Detroit City Council Candidate Questionnaire: JoAnn Watson

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?

Given the depression level economic statistics confronting our City and its residents, I believe the City should ask that the Federal Government to invest $1 billion to address the critical fiscal deficiencies, in the same way the federal government has invested resources in GM, Chrysler and the State of Michigan's deficit.  Like the State of Michigan, Detroit has been a one-industry town and that industry has been bailed out by the Federal Government.


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

Yes, I spearheaded the development of a Marshall Plan to impact a new economy, population growth, two-year moratorium on foreclosure, rapid transit, renewable energy, and city wide recycling (see attachment).

I have also advocated aggressive collection in order to recoup the $300 million accounts receivable, and revenue like the $130 million owed to the City by the State from the Engler/Archer era.


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

I will support the vote of the citizens and the will of the people on this issue.


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.

I support the publicly owned bridge as the most viable option.  I object to the Bridge Company using Riverside Park with out authorization.


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 absolutely oppose continued use of the incinerators.  It is harmful to citizens, the environment and the budget!  I sponsored the legislation to end incineration and I spearheaded the efforts to implement citywide recycling.


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 chair an Arts and Culture Task Force, and I am working to support funding of a "Marshall Plan", which would prioritize Arts programming.  My office spearheaded The Paradise Valley District and the Michigan League for the Arts just moved in the area, and I lead an effort to recognize five national activists who are based in Detroit in August.


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?

I have been a leader promoting human rights, environmental justice, water affordability, etc, for 30 plus years.  I have been a leader with the NAACP, ACLU, National Lawyers Guild Sugar Law Center, National President of National Anti-Klan Network, Every Church a Peace Church, and I sponsored the Water Affordability Plan for the City.


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

I sponsor an urban farming initiative, I promote citywide recycling, I am a champion of rapid transit, and I have prioritized the renewable energy efforts, many of which are chronicled in the attached Marshal Plan.


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

I propose moving people into vacant houses owned by the Government for a dollar and waive taxes for three years; and I have sponsored a multi-year moratorium on foreclosures.


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

"The American President". I loved the realistic handling of controversial issues.


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

"Hard Stuff", an autobiography by former Mayor Coleman A. Young.  It's an insightful, historical compilation of  Detroit's political, labor and civil rights history; as told from the perspective of the most legendary political presence Detroit has ever witnessed.


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.

"Wake up Everybody" by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes.  I believe we need an awakening as a society with this new political season.


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

What are you proudest of in your role as a public servant?  

I am proudest of my role to help citizens address and resolve heart- wrenching crises, as well as my role in helping young people gain access to thousands of Summer jobs annually.  Also, I have helped dozens of young people obtain scholarships to Central State University in Wilberforce, OH; and I have helped facilitate opportunities for two young Detroiters to earn their medical degrees with free tuition and housing at the Latin American Medical School in Cuba – with their commitment to provide no fee service to the needy upon their return to Detroit.