Meet the three candidates who want to be Flint’s next mayor

FLINT, MI — There’s more at stake in Flint’s mayoral election than who signs the proclamations and issues the keys to the city.

Unlike other communities in Genesee County, Flint uses a strong mayor form of government, giving the person elected to the position powers similar to those of a chief executive.

In the Aug. 2 primary election, voters will choose between incumbent Sheldon A. Neeley, former mayor Karen Weaver and 1st Ward Councilman Eric Mays. The top two voters in this election will face each other in the general election in November.

Neeley, 53, is a former city councilman and state representative who won his first term in 2019 by a narrow margin, beating Weaver 7,082 to 6,877 in the general election.

Weaver, 63, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, declared a state of emergency over Flint’s water crisis during her time as mayor and launched what she calls “the country’s fastest pipe replacement program.

Mays, 62, the longest-serving member of the city council, previously held various local positions with the United Auto Workers. He pleaded guilty to felony assault in 1987, the only candidate ever to be convicted of a felony. He said the man he was convicted of assaulting threatened his life before Mays threatened him with a gun.

MLive-The Flint Journal has partnered with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Michigan to provide candidate information to readers. Each candidate was asked to state their positions on a variety of public policy issues listed below.

Information on other state, county and local primary races can be found at Vote411.org.

All answers in the voter guide were submitted directly by the candidate and have not been edited by the League of Women Voters, except for necessary clipping if an answer exceeds character limits. Spelling and grammar have not been corrected. The publication of candidates’ statements and opinions is in the interest of public service only and should not be considered an endorsement. The League never supports or opposes candidates or political parties.

What qualifications/experiences make you an asset for the role of mayor?

may : My honesty, my ability to stand up for what is right and over 8 years on city council answering phone calls from residents, doing municipal budgets and changing local ordinances and/or laws. It wasn’t easy making decisions that got ’emergency officials’ out, restoring ‘home rule’, fixing budget deficits and trying to work with some city council members and even some mayors. I was able to understand “mechanically and politically” how to face these storms. My experiences have taught me the skills necessary to serve as mayor. I’ll fix the “police department” (public safety is #1). I’ll take care of the burn and the work. creation. I promise you.

Neley: I hope that the results of the last three years of my administration as mayor will speak for themselves. Police reforms, including banning no-knock warrants and chokeholds, a balanced budget every year, more investment in parks and community centers, accelerating the removal of all lead pipes , payment of pensions so pensioners are safe in retirement, and no corruption of town hall under my watch are my qualifications.

Weaver: As a former mayor, I directed the administrative affairs of Flint and ensured fiduciary responsibility. I championed the fight against the worst man-made water crisis in American history. I understand the complexity of rising property taxes, public safety issues, gun violence, economic disparity, the systemic racism plaguing Flint, and the need to build community support around shared initiatives.

Briefly state the key short-term issues you want to address and how?

may : I want to fix patrol and “detective” operations in the Flint Police Department. I will ensure that the more than 8,000 complaints of “overdue” Flint residents to the Flint Police Department are resolved…..I will put adequate “policing” back into our community. I will make Flint safer for all residents. I will spend over $20,000,000 in “available dollars to have an ‘immediate’ impact on ‘public safety.’ I will try to spend the same $20,000,000 of available funds on “new construction” and “home repairs” for residents in our neighborhoods… Water bills and/or people’s accounts will be fixed.

Neley: In the short term, we are successfully solving the Flint pension problem. I am proud that my administration was the first to successfully solve this problem, which put Flint on the verge of bankruptcy. With Lansing’s capital injection, we are finally able to look to the future and ensure Flint residents receive the city services they pay for, instead of jumping from crisis to crisis, we we can now move from crisis to recovery as we continue to move forward.

Weaver: I will vigorously address the evolving complexity around property taxes, water rates, service fees, public safety, gun violence, community, economic and educational disparities, mental health issues and the devastation of increasing drug use and overdoses that are killing our young people and destroying our families. I will focus on the ongoing effects that the water crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have had on Flint. “The Voice of the People Matters” I will use a diverse strategic community team to promote awareness and engagement initiatives to help address these complexities.

Briefly state the (long-term) strategic goals you intend to set for your community?

may : My long-term goal is to be so good in my first 4 years as mayor that the “residents” of the city of Flint will overwhelmingly re-elect me for a second term because of my success with public safety, l burn elimination and new jobs. (I will bring good paying jobs to Flint, Michigan)…… My long term goal is to prove that Flint can and will do better. I’m tired of talking, talking, talking and not acting…America is a wealthy country and I see how Flint, Michigan (home of General Motors) can get its share of the economic pie. Our young families “deserve” a better quality of life, which certainly includes well-paying jobs.

Neley: Thanks to the hard work and forward thinking of my administration, we were able to meet the crippling debt the city owed to retirees. Now every resident of Flint can look to the future with a positive outlook, and my goal is to reduce water costs for residents, increase economic investment, especially for small businesses, and complete the sale of Buick City, which would create 3.00 jobs, affordable and sustainable housing nationwide. Flint, which will secure a future for every neighborhood, and provide affordable health care and water for our Flint families.

Weaver: My goals will enable a complete transformation of Flint’s landscape and reputation. Improve the quality of life for Flint’s diverse population. Establish collaborations between the public and private sectors to create community and economic opportunities and initiatives. Develop and rehabilitate affordable housing and neighborhood stabilization projects. Promote a sustainable environment and infrastructure. Encourage people to come together in one accord and establish various respectable relationships through inclusive programs. Provide quality public services that meet community expectations.

Unfortunately, we are in a time of significant trust issues in public representation, do you think elected officials should be sworn to abide by a formal ethical agreement: specifically regarding behavior, conflicts of interest and fiduciary responsibility ? Why or why not?

may : The elect are already expected to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I know the mayors haven’t and some city council members haven’t. Half-truths and lies are unacceptable. We already take an oath to uphold the law. I know elected officials can be more open and honest. Residents must be smart enough to elect people when they feel they are not being open and honest. I believe sleazy, self-centered politicians don’t last long……. Voters are smart. I will continue to “call out” sleazy, self-serving, and unethical behavior.

Neley: Yes, I would support such a decision, and I’m proud of my record as a former councilman, state representative, and mayor of Flint that there has been no corruption or scandal with me, my staff and my administration.

Weaver: I support an oath to abide by a formal ethics agreement, as it may help to properly create a professional ethical work environment, trust, and collegial and community professional relationships. Further, I support the implementation of measures put in place that will hold elected officials who violate the oath accountable.

Open question: What would you like voters to know about you (as a public representative)?

may : I know who’s who in our local government. I know what’s going on in our local government. I know how to fix our local administration and it won’t take me 4 years. I’ll name the best for each department and get rid of the ones that aren’t doing well. I know I can do for the residents of Flint what they need and want. I worked for the 1st district for 9 years and now I ask to work for the whole city as mayor. As the “elected” mayor, I will stand up, speak up and take action “immediately” for YOU AND WHAT OUR CITY NEEDS.

Neley: I am here to serve. As a former Flint alderman, state representative, and current mayor, I’m proud of my open door policy. I am in our community every day talking to residents and learning and listening to the issues that affect them. I am proud that there is no history of corruption within my administration and I have never been involved in a scandal. Most importantly, I am proud to be married to my wonderful wife Cynthia for 30 years and father to my two wonderful daughters.

Weaver: I serve with compassion and intelligence, handle power with integrity, grace and humility. I am a “promise keeper” with courage and commitment. I learn from my mistakes, I face the tough fights, I take the hard knocks; but I’m not giving up. I am a “change fighter” and people oriented. I make good decisions under pressure and maintain the flexibility to think creatively to take decisive action. My communication skills inspire trust and cultivate relationships. I have the ability to bounce back to pursue my vision of a “BETTER FLINT”. I humbly ask voters for another chance to be their mayor.


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