Bill Cobbs — PHOTO: Keith A. Owens

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer remains the most well-known candidate to have announced an intended run for Michigan Governor in 2018, but she is no longer the lone candidate. Since Whitmer’s January announcement, others have entered the race early as well with ideas on how to make Michigan better. Bill Cobbs, is one of those candidates. Last week, the Chronicle had the opportunity to sit down with Cobbs and learn more about  his positions and why he thinks he should be the next governor.

 When did you decide you wanted to run?

 Well, I really started paying attention to what was going on in our state about six years ago. And then, when the Flint water crisis came up, I got closer. But I kept waiting to see if there was any significant movement on the part of the Democrats in the state. That didn’t happen. And I didn’t see the governor doing anything, and that moved me a little bit closer.  I finally made up my mind that I was going to do it, probably January of 2016.

 

Was the Flint water crisis the main thing that got you into the race?

 Well no, we have a state with tons of issues, but we have ignored fundamental issues that really impact the overall health of our state. I’ve watched as there’s been this unabated attack on public k-12 education in this state, and the impact that it’s had. I’ve watched us ignore our infrastructure issues, while at the same time we were extending tax breaks to corporations that didn’t need it. And we have provided millions of dollars in corporate welfare and not taking care of the needs of ordinary citizens.  I think we have an outrageous tax policy in this state, that always seeks to do the things that need to be done on the backs of individual taxpayers and give those who can most afford it, the people at the top and the corporations, huge tax breaks, and that’s got to stop.  And finally, the thing that pretty much pushed me over the edge is watching us say to citizens that we don’t have to guarantee safe clean water to you, but we’re gonna give what amounts to a billion-dollar subsidy to a company like Nestle. At the same time, we haven’t done anything to really abate the citizens in Flint. They’re paying roughly $200 a month for water they can’t use.

 

What’s your plan for Flint?

 Flint, as much as anything else, is an infrastructure issue. You’ve got 16,000 lead delivery lines that need to be replaced. Last year, the city of Flint did somewhere between 500 and 700 lines. Now left to their own means, it would take them 20 years to get this project done. So, in addition to providing financial resources, the state has got to provide the manpower to get this done. One of the things I’m going to propose as the next governor of the state is that we develop a statewide infrastructure replacement program. So that when we have situations like Flint they can go to the top of that list. But we need to attack our infrastructure issues throughout the entire state, because if you look at Detroit, you know Flint only has 16,000 [lead delivery lines]. Detroit has 120,000. And anyone who tells you we don’t have infrastructure issues associated with those delivery lines, they’re lying to you. We are a tragedy waiting to happen.

 

What would you do to fund this?

 There are two things; to get us started, we’re going to float a 30-year municipal bond, so that we get the money. But the way we’re going to service that bond is I want to move toward a constitutional amendment that would allow us to change our tax structure, so rather than having one flat tax structure for everybody in the state? We maintain the tax structure as it is for families that have a household income of less than $200,000. But if a family has a greater income, they would go to a graduated income tax. If we did that, that additional revenue that we brought in could be used to service our debt for our construction programs, and it could also be used to do the things that people got excited about when Bernie was running.

 

How would you navigate the heavily Republican Michigan legislature?

 The Democratic party has got to change the way it approaches elections. In order to change the makeup of the legislature, we’ve got to identify strong candidates this year, and by the end of this year, cut out the party infighting, and have strong candidates that we can put on the ballot across the state so that we really do have an opportunity to take back some of those districts where we don’t play today.

So if we can convince folks that it makes more sense to declare early, get into the pool of candidates, and allow folks to see them, to hear them to have an opportunity to evaluate this this year. And go into next year focused 100 percent not on fighting other Democrats but on fighting the Republicans, I think we got a chance to make some significant inroads in the State House and Senate.

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