candidate Freman Hendrix has spent over twenty years devoted to the public sector.
He started out in an entry level position in city government in 1978 and worked
his way up through the ranks to eventually become Mayor Dennis Archer's Deputy
Mayor. He also has been one of the most prominent political leaders in the state,
serving as Archer's campaign manager in both elections and heading up President
Clinton and Vice President Gore's statewide re-election campaign in 1996. After
leaving office with the end of Archer's term, he's spent three years in the private
sector. This year, Hendrix has been visiting Detroit neighborhoods, connecting
with people in order to work his way back towards public office with a run for
Mayor. (For much more information about Hendrix and his ideas, please go to his
website here.) (For a look at the
Hendrix campaign, please click here.)
Hendrix took a few minutes out
of his hectic schedule to answer our famous four questions as told
to Nick Sousanis. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
it's not going anywhere. We're a 136 square miles mass of land that won't go away.
We're going to have an impact on the region, on the whole state, on the whole
Midwest. This is the largest city in the state of Michigan. Like it or not, either
we work together and get this city back where it needs to be or it's going to
continue to be a drag on the entire region and the entire state - economically,
socially, and every other way. The city of Detroit drags or lifts the entire state
on all of the important metrics by which you measure a state's livability. It's
incumbent upon all of us I think to get our act together and start moving in a
direction cohesively as a region.
that's a two-way street.
going to take people inside of Detroit to stop being so parochial, so protective
and concerned that somebody's trying to take us over. It's going to take people
on the outside to be a lot less racial in their view of Detroit and the region.
And I think frankly a lot less selfish and parochial on their part as well. To
say, "Well, the hell with it, I don't go to Detroit anymore, I got my little
house and my little swimming pool, I got my BMW over here and I'm making a nice
little living." It's going to take all of that changing. I think that the
leaders in Oakland County, Wayne County, Detroit, and Southeastern Michigan, whether
you're city managers, mayors, council people, commissioners, whatever you happen
to be, I think a change in the tone of the dialogue is going to move us in the
just think that at some point elected officials and candidates are going to have
to decide if they're going to put voters first or their own personal agendas first.
I think you just cannot go wrong, no matter what problem you are trying to tackle
in the immense, complex situation of city government, that if every single day
and every single problem you wrestle with, every issue you negotiate, no matter
who the group is or the person, if you say, "Everything that I do is about
putting the citizens and taxpayers of Detroit first." This means their
interests, their needs, their concerns, their desires, their wants. If you put
these things first, then everything else falls into place and you don't have to
get confused or worried about how we should address other issues. If you get bogged
down and distracted over there, you can't solve problems, you can't stay focused.
I tell people all the time as
I go around and meet with different groups to request endorsements that I'm not
looking for sponsors, as much as I'm looking for partners. Because that's what
it's going to take to get the budget balanced, to reorganize the department, to
get our public safety agenda advanced. We're looking for partners that are going
to help, to make a contribution. If their interest is the city of Detroit, the
citizens and the taxpayers, then I think I'm their candidate. If they have some
other agenda that doesn't put taxpayers and residents first, then I may not be
People ask me,
are you going to lay off more people? Yep, I probably will. We have a $350 million
budget deficit; it shouldn't have been this bad. I'm sorry that this mayor, through
his inexperience, his misdirected priorities, and I think a little immaturity,
has caused it to get this bad. But we are where we are right now, today. In order
to get out of this we're going to have to cut some things that will be very painful.
There are other people standing in that same spot where I am, and saying, "well,
we're going to try to not make any cuts." That's not being very honest if
you ask me. I'm trying to be a different kind of candidate because I want to be
a different kind of mayor. I'm really trying to be a straight talk, plain
talk, no bullshit, none of these half truths or lying by omission. Some of this
is not going to sound good.
IS THE FUTURE OF DETROIT?
think it depends on who the leaders are. That's everything. Those that lead
and fail at taking us where we want to go would have us believe that there's this
nebulous national, international, or statewide glob of an economic kind of a thing
that's out here blowing, that we have no control over. They say, "It's out
of our hands. It's the war in Iraq. It's the national unemployment rate. It's
the recession. It's 9/11. It's George Bush. It's Jennifer Granholm. It's Alan
Greenspan. It's not me. It's not any of us here. It's not our fault. This weight
on our shoulders is out of our hands, out of our control and we have nothing that
we can do about it. We're just on this ship and we're just drifting along somewhere
and we have no idea where we're going and worse yet we have no control over it."
That is what you hear.
say it is exactly the opposite. Leaders have a direct impact on what happens.
They have the ability through the shaping of policies and ordering budget priorities,
through their integrity, through their work ethic, through their professionalism,
through their tone, through their image, through everything that they say and
do, to move an entire region to a positive place.
is absolutely so. In a city like Detroit because things are so fragile
- socially, economically, politically, certainly financially - you don't have
the margin of error that some of our younger or newer or smaller communities have
when it comes to budgets or tax base or some of these other things. We can't afford
to make the kind of mistakes that we've seen happen here in the city of Detroit
lately. As people come to positions with such steep learning curve, they're kind
of on the job learning and poking around, "Ok, let's try this, let's try
that." Make a little mistake here and you blow a $90 million hole that you
don't figure out until a year later. You make a little mistake over in your allocation
of resources in the police department and before you know it you have a spike
in crimes. Those are learning curve mistakes, so you figure 3 years later, well
you can't do that anymore. Well, guess what? We don't have the infrastructure
to withstand three years or four years of learning and mistakes like that because
all of a sudden were facing bankruptcy.
it does matter who's leading, who's in charge.
IS THE FUTURE OF CITY ADMINISTRATION IN DETROIT?
it depends on who is leading. We can continue to spiral downward or we can stop
the freefall and start a slow gradual climb back to a place where people believe
again, where there's promise for the future, and you actually start moving the
important metrics that you measure the city's livability by: unemployment, crime,
the city's credit rating, housing starts, property value appreciation. All of
those things after a while start to make a difference in how people feel about
living in the city of Detroit - they're carving out a little comfortable living
for themselves and their family, and they're deciding whether they want to stay
and not just benefit but contribute to making the city a positive place to be.
I'm running for mayor because
I want to make a difference. I don't see that anymore in the people who pursue
Nobody goes to
a high position like this without thinking about the legacy they want to leave.
And for most folks it's about brick and mortar and creating wealth for others.
But I really think that it's if you can go for a position like mayor or governor,
a really high profile position where you can frame ideas and change opinions.
One of the things I plan to do
if I'm fortunate enough to get into this office, (and I believe I will be successful),
is this: I think it would be a great thing to do to change the culture in such
a way that you send out a call to young people about public service and what it
means and what it can mean to a city and to a whole region or even a state to
set aside some of your career path time to serve, to volunteer to give something
back to make a difference, to sacrifice maybe some money for a wonderful cause
of turning things around. For Kennedy it was the Peace Corps. Clinton tried to
mirror that with Americorps. What about a City Corps? It's this sort of greater
good sort of thing; I'm just not seeing that.
job takes a whole lot of experience and just some rolling up your sleeve and setting
politics aside and just being real honest and straightforward with people who
are affected by all of this. I think if we stopped the gamesmanship, stopped trying
to advance our political careers, and just do what's right, I think things would
get done a whole lot better around this town.
For much more about Hendrix and his campaign, please click
- Nick Sousanis email@example.com
for Four Questions with State Senator and Mayoral Candidate Hansen Clarke