Politics

Detroit City Council candidate guide: Crowded District 4 race to replace just-indicted Andre Spivey

July 27, 2021, 10:00 PM by  Violet Ikonomova

Detroit voters this year have a chance to tip the balance of power on City Council, with four of nine seats up for grabs on a body that typically votes with Mayor Mike Duggan.

Nearly two dozen council candidates will appear on the primary and November ballots. Primaries will be held in Districts 1, 4, 7 and for two at-large, or citywide, seats. There will be no primary in Districts 2 and 6, where the two candidates in each race will automatically advance to the November ballot. District 5 Councilmember Mary Sheffield and District 3 Councilmember Scott Benson are meanwhile running for re-election unopposed.

The departing councilmembers are Council President Brenda Jones, who holds one of two at-large seats; Raquel Castañeda-López, of District 6; and Andre Spivey, of District 4, who reportedly was indicted on a federal bribery charge Tuesday. Gabe Leland, of District 7, recently resigned before pleading guilty to a felony.

We've been rolling out questionnaire responses from council hopefuls in races with an Aug. 3 primary. The following are replies from candidates for Spivey's District 4 seat. They are presented in alphabetical order by candidates' last names.

Responses are also available from candidates running for District 1, District 7 and two at-large seats.

Anemashaun Bomani

1) Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm a 30-year community activist/organizer, not only in the 4th district, but city wide and nationally.  I'm a licensed Social Worker of 40 and graduate of Michigan State University, who has worked with many diverse populations, including the mentally challenged and the homeless.  I've had policy experience on council as a community liaison and policy analyst.  I am a member of the Detroit Affordable Housing Task Force and Executive Director of the Heritage Youth program.

2) What do you see as the primary issues holding back Detroit?

The disenfranchisement of majority neighborhoods, Environmental racism, Affordable Housing, Reopening of the Recreation Centers and Libraries and decent wage earning jobs and training.

3) What steps will you take to address those?

I'm the right and only candidate that will work for the residents of the 4th district.  I'm unbought and unbossed.  You will not be able to take me in the backrooms to make deals against the constituents.  I will seek a community benefits ordinance, holding corporations accountable, returning revenue sharing to the city and over taxation monies to residents. 

4) Why should voters elect you over your opponents?

My opponents will be easily controlled by corporate interests, the current administration and the gentrifiers. I know that 40% of Detroiters live below the poverty level and their needs continue to be ignored. I am and have always been responsive to the people (legacy Detroiters) in the 4th district.

5) Are there any council decisions with which you've disagreed since 2014? What are those?

Yes, I disagree with the contrived bankruptcy, which the council co-signed, the regionalism of the Detroit water department, damage to the retirees pensions and agreeing to use public funds for corporate interests like L'il Caesar's Arena. 

6) Are there any mayoral agenda items with which you've disagreed since 2014? What are those?

The use of public funds to build up Downtown/Midtown, neglecting the neighborhoods, displacing of the homeless population without providing affordable housing, jobs and training.

ML Elrick

1) Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award winning investigative reporter who has lived with my family on East Outer Drive since 1999. I am a long-time union organizer and neighborhood activist, currently serving as the East Outer Drive street representative for the East English Village Neighborhood Association.

I have been working with Detroit children for nearly 20 years, as a youth sports coach, school commission member and fundraiser who has -- so far -- raised more than $135,000 for Detroit children. My association with District 4 dates back to 1981, when I stocked shelves at Johnson’s Milk Depot on Mack and, later, as an employee of the Sherwin Williams paint store at Kensington and East Warren. I am excited by the progress I see in Detroit and District 4, and believe even greater days are ahead if we all work together.

2) What do you see as the primary issues holding back Detroit?

Opportunity, safety and accountability.

3) What steps will you take to address those?

As a reporter, I stuck up for the underdog and exposed officials who stole our money. I busted senators who put self service before public service, businessowners who allowed discrimination, and cops who abused citizens. I've delivered newspapers, paint, beer and the news since I was 11 years old and I will continue to work hard for my neighbors as a city councilman.

We all want our neighborhoods to be places where we can work, shop, dine and play. I will fight to make sure we get our fair share out of city hall so we can all enjoy the opportunity, safety and accountability we deserve.

4) Why should people elect you over your opponents?

I have a 20-year track record of serving my neighbors as a watchdog reporter and as a volunteer and activist. While other candidates talk the talk and ask voters to trust that they will keep their word, my journalism career and accomplishments as a community and union activist demonstrate that I speak truth to power, work hard, keep my commitments and have always walked the walk.

5) Are there any council decisions with which you've disagreed since 2014? What are those?

Their decision to sit in silence for more than three years after I revealed that their colleague Gabe Leland voted for $2 million worth of city deals with companies run by his then-girlfriend; after I revealed that Leland demanded pay-offs from a contractor; after Leland was indicted; after I revealed that Leland reached a secret plea deal; and, finally, after I uncovered FBI recordings of Leland arranging how to collect his illegal payoff. I will never sit silent while a city official betrays the people.

6) Are there any mayoral agenda items with which you've disagreed since 2014? What are those?

I believe the Duggan administration should have kept a closer eye on the demolition program to prevent some of the problems identified by regulators and, while I agree that it is crucial that Detroit improve prenatal care, I agree with the Inspector General's ruling that the Duggan administration should have solicited multiple proposals before choosing a partner to help reduce the city's infant death rate.

Latisha Johnson

1) Tell us a little about yourself.

City Council District 4 candidate, Latisha Johnson, is a proud, lifelong Detroiter with a deep appreciation and understanding of the community and the needs of its residents. A graduate of Kettering High School, she has been a community leader for 14 years addressing issues.

In 2014, she founded the non-profit MECCA Development Corporation because it was critical that every resident's voice be heard. For the past seven years, she has partnered with residents to address concerns of well-being, workforce development, youth engagement, and neighborhood revitalization. Latisha's leadership has led to the implementation of the Community Closet free store, skill-building programs, and the rehab of affordable houses. Latisha holds a Finance degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

2) What do you see as the primary issues holding back Detroit?

Infrastructure issues and the lack of equitable development projects.

3) What steps will you take to address those?

Create opportunities to develop inclusive plans and policies with constituents. Work to secure federal funding to remove lead water lines, update the combined sewer overflow system to minimize basement backups and seawall upgrades.

4) Why should voters elect you over your opponents?

I know what it’s like to grow up in poverty in Detroit. I also know what it’s like to have the support of family and teachers to become a first generation college graduate. Over the past 14 years, I’ve led with compassion, empathy and commitment to resolve community issues; the most recent 7 years, on a full-time volunteer basis. From fighting to stabilize our neighborhood to building block clubs and relationships with police officers, I have served the community in various positions.

The nonprofit organization I started, MECCA Development Corporation, is now creating affordable housing options, offering skill-building programs and supporting neighbors through a Community Closet free store and monthly book giveaway for children 5 and under. I have a finance degree and quasi-legislative experience from serving on the Detroit Board of Zoning Appeals. I will utilize my lived-experiences to move our communities forward with hard work, integrity and inclusivity.

5) Are there any council decisions with which you've disagreed since 2014? What are those?

Putting Proposal N on the ballot. It’s failure to pass a grassroots-led Community Benefits Ordinance. Supporting the hiring of a law firm to counter sue Detroit Will Breathe activists.

6) Are there any mayoral agenda items with which you've disagreed since 2014? What are those?

Yes. Detroit Land Bank Authority auctions without a focus on owner-occupancy. The Insurance initiative to allow reductions in PIP without significant premium reductions. Implementation of facial recognition technology.

Toson Knight

1) Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Detroit and Highland Park. Growing up in a single-parent home was difficult, but I am a product of several public schools, received a Bachelor of Arts from Oakwood University and a Masters in Educational Leadership from the University of Michigan. I served as a deputy manager for District 4 for the Mayor's Office. I was responsible for working with community organizations, businesses, and religious groups on fighting blight, lowering crime, and handling citizen complaints. Currently, I serve as Dean of Culture for Detroit Public Schools at Western International High School.

2) What do you see as the primary issues holding back Detroit?

  • Lack of jobs paying a living wage

  • Little recreation opportunity for youth and seniors

  • Deficient investing in the quality of life of residents and their neighborhoods.

3) What steps will you take to address those?

As a council member, one of your fiduciary responsibilities is to approve contracts. I will advocate for it to be included in the contract that residents in Detroit receive jobs and are paid a living wage.

Currently, District 4 does not have a recreation center. Not having a recreation center is unacceptable because our youth cannot expand their youthful energy in a positive environment with new experiences and opportunities. Not only for our young people, but we need a safe place for all residents to pursue leisure and extracurricular activities. Recreation centers benefit the whole community: youth, adults, and seniors. One of my goals is to work with the Administration to provide more recreational programming for youth and seniors.

Citizens need to be proud of their neighborhoods. Often, I drive through communities in the city and enjoy seeing residents working on their home upkeep or stopping to talk to a neighbor while walking the dog. I want that for all of District 4, every resident. This means the city must remove abandoned cars and deal with nuisance neighbors. Individuals who refuse to comply with city ordinances should have stiff penalties.

4) Why should voters elect you over your opponents?

I have served the residents of District 4 for several years as their deputy manager. I have also mentored hundreds of youth in this area. I am the only candidate with this type of experience and a strong relationship with residents. I can walk up to the neighborhood park and break up a fight because of my relationships with the youth. I believe in working for our senior citizens and have resolved their issues for years.

You would be hard-pressed to find someone who can inspire the youth and meet our seniors' needs as well. I have got abandoned homes removed in my years of service, streets repaved, and drug houses shut down.

5) Are there any council decisions with which you've disagreed since 2014? What are those?

We should have settled the lawsuit with Detroit Will Breathe and not spent money and resources trying to counter sue. However, my focus is not on my disagreements but on what I plan to do as a council member. I plan to be accessible and listen to all of the needs of the residents. My council office will be a one-stop office. When people call, we will do our best to resolve their issues.

6) Are there any mayoral agenda items with which you've disagreed since 2014? What are those?

We must find a way to make District 4 safe for our bikers and drivers. The current bike lanes have been disastrous, and many residents are frustrated with its progress.

We must also find a way to resolve the over-taxation issue without bankrupting the city. I believe the Mayor should assess precisely how many people lost homes and see if they can purchase a land bank home and receive home repair dollars.

Virgil Smith

1) Tell us a little about yourself.


Virgil C. Smith candidate for Detroit City Council District 4, Retired Judge of the 3rd Circuit Court, Wayne County, past member of the Michigan Senate and the Michigan House of Representatives and served in the corporation council office of the City of Detroit under former Mayor Coleman A. Young.

2) What do you see as the primary issues holding back Detroit?

  • Safety

  • Poverty

  • Delivery of essential services

  • Core recreational amenities

  • Blight and restoration of homes/buildings

3) What steps will you take to address those?

57% of households in Detroit are led by a single parent. 35% of these families live in poverty. If we wish to rebuild Detroit, we must start with our families, our community. I want to create a Task Force to implement solutions to eliminate that poverty rate. My goal is to renovate a closed DPSD school as a Recreational/Community Center for recreational and supportive community programs. Most importantly, I want to attack gun violence. Parents must take responsibility to either lock the weapons up or teach their children the proper use of a firearm.

4) Why should people elect you over your opponents?

I am a lifetime/career public servant. I want to use my extensive experience in the
legislature and on the bench to ensure services to families of the 4th Council District. Now, more than ever, experience matters, and I have the skillset to fight for our families, our children.

5) Are there any council decisions with which you’ve disagreed since 2014? What are those?

I don’t like being critical of legislative bodies and the decisions that were made. Moving forward, as Detroit continues its climb out of bankruptcy court, it is imperative that we keep a balanced budget to end any outside oversight over how the city operates.

6) Are there any mayoral agenda items with which you’ve disagreed since 2014? What are those?

Again I am not going to be critical of passed decisions made. 

Ken Snapp

1) Tell us a little about yourself.

Ken Snapp was born and raised on the Eastside of Detroit. Ken is proud to be a graduate of Cass Technical Highschool. In 2017, Snapp made history for being the youngest mayoral candidate at the age of 21 years old. Ken is a nationally recognized advocate for social justice. He is a mentor, coach, former educator, and a law enforcement officer.

2) What do you see as the primary issues holding back Detroit?

The lack of access to social goods. We must work to ameliorate the oppression borne by our disadvantaged citizens. We must ensure access to basic social goods such as housing, food, health care, education, childcare, jobs, and
eldercare. We must focus attention to these matters and fight to create a
blueprint that does not match any existing system.

3) What steps will you take to address those?

The steps to address access to social goods is creating effective policy and opportunities to make available to our citizens. With using the core tenets of intersectionality, we can create policy for the historically oppressed and marginalized groups. Our policies must support equitable treatment of all people and believe that no one should be denied opportunities or rights. We must start centering the most impacted, leaderful movements, multiple strategies for power, embracing radical politics, holistic organizing, intersectionality and interdependence, anti-capitalist and anti-racism.

4) Why should voters elect you over your opponents?

I believe I should be elected because I am the only candidate that understands that you have to be able to work together to accomplish effective policy. I am the only candidate that understands what is truly at stake. We have the opportunity and duty to craft policy that will change the blueprint and assist our citizens. believe there are many things that assist our failed infrastructure. We must truly look how policy affects people.

True progressive governance doesn’t tilt to one side of the spectrum. True progressive governance adopts many different perspectives and ideas. Policy that is crafted, must include all those that fall under its law. We must create policy for the historically oppressed and marginalized groups. My efforts to fight for social justice in Detroit are recognized across the county. I believe that I am the only true progressive candidate that can create new ideas and put Detroit at the forefront of the national conversation in regard to progressive ideas.

5) Are there any council decisions with which you've disagreed since 2014? What are those?

A council decision I have disagreed with since 2014 is their decision not to be more vocal about the $600 million of over assessed of property taxes. We need to find ways to return money to our constituents. We also need to advocate for those citizens that have lost their homes due to the over taxation. Solutions must be created.

6) Are there any mayoral agenda items with which you've disagreed since 2014? What are those?

I think we need to hold the mayor more accountable to the promises made by businesses. Community benefits agreements are extremely important to the grassroots organizations. Often times these groups feel excluded from planning and development within the city.

Daivon Reeder

1) Tell us a little about yourself.

Daivon Reeder is a community servant, Army veteran, non-profit founder & CEO, and proud Detroit native. Upon graduation from Frederick Douglass High School for Young Men, Daivon went on to earn a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from Eastern Michigan University.

During his time at Eastern Michigan University, after noticing a decline in retention amongst his peers, he helped found a peer-to-peer mentoring nonprofit, The Nation, Inc., which has taken the charge to help increase college acceptance and retention rates for minority students from inner cities. (Editor’s note: Deadline Detroit could not find a regulatory filing for the nonprofit and it has no apparent internet presence.)

Upon the completion of his military career, Daivon chose to return to his hometown to help make a difference. His return to Detroit was inspired by the love he has for his city and the families he connected with while teaching. In his tenure, he has promoted the importance of attending college, becoming successful, and returning home to open the door for the next generation. Daivon Reeder is ready to return the same investment the city of Detroit poured into him many years ago to push Detroit forward.

2) What do you see as the primary issues holding back Detroit?

Equitable housing, environmental and climate justice, public safety, and a need to rebuild our economy.

3) What steps will you take to address those?

Lack of equitable housing: I will take the necessary steps to ensure that there are policies in place to provide legacy Detroiters with equitable access to Detroit homes. Having equal access is one issue, but tackling equity is another. Oftentimes we see there are numerous barriers that native Detroiters have to overcome in order to purchase homes and keep their homes. I will fight to ensure that not only is the accessibility aspect put in place, but that we also ensure home buyers are equipped with the proper knowledge to be homeowners. The issue of housing doesn’t only impact home buyers, it also affects the renters throughout Detroit. I will take the necessary actions to ensure that development that is taking place across the city of Detroit does not drive up the price of rent to a point where we are displacing renters and creating a larger problem of homelessness in Detroit.

Environmental and climate justice: Tackling illegal dumping by holding people accountable is one way to help reduce the issue of trash and blight across the city. I will also work to get clean energy implemented across the city of Detroit. The air pollution that is currently in Detroit can be reduced by ensuring that some of the largest producers of air pollution have plans implemented to reduce waste and utilize cleaner energy. In addition to that, taking another look at the lead that is still in Detroit homes and making sure that the residents of Detroit are not being harmed by lead piping and/or paint being in their homes. I will also ensure that there are more parks and recreational areas that are safe for children open across the city of Detroit.

Public safety: When we look at public safety, that doesn’t just encompass the police department. I will ensure that there is funding allocated to mental health resources and community policing structure. In order to regain the trust of the citizens across Detroit, work will need to be put in. In addition to allocation of resources towards mental health, ensuring that speed bumps are put up throughout neighborhoods. There are too many speeding cars driving through residential areas, putting everyone, especially children and elderly citizens at risk.
Rebuilding our workforce and economy: I will ensure that we take the necessary steps to prepare the citizens of Detroit for the workplace. I plan on implementing more GED and trade accreditation programming so that residents are able to get the necessary skills to be successful. I also want to ensure that we are looking out for our small, minority, and women owned businesses, who were hit the hardest during COVID. By providing funds and programs for aspiring entrepreneurs, not only will we increase the number of jobs throughout Detroit, but also increase the diversity of commerce.

4) Why should people elect you over your opponents?

The residents of District 4 should vote for me over the other candidates because I will ensure their needs are the main priority. The best person to represent the community is someone from the community, who has seen and experienced the same things that the residents of District 4 are facing. As a resident of District 4 since birth, I have seen the district through different lenses and phases of my life and experienced everything that my neighbors are experiencing. I am committed to making not only the far eastside of Detroit a stronger community, but the entire city of Detroit. I will fight for Detroiters to be a part of the development and progress in our neighborhoods, that we have often been left out of.

5) Are there any council decisions with which you've disagreed since 2014? What are those?

The decision to invest more money into facial recognition technology that has shown to have bias against Black and brown people, a majority of Detroit’s population.

The decision to approve the Clark Hill contract as it related to the Black Lives Matter lawsuit over the past summer. Residents of Detroit have a right to free speech and deserve to have that right protected.

As it relates to older decisions, I didn’t agree with the decisions made in 2014 to increase water rates, even though so many residents had delinquent accounts and faced water shutoffs. There have been actions done to remedy this and I am hopeful that moving forward, we will be able to ensure that the residents of Detroit have access to clean and safe water, as it is a basic human necessity.

6) Are there any mayoral agenda items with which you've disagreed since 2014? What are those?

How the Detroit Land Bank has operated over the past few years under the direction of the mayor. There have been numerous complaints of discriminatory practices — which are technically allowed by the Land Bank — made by Detroit residents who want to invest in their neighborhoods. In addition to that, the deadlines, processes, and hurdles for individual home buyers are oftentimes unrealistic and put residents at risk of losing the homes and that property going right back to the landbank. Another issue is the development that is occurring throughout the city of Detroit leaving out the inner city communities and native Detroiters.



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