By Jan Worth-Nelson
A Flint audience of about 6o got a closer look at five of the 18 candidates for mayor of the city at the Flint Public Library Thursday night in the first of two candidate forums. Their decidedly mixed comments ranged from proposing a city “tithe,” to establishing a tribal government that makes its own license plates to resisting the pending contract for the city’s water source.
The forum featured Chris Del Morone, Anderson Fernanders, Ray Hall, Brent Jaworski, and Alvin Wamsley. Co-sponsored by FlintBeat publisher Jiquanda Johnson and Sinclair Broadcasting/Channel 25, the session was moderated by Sinclair Broadcasting/NBC25 News reporter Drew Moore.
Calling for increased “truth in government,” Chris Del Morone called for being “realistic” about the city’s prospects. “Our community is failing the residents in many ways,” he said, and “until we get a handle on the water system and the schools, it’s hard to get true economic progress…. And if we’re fighting among ourselves, who wants to come here?”
Del Morone sided with the Flint City Council in resisting a deadline for a decision on the city’s water source. U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson this week ordered the council to decide by Monday, Oct. 23 on the proposal for a 30-year contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA).
“Just imagine–Flint is surrounded by more fresh surface water than anywhere in the world, and we have a water problem. I honestly don’t think we have enough information yet” on which of several options to choose, he said. Expressing concern that the KWA pipeline was designed partly to use water for fracking, he said he thought the region should explore building one treatment plant “at the source that could bring treated water right from Lake Huron.”
Fernanders called for an immediate end of the emergency manager system, calling it “involuntary servitude” and, like Del Morone, said that the city should resist being coerced into signing on to the GLWA contract. He said he believes the GLWA contract could bankrupt the city, and that it was being put forward by the Mayor, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the judge.
“Remember,” he said, referring to the MDEQ, “the people who are suing us are the same people who lied to us…and now they’re saying they want to help Flint.” He also called for a policy to expunge nonviolent felonies among youthful offenders, whose lives he suggested should not be ruined by early bad decisions.
“We are not a city of stupid people. We have strength,” he said. Alluding to Flint’s history, which he said he had learned from his elders had been committed to assuring that “everybody was treated equal,” he concluded, “We are a great city. We will be a beacon.”
Ray Hall said as a mayoral candidate he is for tribalism, giving power back to “the aboriginal people of Flint.” He called for the United Nations to investigate what has happened in the city.
“The time of the colonizer is over,” he said, suggesting that Gov. Rick Snyder should have lost his job and that there are ways the city can build itself up with casinos and Lucent Technologies, an option mentioned without elaboration, so that the people “would not have to pay a dime and you will start receiving checks.”
He said the $100 million infrastructure money allocated for the city from the federal government last year should be used to “buy, build, rebuild, resettle, teach our people how energy can flow from water — to make it as comfortable as possible in the tribal land..to make us world famous…we’ve been hurt, we’ve been hurt bad.”
He said he envisioned a community that could be self-sufficient, doing its own policing and making its own license plates.
Jaworski emphasized a need for infrastructure development and financial housecleaning in most of his remarks, saying he would declare municipal bankruptcy in his first 90 days in office. “coming clean on our books” which he said would benefit the city along the model of the city of Detroit.
He said “there is a great spirit in this city” and said that the provisions of the Imagine Flint master plan are exciting and hold promise for Flint’s economic development.
In his opening statement, Wamsley said he was not running because he wanted to but “because my Heavenly Father told me to get my name on the ballot.” He said his first order of business would be to have the city pay a 20 percent tithe to the homeless. Because that would be the Lord’s will, he suggested, the money “would come back a hundred fold,” turning $20,000, for example, into $20 million.
Wamsley said bridging the gap between and the city council would be “up to the Lord.” He said “He’s the one who created government and all I am is his tool.”
He also said it was time to “stop stealing from the water funds” which he said had been going on since the departure of the last ombudsman. Restoration of the ombudsman’s position is one provision of the new city charter. approved by voters in August and set to take effect in January, though an order issued by the the last emergency manager may postpone its implementation.
David Meier, another candidate for mayor who has been accused of fraudulently claiming to be a Medal of Honor recipient for military actions in Vietnam, had agreed to participate in the panel but did not appear. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, his claims are being investigated by the FBI.
The election, a result of a recall action against Mayor Karen Weaver, is scheduled for Nov. 7. If Weaver gets the most votes, the recall will have failed and she will continue as mayor. If not, whichever candidate gets the most votes will become the city’s new mayor as soon as the results are certified.
In addition to Weaver, David Meier and tonight’s five candidates, the other candidates are David Davenport, Woody Etherly, Ronald Higgerson, Ellery Johnson, Scott Kincaid, Sean MacIntyre, Tony Palladeno, Don Pfeiffer, Jeff Shelley, Angela Ward, and Arthur Woodson.
A second mayoral candidates forum featuring another set of the 18 candidates is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, also at the Flint Public Library, 1026 E. Kearsley Blvd. Flint. More information is available at flintbeat.com or 810-447-0676.
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.