Mayoral candidate Fred Durhal Jr., armed with 35 years of leadership in government, is in his third term as state representative. He believes that Detroiters deserve far more than they are getting with the current administration and says, as the next mayor of the Motor City, he will deliver far better services to the people of Detroit. Durhal stopped by the Michigan Chronicle’s office recently to talk about his vision and plans for a stronger Detroit. Chronicle writer Donald James conducted the interview.
MICHIGAN CHRONICLE: Why do you want to be the next mayor of Detroit, and what separates you from the other mayoral candidates?
FRED DURHAL: I grew up in Detroit and I don’t like what I see regarding the management of the city. I can make that judgment because I once served under the greatest mayor that Detroit ever had, Coleman A. Young. What I see in this city has not been good for the people of Detroit. I know that I have leadership characteristics that are good. My experience base is very broad. I’m the only candidate in this race that has participated in four levels of government: city, county, federal and state. I’ve worked in two branches of government: the executive and legislative.
So I totally understand government. I know how it works when it’s running well. I also understand how to fix it when the wheels come off. I have 35 years of experience in government, and I’m the only candidate in this race that has this type of broad experience and credentials.
MC: What’s your opinion of the emergency management law and how would you work with the current EM if elected?
FD: I was one of the first legislators who was opposed to the emergency manager stature when they came out with Public Act 4. I, along with Jessie Jackson, John Conyers and others, went to Benton Harbor and protested the emergency manager in that city. I’ve been to Pontiac and Ecorse as well to protest. I’m against the law.
However, the man (Kevyn Orr) is here now.
A court will ultimately determine the constitutionality of the emergency manager. While that process is happening, we still have to run the city. As mayor, I want to do what needs to be done to straighten this city out.
However, I will be doing everything I can to shorten the emergency manager’s stay in Detroit.
MC: What would be the impact on Detroit if it went into bankruptcy? (Note: This question was asked several days before Detroit’s EM filed chapter 9 bankruptcy.)
FD: It would have a dramatic impact, not only on the city, but on the county and state. The credit ratings for all of these entities will hit rock bottom. There would be a loss of control of how to straighten out the city’s problems because it will be decided by the federal court.
Bankruptcy is not a desirable situation for Detroit. It will prolong the recovery of the city. In fact, it’s probably a poison pill to the city and state of Michigan.
MC: Why did you file a lawsuit against Gov. Snyder as it relates to building a second bridge to Canada?
FD: My lawsuit was of a constitutional argument that the governor violated separation of power. The governor, as the executive branch of government, cannot take on the responsibility of the legislature. The governor breached the constitution of the state of Michigan by deciding to go around the legislature.
I thought that he was wrong and played against the legislature. We went to court. An Ingham County judge ruled in favor of the governor. However, I still feel that the governor was wrong.
MC: How do you plan to improve Detroit neighborhoods?
FD: There’s a lot of focus on developing downtown and Midtown, which is fantastic. However, we need to have that focus all over town. We need to focus on the development of neighborhoods around Six Mile Road and Seven Mile Road We need to focus on developing neighborhoods around Clairmont, Dexter, Grand River, Joy Road and around East and West Grand Boulevard.
We need to have strong, beautiful and safe neighborhoods all over the city. I will have a very aggressive approach to taking abandoned homes down and making our neighborhoods vibrant again.
MC: What’s your view on improving public safety in Detroit?
FD: I will end 12-hour shifts for our police officers. I will open up police precincts where they are open for our citizens, 24-hours a day, and seven-days a week. I want to take the two officers in patrol cars, split them up and give them separate patrol cars to flood the streets. People need to see the police patrolling our city to feel safe.
Safety, however, has to be more than a feeling; it has to be reality. I want the maximum number of officers possible patrolling the streets of Detroit.
MC: Do you think that Detroit could become a city of destination for tourists?
FD: As mayor, I will sit with the editorial boards of our local newspapers, as well as our convention bureau and the Pure Michigan people to work out how we are going to advertise and market Detroit. I don’t think enough of that has been done.
We have to make sure that the positive things about our city get out to the nation and world through our media outlets.
There are plenty of great reasons why tourists should come to our great city. We just have to do a better of job of marketing and advertising what’s great about coming to Detroit.
“There’s a lot of focus on developing downtown and Midtown, which is fantastic. However, we need to have that focus all over town.”