With hopes of rejuvenating the City of Detroit, mayoral candidate Sharon McPhail proposed a plan called the Detroit Children’s Fund in a visit to the University on Friday. The program would guarantee four years of tuition to any high school graduate from Detroit whose family has lived in the city for at least eight years.
McPhail has been a member of the Detroit City Council since 2002 — the first female attorney to hold the position. McPhail, who is running for mayor of Detroit, outlined her platform, prioritizing the reduction of crime, fairer taxes, better education and population growth.
McPhail’s visit was part of a nonpartisan series of visits by Detroit mayoral candidates that was organized by three student groups, the University’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Metropolitan Organizing Strategies Enabling Strength and the Detroit Project. The campus groups aim to inform members of the campus community about the candidates and to inform the candidates about what issues matter to residents of Ann Arbor and Detroit voters.
RC sophomore Paul Mardirosian, a member of both the DP and MOSES, said that while he thought the Children’s Fund was a great idea, he did not see it as a realistic plan for Detroit.
“I don’t understand how it’s going to be funded with the current deficit,” Mardirosian said.
LSA senior Je’nai Talley, who attended the meeting, voiced similar concerns.
“It’s not that easy to get that much money,” she said.
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s office estimates Detroit’s deficit at $300 million for the 2005 fiscal year.
LSA junior Riana Anderson, president of the University chapter of the NAACP, said rejuvenation of the city is an important goal and that the program would make the city more attractive to families, but said funding the program would be difficult.
“I think that … because (the Children’s Fund) will bring people back into the schools, we will have even more students to pay for, which will lead to even more funding problems,” Anderson said.
McPhail said she plans to fund the program by reorganizing Detroit’s budgetary priorities.
“The money is there. It’s what we’re spending it on that’s the problem,” McPhail said.
McPhail said that the city gave the Compuware Corporation a 15-year tax break and donated $18 million worth of land for construction to the company.
“That money could have gone towards the program,” McPhail said.
Another concern some students raised was McPhail’s apparent emphasis on her personal gripes with the mayor’s office rather than political issues.
“I would have liked to hear her talk more about the political issues, and less about personal vendettas,” Mardirosian said.
MOSES, the DP and the NAACP hope to bring in the third and final candidate, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, in the fall to complete their speaker series.