Correction Appended: this article should have said: “the grassroots dissatisfaction with Kwame’s leadership was largely because of his primary focus on downtown development and the resulting lack of attention to the main issues concerning the neighborhoods — schools, safety and residential and commercial development,” said RC alum Craig Regester.
Attracting college graduates is the number one priority for his campaign, said Detroit mayoral candidate, Freman Hendrix, who spoke last night in the Michigan League. Hendrix will be running against City Council member Sharon McPhail and incumbent Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in November. Hendrix said he is running on a platform of being an insider who understands the nuts and bolts of Detroit politics and will not require a great deal of on-the-job training.
“A city is very fragile, and it is not a learning curve kind of place,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix’s plan for attracting a younger demographic that is interested in the urban lifestyle and ready to settle down, includes a pedestrian-friendly corridor spanning for a mile, filled with boutiques, restaurants and a vibrant nightlife in Detroit. He plans on creating more lofts and housing within the normal price range for young people who have just begun their careers.
He added that he has been talking to architects about rejuvenating areas that are currently surrounded by warehouses to create a downtown atmosphere.
“I’m thinking Main Street in Royal Oak, five-fold. I want it open until 4 am.”
Hendrix also said he wants to attract more people to the city to draw in more revenue. “The more I can get you to Detroit, the more I can pay for Cass Corridor.” Hendrix said. But, he added, “I want you to come Detroit because its fun, not because you’re Mother Theresa.”
Hendrix’s daughter and University alum Erin emphasized her father’s interest in the younger generation.
“Just because my father is not 30 years old does not mean that he does not have policies and interests in the younger community. I think his history speaks for itself,” she said.
Another important part of his campaign is a plan to fight crime by re-instating the Detroit Police Department’s narcotic units and gang squad and to give teenagers what he calls, “Positive options.” These include an initiative to encourage businesses to provide teenagers with employment and to re-open the Belle Isle Zoo.
Hendrix’s opponent and current Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is the youngest mayor in the history of Detroit and has faced constant attacks during his administration for a variety of allegations including incompetence, cronyism, rumors of wild parties in the Manoogian Mansion and police cover-ups. Hendrix made reference to some of these allegations during his speech.
But some feel that the Mayor is often blamed for problems out of his control.
“There is a lot of grassroots dissatisfaction with Kwame’s leadership, mainly dealing with the budget gap. They are $93 million dollars in the red even though they proposed a balanced budget not too long ago,” said Craig Regester, Program Coordinator of the Residential College, who currently lives in Southwest Detroit. But, “I am sure he is going to be blamed for all of Detroit’s problems that have existed for 20 years.” He added.
Kilpatrick’s office was called, but he could not be reached for comment.
Hendrix was invited to the event on behalf of the, NAACP, the University chapter of Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strategy and the Detroit Project. McPhail will be invited to speak next week in an event organized by the same groups.
Hendrix has worked in city government for over two decades. He was the manager of Bill Clinton’s 1992 election campaign in the state of Michigan. He has served as deputy mayor and chief of staff during the tenure of Mayor Dennis Archer.