Charter Commission candidate Freman Hendrix believes the circumstances surrounding former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s forfeiture of office last year had a good deal to do with the Charter Commission being on the ballot; and that he viewed his candidacy as an opportunity to continue with his own public service and make a contribution to the community.
According to Hendrix, the matter of forfeiture of office when there’s a criminal offense is one of three primary issues voters are especially focused on. He said the charter needs to be a lot more specific and detailed when it comes to that issue.
The second issue concerns council by districts.
“Even though this is going to be on the ballot in November, if it passes, I see it as really a beginning of the discussion, not the end of the discussion, about where we go with council by district; how it should be structured; whether it’s a mixed system; whether it’s a district-only system; whether there should be term limits; whether there should be a part-time council; whether the president is elected,” he said.
The third matter of importance is the issue of integrity and ethics.
“I think that having matters associated with corruption and fraud and integrity and ethics need to be spelled out with much greater detail and force in the charter,” Hendrix said.
To that end, he thinks an office of inspector general should be created, and should be independent from both the executive and legislative branches, like the judicial branch of the federal government.
“It should be independent, as the ombudsman office is supposed to be, as the auditor general’s office is supposed to be,” he said. “They serve 10-year terms and they’re supposed to be immune from the political winds.”
He sees this inspector general enforcing ethics and integrity rules within the revised charter without having to owe any political favors, due to his or her serving a 10-year term.
Hendrix also favors a series of public discussions throughout the city concerning charter changes. He would like to sit down with the other charter commissioners to put together an aggressive schedule of several town hall meetings that would take place throughout community. He would also want those meetings to be well publicized.
Asked if there are other issues he believes should be addressed, Hendrix said the whole idea of having an aggressive town hall meeting schedule is to hear other suggestions and recommendations. He added that only through the broad engagement of the citizens would the commissioners know what those things are.
As an example, he cited the issue of balance of power between the executive and legislative branches.
“Should there be a shift from one to the other, giving one more or less than currently exists?” he asked. “We need to talk about that. We need to have that discussion.”
While Hendrix has his own opinion concerning the three issues he cited, he thinks that as a charter revision commissioner, his responsibility would be to listen to the collective will and wisdom of the residents, and try to reflect as best as possible their intent and what they’d like to see changed in the charter.
Asked why the voters should elect him, Hendrix said it comes down to experience. He cited his familiarity with city government, with the charter itself, and with the Detroit community.
Hendrix also said he’d represent the interests of the citizens, and that he has intentionally steered clear of broad special interest endorsements because he wants to ensure there’s no appearance of any conflict of interests or that he’s advancing any special interest agendas.