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Krystal Crittendon talks about 2013 mayoral run

Krystal Crittendon

Krystal Crittendon

Last month, former Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon, announced she would run for mayor of Detroit.  Crittendon rose to public attention after questioning the legality of the city of Detroit’s financial stability agreement with the state of Michigan. Crittendon, who has worked for the city for 18 years, was first appointed Corporation Counsel in 2008 by interim Mayor Ken Cockrel, Jr. She was twice reappointed by Mayor Dave Bing in May 2009 and then in January of 2010. Crittendon sat down with the Michigan Citizen to talk about her upcoming run.

Why run for mayor?

The people in the city of Detroit have spoken up in this last election. They have been energized and awakened. I did not seek to be put in this position. But now that I am in this position, I do feel that I have a responsibility … The people in this city are willing to stand up and do what is necessary from a resident perspective to help the government, let the city experience the rebirth it’s going to experience.  A lot of the leaders in Detroit were very silent.  I am concerned that if I walk away, that the city of Detroit is not going to be placed in the hands of somebody that is going to take care of her.

Are you concerned about raising money?

This last national election showed that money doesn’t vote. There were people spending billions of dollars across this country trying to affect certain elections and it didn’t happen. The people are hurting across this country and they’re really hurting in the city of Detroit. The week before the election here, the newspapers were reporting PA 4 (Public Act 4, the emergency manager law) was not going to get repealed and Barack Obama was not going to be reelected and they were telling people how to vote on city proposals. And the people went and stood in long lines for two and three hours and they voted their will and none of those things came to pass.

How do you get your message out when you’re up against the corporate media?

A lot of times, people rely on the newspapers to give them news, but people were able to see through what the editorial writers were saying in these cases (the last Detroit election) and reject that. They painted this caricature of me and that was a lot of people’s first introduction to me but they still rejected it and that gives me hope.

How do you solve Detroit’s financial problems?

The city of Detroit has a fiscal problem but that’s really because it has a collection problem. There’s so much money that’s due and owed to the city of Detroit. We’ve developed this climate in the city where people don’t pay unless they absolutely have to. We’ve really got to change the way people think about doing business in the city of Detroit.  There’s been a longstanding history where if you didn’t pay no one would come after you, except for parking tickets, maybe. But with respect to other debt owed the city, people paid it if they needed to do further business with the city of Detroit. The first thing we need to do, instead of cutting and laying off people who bring money into the city of Detroit, we need to be adding people to those departments. It makes absolutely no sense, if you have a fiscal crisis, that you would lay off the people who collect revenue.

Second thing we need to do is go out and talk to the business community. I believe that if made to do the right thing, they would do the right thing. There have been people who’ve said they’ve been willing to give money to the city of Detroit, to assist the city during this time but they want to make sure it’s going to be managed properly.

What are your thoughts on the state taking over Belle Isle?

It makes no sense to be talking about Belle Isle as a priority. The amount spent on Belle is nothing.  It’s prime waterfront property.  If there’s going to be a fee, the City of Detroit can charge that fee. As a resident, I’m offended that we’re even having a discussion about Belle Isle.

What’s your opinion of the Hantz deal?

There were a number of alternatives to that deal. My biggest problem with it was the amount he paid for such a big piece of the east side — Mack to Jefferson and St. Jean to Van Dyke. And there’s no specific plan with respect to what he has to do with the property.  I don’t know enough about it, but I don’t think the city knows enough about it either to have approved it. I think it does benefit the community to have abandoned houses torn down. A lot of these houses have been in a state of disrepair for 10-20 years. So there is some innate benefit to someone coming in willing to get those eyesores out of the neighborhoods. But they’re a lot of people over there and I’m not sure that those people’s voices were heard in respect to what they want in their neighborhood.

Do you think the city should continue to try to service the debt to the banks? What would you do?

We need to quit borrowing all this money and floating all these bonds. If you’ve got debt and you keep taking out new credit cards to pay off that debt, you’re never going to get your way out of that. I’m open to talking to some of the finance experts to figure out what the best plan is for the city of Detroit. … We retained some of the best bond experts in the state to talk us lawyers through the bonding process so that we would know if there were any legal implications or ramifications to filing that (Consent Agreement) challenge in the first place.

With the threat of emergency management, do you support the city filing bankruptcy?

The problem with emergency management is you will have an emergency manger come in and he or she can cherry pick the assets they’d get rid of and at the end of the day you may still end up in bankruptcy anyway. Under a managed bankruptcy, according to the court, nobody is protected and everybody is protected. Everyone has to suffer and he or she is not cherry picking like an EM can.  That’s why the people went to the ballots to get rid of emergency managers.

As mayor, what would you do about the crime?

Our biggest crime (problem) right now is jobs. If you are employed, you are not breaking into your neighbors’ homes. If you’re employed, you’re not out trying to get into the drug trade. We have to bring some employment to the city, but they go hand in hand because an employer is not going to come in if they feel the city is not safe.

We’re going to bring in some of the best experts who tackle these problems in other areas.  And we’re going to stop talking about trying to fix the crime problem.

What would be your top priority, if you were to be elected?

(I would) talk to businesses to bring jobs here. We’ve got to get these people in the city of Detroit employed. I don’t care how depressed you are or what little hope you have, if you’ve got some money in your pocket, you feel a whole lot better.  If people had a job they wouldn’t risk stealing … There are people who are willing to invest in the city.

Thoughts on outsourcing and downsizing?

Can you imagine sitting in your house and you don’t have a dime in your pocket and every construction project you see outside your window is somebody from another community? And they’re doing things you know you can do? We are creating a generation of people, several generations of people, who know this society does not care about them. … There are federal dollars attached to (to the projects) and the city of Detroit ignores that. Department of Human Rights is the department responsible for enforcing that to make sure there’s compliance with those federal mandates.They’re three people that work in that department now.  … We need to put people in revenue-generating departments and in departments that can help the city of Detroit residents get employed, such as human rights.

About 10-12 years ago the city had over 21,000 employees; we have less than 10,000 now.  They keep saying we have to right size city government. No one has done a study to determine how many employees is the appropriate number of employees for 714,000 people in over 139 square miles. We might be at the right number.  But just to assume that we have to continue to cut when we don’t know what we’re cutting to (isn’t the right thing to do).

What are the top five core services you believe a city should provide?

Police and fire (Public Safety). Transportation. Recreation. People think that recreation is a luxury; it’s not. It is a fundamental need. Garbage collection. Street lighting.

What would you do with the lighting department?

Public lighting is a positive situation. It brings in more money then it costs.

We don’t actually generate power anymore, so we get our power from DTE and then we resell it to the customers. And if DTE is going to get the customers, I’ve never understood why DTE couldn’t repair the grid if they wanted the public lighting system. It just doesn’t make sense for us to repair it and give it to them when they’re getting all the customers.

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