Detroit City Council Candidate Questionnaire: Charles Pugh

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?

We can consolidate departments (like 311 and Ombudsmen, or Health and Human Services or Human Resources and Human Rights).  Another candidate has an idea to also add the Senior Citizen Department with Health and Human Services.  I agree with consolidating those three departments into one.  I also believe we could have one director run a couple of departments (such as budget/finance).  We need to eliminate unfilled positions, and do what we can do get salary adjustments.  Ten percent salary concessions for people who make more than $50,000, and 5 percent concessions for people who make less than $50,000.  We need our unions onboard for this.  We cannot make significant progress without a buy-in from our unions.


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

We could raise revenue by doing weekend parking enforcement, adding an administrative fee for outside tow companies who tow cars out of the city, and increasing bus fare. 


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

Yes, we need to change the city charter to allow council-by-district.


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.

We need a second bridge to alleviate so much truck congestion throughout those southwest Detroit neighborhoods.  Whichever bridge span would be less obtrusive to residents is the one I support.  If we need both, then so be it.


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?

I would oppose continued use of the incinerator.  We need to move increase our efforts to recycle anyway.  It could create green jobs.


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 will continue to promote arts and culture as a reason to visit or move to Detroit.  I will also encourage the Opera House, Max Fisher Music Center, the DSO, DIA and other cultural institutions to have an on-going relationship with the DPS.  I would be on a one-man crusade to encourage Detroiters to also patronize these institutions along with their suburban neighbors.


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?

As an openly gay man who, on radio and television, has promoted inclusion and fairness, I have been on a mission to open minds and change hearts.  I have also used my position in the media (on both television and radio) as a proud unapologetic Detroiter to promote the good and positive things about our city and region.  I have promoted Detroit often in the face of staunch opposition.


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

Part of my answer for number 5 is one thing I can do to help promote green job creation.  As a legislator, I can write ordinances to incentive green job creation and industry.  We can also mandate the all new construction of city facilities have  green features (such as green roofs).  As a steward of the city's finances, we can search for more grant money to fund more green projects throughout the city.


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

It would be part of my legislative agenda to target demolition dollars to certain areas.  We should create demolition sectors for the city.  And only knock down homes in certain areas.  So, people who live in the target area could see a NOTICEABLE difference in abandoned home demolition.  Right now, the council handles demolition in what appears to be a disorganized way.  I believe the funding should be used more effectively.  It may take longer to get to certain sectors, but once we get there, based on our long term plan, they will see a noticeable difference.  Versus one home being knocked down, here and there.


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

"Street Fight" is an Oscar-nominated documentary about the 2002 Newark, New Jersey mayoral race.  It focused on Corey Booker, the challenger.  It was inspirational and motivating.  Corey reminded me a lot of myself.  He was a young, charismatic "outsider" challenging an old-school incumbent.  (Unfortunately, he lost that race, but became mayor THE NEXT TIME. LOL)


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

America in Peril (it's an oldie, but goodie).  It's an excellent discourse about how to fix America.  It's written in plain, simple English and explores the step by step process, from John Chancellor's perspective, on how to fix America's problems (at that time).  The reason I recommend it, is because it gave an excellent, comprehensive look at America's domestic and foreign policy.  I was only a teenager, but was able to understand easily.  John Chancellor was an excellent commentator and even better author.


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.

I am not my hair" by India Arie.  The song is more of a social motivator for me  (Not because I'm bald. LOL). It is a motivator because the song talks about not using outward appearances to judge a person.  Is a bald woman less beautiful than one with flowing locks?  That rhetorical question is the central theme behind the song.  The line, "I am not my hair. I am not my skin. I am the soul that lives within" is what encourages me the most.  It reminds me, and hopefully others, that what matters MORE is what's inside.  It's never usually what we're able to see and often judge.


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

The question you did not ask that I wish you would have is: What is your most innovative idea to change Detroit?  My answer would be:  I plan to engage Detroiters in ways they never have been.  We only do Angel's Night volunteering once a year.  This is an underuse of our best resource--- DETROITERS.  I plan to spearhead an effort to take back our neighborhoods at least once a month with a more organize use of our block clubs, precinct delegates, churches and other groups.  This would severely reduce the opportunity for crime (and, therefore, crime).  I also plan to have part of my staff walking the streets of Detroit everyday.  It will be the Pugh council office street team.  Their goal: engage Detroiters, sign them up for our monthly "take-backs", provide useful information and promote our excellent website (  Our website will be user-friendly and interactive, as well as updated daily.  We also plan to knock on doors and canvass a different neighborhood every week (in the same manner we did during the campaign).  The goal of the on-going neighborhood outreach will be to reach out to residents and be present (which is a constant criticism of elected officials – they are largely absent from neighborhoods).  I would also have dinner once a week with a different Detroit family to hear, first-hand, what's going in their neighborhood and offer solutions.  We would stream these dinners live on our website each week.  I also have a simple plan to make it easy to provide wire-less internet to the whole city (Cincinnati recently did it).  There are so many other innovative ideas I have planned, but we don't have enough space on this questionnaire to fit them all in.  Thanks for the opportunity to share just a few.

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