Two Detroit mayoral candidates and four city council-at-large candidates were invited to take part in a discussion at the Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium in the Wayne State Law School Oct. 5. This forum was organized by the Citizen’s Climate Lobby and sponsored by multiple organizations including WSU’s Political Science Student Organization and College Democrats.
Of those invited, only State Senator Coleman Young II was present for the mayoral discussion while Mayor Mike Duggan was absent, and candidates Mary Waters, Beverly Kindle-Walker and Brenda Jones were present for the city council at-large forum.
The event, titled “Moving Detroit Forward- Advancing Environmental Justice in a Changing Climate,” asked a number of questions to the candidates that were finalized before the event as well as transmitted to the campaigns of the candidates beforehand. The focus was on environmental reform in the city and what the candidates have in mind if elected or re-elected, to serve in office.
Coleman Young II, a mayoral candidate and son of the first African-American mayor of the city of Detroit, Coleman A. Young, expressed his vision for the city to be one focused on lowering poverty levels and, on an environmental level, to increase access to clean water, decrease water shut-offs and increase access to medical treatment and health care.
“We have billions of dollars flowing through downtown and our kids don’t have any recreational centers and we have the most poverty [in Detroit] than anywhere else in the country,” Young said.
A question posed by the moderator asked how Young would deal with the thousands of water shut-offs happening across the city in which he responded by stating that one out of every six houses in Detroit does not have access to clean water.
“Water is a human right,” Young said.
He also advocated for stopping leaks in abandoned buildings in Detroit that the city pays for and also advocated for local corporations to pay their fair share.
As a part of his vision, Young mentioned installing electrified fences to mitigate and soak up pollution in southwest Detroit, retrofit buildings and diesel trucks, tear down old abandoned buildings, and increase recycling centers.
The candidates for city council at-large expanded on the ideas Young discussed. Jones, who is running for re-election for Detroit City Council president, addressed jobs, environmental reform and education as main areas of focus for her campaign with a stress on education specifically.
Jones emphasized the importance of Young’s point on increasing recycling programs in Detroit but explained that education was even more important in order for any reform to occur and resident participation to increase.
“The public is not educated on recycling the way [they] should be educated on recycling and that’s why we have so many people who don’t recycle or use the recycling bins provided,” Jones said.
Waters, another candidate for city council-at-large, spoke about the importance of educating people who live in areas at risk of pollution and working on environmental reform.
“We need to make sure that environmental projects are centered around those communities [in southwest Detroit] to protect the residents,” Waters said.