Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mayoral Candidate Jean Vortkamp's Platform


In Detroit there are a million good ideas waiting to be nurtured. I have the ability to take those ideas and turn them into reality. I am a Detroiter schooled by Detroit – by 1,000 Detroit children & their families, by Detroit community leaders, and by professors in Detroit. I want to see us invest in ourselves to build strong neighborhoods. I want to make this a place that reveals the beauty of Detroiters and makes the city a stage for the success of Detroit’s bright children.

For a quick overview, see this video of me on Channel 4's website.

Public Safety 

I will address many of the causes of crime and work toward a more preventative, Detroitcentric model. A complete redesign of how Detroit is policed so that it suits Detroiters.      
  • Police will be assigned to particular neighborhood clusters. They will participate in creating a better relationship with Detroiters, making a better work environment for police and a better place to live for Detroiters. People in each area will know their police officers by name. All police will participate in school and community events in the areas they are assigned to.  
  • Community policing.
  • Stricter enforcement of laws against shooting guns in public - particularly residential neighborhoods. I understand that Detroit does not have the resources to battle some of the more serious issues of the underground economy. However, I do believe that the underground economy should not interfere with people’s regular everyday lives in neighborhoods and at neighborhood businesses. I think there are ways to redesign how communities are policed that are more suited to manage the problems of Detroit that affect our lives directly.
  • Working with the County for strict and structured probation, mediation centers, and  balanced and restorative justice for all offenders.
  • Partner police/mental health agencies/courts/rehabs to get the adults and youth who need help and end up involved with police the help they need. Perhaps use this model.
  • Real investigations into crimes by an organized investigation unit to bring real justice to Detroit.
  • Working with the county to find the funding for timely testing of the all the rape kits that are waiting and future rape kits to set up a model that the rest of the country can follow. 
  • 911 should be just for emergencies, not a clearinghouse for everything wrong in Detroit. There would either be a non-emergency number to call city-wide or a neighborhood number to call for everything that is not an emergency. There would be a public education campaign to help residents determine what a non-emergency situation is.
  • Within middle/high schools - enforcing strict truancy rules (truancy is the gateway crime) and in-school detention while working through children's issues. Extra assistance for children who have parents in jail which makes them at-risk. With the county, a thorough review of the juvenile justice system's schools and stronger partnership with the regular schools.  
Finances
  • No waste, no theft.
  • A thorough investigation into our assets and liabilities, income and expenditures and moving forward responsibly from there.See my post on Detroit's finances for a detailed description of the financial issues and my step by step common sense solution.
  • Financial information needs to be timely, ethical, and open online to the public in an easy to understand format. See the latest online report for 2011: this is good for accountants, but not for everyone else. Here is one example of how to share financial information with the public from Ann Arbor. I think this one is a good example but it would be better for us if it had one more level of depth. For example, under vendor payments, it breaks it down into "expense type". There needs to be a real description of how that money was spent. We could also add names of people who are in charge of the companies the city does business with. It would be interesting if a user could click the names and it would search the campaign contributions for local elected officials. The most important ingredient in transparency is the details.    
  • Institute a Community Financial Watchdog Committee, a volunteer group of ethical, financially savvy Detroiters and real supporters of Detroit in suburbs who will watchdog Detroit's finances. No more good ideas lost to idle chatter. Now is the time for all financial minds to help. They will critique my transparency efforts and my financial 'attic cleaning' of the city departments and authorities. They will help the city pursue all money owed to us from the institutions who vicitimized Detroit as a city or individual citizens. In addition they will give input if the see grants or job producing opportunities that Detroit should be taking advantage of. 
Neighborhood Planning
  • ALL neighborhoods will be asked for their input into economically just neighborhood plans.
  • Neighborhood plans will be encouraged to include ways that we can invest in ourselves through things like credit unions, food co-ops and childcare co-ops. 
  • Plans will be made swiftly from community input from a few, well organized meetings that are at community centers, online, at senior and youth centers, from neighborhood businesses and from door-to-door samples.
  • Plans will then be carried out efficiently, quickly and honestly. They will NOT be made by outsiders and they will NOT just end up on a shelf.  
  • Here is the map showing the new district City Council boundaries that will be in effect for the 2013 election. Like them or not, if we are aiming for accountability, we would use these as the first dividing lines for neighborhood plans. We would further divide them into much smaller neighborhood areas with common issues that would have representatives from the mayor's office that would work with the district's City Council person, their staff, the libraries, recreation centers, community groups, specific police officers (that people will know by name) assigned to those smaller neighborhoods, and business associations. This is all about us working in an organized way together to ensure accountability for everyone. 
  • For more information visit my posts about neighborhood centers, community engagement, and how every neighborhood will have a voice
Bulk Pick-up
  • In addition to the 4 times/year, bulk pick-up on demand for community groups and seniors.
  • Leaf pick up and compost.
Vacant Houses/Buildings
  • Hold all landowners, including banks, responsible for the property they own - visit Municode (Follow this path to see how clear these rules are: Detroit, Michigan, Code of Ordinances >> Part III - CITY CODE >> Chapter 9 - BUILDINGS AND BUILDING REGULATIONS >> ARTICLE I. - DETROIT PROPERTY MAINTENANCE CODE >> DIVISION 4. - PROPERTY MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENTS >> Part II. Exteriors of Buildings, Premises, and Structure) 
  • Work with the County to encourage them to better organize the Register of Deeds so we can do this more efficiently and quickly. 
  • Work to end evictions and foreclosures and get homeowners into the other vacant homes. Making and/or participating in programs that encourage low-income home ownership. 
  • Encourage the development of more groups like the Boston Edison Development Incorporated which is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit housing rehabilitation corporation that acquires abandoned, tax defaulted and dilapidated houses, rehabilitates them and re-sells them to individuals and families. It receives its primary funding through loans from residents and friends of the District. It is time for us to invest in ourselves.
  •  Establishing a Community Land Trust in Detroit. This is where the land is owned by the trust and the house is owned by low income home owners. It suits Detroit and protects us from gentrification.  
Jobs/Business
  • Bring new business to the city and help the businesses who have stayed here and provided jobs to Detroiters (Thank you).
  • Job training for Detroiters, specific to jobs available
  • Turn the Manoogian Mansion into the City of Detroit Business Welcome Center and Research & Development office (if the neighbors and zoning don't mind). Develop a strong network of businesses in Detroit, court new businesses, work to redevelop small business centers throughout the city,  group marketing especially around large events, have networking events and whatever the business community says they need to not just succeed but to thrive.
  • Actively seek grants and funding and keep the grants we have by timely honest reporting and reapplication.
  • Entrepreneurship is essential for Detroiters. Crowd funding for new ideas in every neighborhood. At neighborhood centers, there will be chances to start small businesses, even if its as small as an Etsy store or lawn cutting, or if its computer consulting or beauty products. There also needs to be a focus on women owned businesses. The programs that already exist and work here should be expanded on. Assistance provided for people need help to get through things like taxes, hiring employees, have office space, shared professional services like accountant services etc. An example of a program that could work well in Detroit is the Innovating through Growth program through the British Public Library. This would give Detroiters a great advantage: one-on-one support for small or start-up businesses in Detroit neighborhoods coupled with the resources the libraries already have.
Education
  • I am in favor of (not having the authority to do this) having the EAA schools and charter schools back into a renewed, revamped public school system where our successful schools partner with our failing schools to improve them. There should be public online financial information from the system to increase accountability. I would like to see some of the money used for emergency managers used instead to consult with the best schools in the world (like Australia and Finland) to help us envision our best public school system to give Detroit children the education they have a right to and be a model for American education.
  • Increase the amount, availability, transportation to and marketing of adult education/adult votech and pre-school education.
  • For all schools: one-on-one tutoring and advocacy for all children falling behind, physical fitness that suits many children's taste, healthy food, and hands-on science.
  • For elementary schools: Step by step phonics, memorization of basic math facts, close partnerships with libraries and revival of school libraries, child-initiated reading choices offered for group reading, more learning activities in a game format, screening for all children for glasses and hearing at school each year with a follow up of a mobile eyeglass shop coming to the school.
  • For middle schools: developmentally appropriate reading content that addresses urban life issues, strict truancy rules, leisure reading time, focus on writing a good sentence, then a good paragraph, then a good essay (no more long papers copied from the internet!), growing up workshops such as etiquette & ballroom dance, and algebra.
  • For high schools: Strict truancy rules and safety rules. Partnership with teen homeless shelters, health centers for teens at every school, clear cut grievance process for teacher complaints, seamless link between high schools and community colleges, a greater amount/different lengths of programs/variety of choices for votech, ambitious scholarship offices at each high school. Bring a federally funded free boarding school for alternative education to Detroit (the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy). Also create a strong relationship between high schools and JobCorp. Not even ONE more teen should fall through the cracks.
 Emergency Manager/State run anything
  • NO.
  • We are open to State tax money being spent here, as is right and just. 
  • See my post on Emergency Managers 
Street Lights
  • Replaced with alternative energy lighting - for everyone. 
  • The PLD has not maintained the electric lines in the City of Detroit and they are dangerous. If we stick with the lights we have, they will have be replaced because it is more expensive to fix the poorly maintained system than it is to just make a new one. There is an alternative altogether to fixing the lines. We can use lights that do not need the wiring and can use existing poles- there are a variety of choices like solar, wind and others that would need to be weighed for their energy efficiency, durability, and inability to be stolen. For some examples using wind and solar, using existing poles or ones that wrap around things, click here. I will work with DTE (or around them if I have to) to have the alternative energy streetlights costed out and weighed against the plans to rewire the city.  
  • Ideally, I would like to produce the streetlights in the city to create jobs. There are many new production methods that could do this. My highest hope would be that we could then produce alternative lights for other cities. 
  • Lights would also be approved by the International Dark Sky Association, directing all light down, so we can see more stars. 
Transportation 
  • Buses that are scheduled will show up on time.
  • Schedules will be posted at bus stops.
  • Bus shelters will be constructed.
  • Group transportation for senior groups and youth groups will be available for field trips.
  • Bike lanes will continue to be created.
  • A partnership will be rebuilt with SMART - no one should have to walk across 8 mile to continue their bus trip!
  • Safety for drivers and passengers will be improved.
  • A greater partnership with Medicaid and Medicare to ensure recipients are using their appointment transportation benefits and working to reduce emergency room use through non-emergency medical transportation.
311
  • Will work again as a phone line.
  • We will get a 311 app so people can see their report be posted on a map and the status of the request.
Mayor's Office
  • Contact information will be on the city website and everywhere.
  • I will frequently attend neighborhood group meetings to address concerns.
  • Staff will be assigned to each neighborhood to regularly address concerns and get input.
Neighborhoods
 
One of the most important parts of Detroit is its block clubs and neighborhood associations.

  • City staff will be assigned to each community to take complaints and follow through with issues residents have.
  • A rebirth of the neighborhood watch
  • Help in organizing more block clubs, block club parties: children’s activities available, swimmobile, and help in blocking off the street safely. Help in making block club signs and window stickers to show they are a group, as well as how to handle the funds they collect. Across the city there would be organized cook-offs and talent shows through these groups. These activities do not cost a lot of money, can use shared equipment and are essential to bringing Detroit back and capitalizing on the strong sense of neighborhood Detroiters have.
  • Assistance for more than one community clean-up a year and access to bulk pick-up on demand for groups.
  • Neighborhood mediators that would be trained to deal with minor disputes that the people involved in would be willing to sit down to for mediation. For example, teen-parent disagreements or next door neighbor non-violent disputes. 
  • A focus on household thrift, self-reliance and economic justice: rent-control, food co-ops and credit unions in every neighborhood, encouraging home cooking, backyard gardening and everyone volunteering 1 hour each month for Detroit.
  • For more information visit my posts about neighborhood centers , community engagement, and how every neighborhood would have a voice.
Health
  • Improve the availability of healthy inexpensive foods in neighborhoods.
  • Increase the amount of produce trucks through neighborhoods.
  • Increase knowledge of Medicaid & Medicare benefits to recipients, identify barriers to using the benefits and remove the barriers.
  • Create strong partnerships between schools and recreation centers for family fitness and health.
  • For the uninsured, work at increasing knowledge of/transportation to free and reduced clinics and preventative mobile clinics.
  • Reexamine the privatization of the health department
Insurance
  • The cost of insurance is exceedingly high in Detroit. I will work to find alternative solutions for Detroiters. This is already in the City Charter for a study and there are already models for us to work with. 
  • We can look into co-op insurance for Detroiters.
Art
  • Include the many creative people in Detroit who have never had a chance to explore their talents fully in the “creative class”
  • Through neighborhood talent/art shows, lessons/training and competitions, and adult education art classes there will be an outlet and structure for Detroiters to showcase their talents and find ways to make a living off these talents, with consulting to help negotiate the business side. 
  • For more information visit my post about art
Healing the Spirit of Detroit
  • Have events in the faith-based community and at community centers in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs focused on healing Detroit. It is time to grieve our losses and to hope together. 

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