on the demolition list can be rehabilitated and I think this property should be turned over to the Land Bank for development or use by a non-profit.


Name one of your favorite movies about politics? What is it about this movie that made an impression?

All the Presidents Men because it reminds us of the consequences of unethical behavior.


What book dealing with politics or government — either fiction or nonfiction — would you recommend others read? Why?

Barak Obama's Audacity of Hope.  President Obama did an excellent job of illustrating the value of being authentic and how an ordinary person can achieve the extraordinary.


What piece off music (other than Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On,") has affected you in a political, moral or social sense? Please explain why.

Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror" because it suggest that changing the world or your community starts within oneself.


What question should have been included in this, but wasn't? And what would your answer to that question be?

I believe all relevant questions were addressed.