By Shelby Ferguson
FLINT, MI – I recently was able to sit down with State Representative Sheldon Neeley regarding his run for Mayor of the city of Flint and topics covering the water crisis, blight, legalized gambling, recreational marijuana use, military exercises and more. My intention was to present this set of questions to all candidates and print all their answers together for the citizens of Flint. Representative Neeley was the only one who agreed to my interview request, and he did so quickly with no conditions when I reached out.
Q: Would you like to make a general statement to the voters?
Neeley: “Part of doing this interview and being the first person to agree to this particular interview is showing the level of transparency that I have and we will follow this level of transparency. The public has a right to know and have access to their elected officials that work for the public. Me agreeing to this particular interview before any of the other candidates shows that level of transparency that we will bring forth to the mayors office as we have done in the city council and the state representatives office. In every aspect transparency and truth has its importance and we believe that and we are going to provide a great example in the mayors office to just that.”
Q: Would you support a casino in the city of Flint?
Neeley: “That has been visited before in the Flint community. That was talked about a few years back, maybe about ten years back, and that was a referendum put before the people and the voters of the city of Flint. In order to support any particular initiatives like that, that would have to go before the voting public and the public would have to say yea or nay to any particular legalized gambling or legal gambling facilities inside of the city of Flint before I would put my support for or against it.”
Q: Since the legalization of cannabis last fall, there have been several different proposals put forth by different groups for previous convictions, ranging from expunging some or all previous cannabis crimes to releasing all current prisoners that are incarcerated for only cannabis crimes. Do you think anything like this should be done with previous convictions?
Neeley: “Absolutely. I think those of us of like thinking and knowing; and understanding that this is now the law of the land by a vote of the public; that individuals that have been incarcerated and/or have a crime attached to their record as it relates to marijuana, relief should be provided for those individuals and I have supported that initiative by way of putting legislation in from my current role as a state legislator to expunge those non violent misdemeanor crimes as it relates to marijuana.”
Q: Would you support public cannabis use businesses that function like bars do?
Neeley: “In the letter of the law where the legal usage of marijuana is now legal, in that aspect, I would support it in that aspect. Now as it relates to where and how bars would expand upon their services and/or use inside of their facilities, they would have to move only as is legal in the state of Michigan. Smoking in bars and public facilities are no longer allowable so I wouldn’t support any particular legislation or laws that would impede upon other laws.”
Q: In June 2015 the military conducted training exercises in the city of Flint. Would you support similar operations taking place in the future in Flint?
Neeley: “No I would not support any particular paramilitary or military activity inside the borders of Flint prosper jurisdiction to where we have any particular exercises where use of firearms or any other activities like that training type of activity would go forth. Now some training activities, if it’s training on how to rescue and different things of that nature, we would be supportive of that type of activity, but no training activity
as it relates to firearms or using any other instrument of mass destruction.”
Q: What is your plan for all the empty houses and vacant lots in the city of Flint?
Neeley: “Hopefully we can back fill that with families and start returning some of this vacant land space to new construction and some of the vacant land space to new residents and we have portions of our community, by using innovative technologies and other things, to be able to recreate land space to where we have livable space to where we have families coming back in the community to live.”
Q: Do you think the Flint Police Department was fairly portrayed in the Netflix documentary, “Flint Town”?
Neeley: “I don’t think I fairly can answer that question because I didn’t watch the full series “Flint Town”. From the small snippets I did see, I cannot give a full judgement whether it was portrayed fairly or not.”
Q: Do you agree with the charges filed to date for the Flint water crisis? (Note – This question and all others were asked on May 20th, 2019)
Neeley: “I think the charges should be more extensive and more broad. The charges that have already been given were only misdemeanor charges and I think they should have been more severe in their charging and prosecution of those individuals that broke the public trust.”
Q: Do you think Flint citizens should be awarded civil settlements from the State of Michigan from the water crisis?
Q: What is your plan to make sure the water problem is completely fixed?
Neeley: “This is going to be an ongoing recovery process. It’s not going to be only physical, it’s not going to only be structural, but its going to also be a mental thing because the residents of the city of Flint have experienced a traumatization and you have to have some mediation of the trauma that’s been caused to this community. So therefore you have to have some ongoing services applied beyond just the replacement of pipes to be totally recovered from this ongoing crisis. We have to have mediation at all levels; mental, physical and infrastructural.”
Q: Will you guarantee to have the water problem completely fixed by the end of your first term if elected?
Neeley: “If anybody would be able to guarantee that things could happen I would think they would be giving a false promise but we will do everything in our power to be able to make sure that every family is made whole from this water crisis and we will do everything in our power to make sure that we can get this problem behind us. We have a vision beyond this water crisis.”
Q: What will be your first action you take if sworn in?
Neeley: “We have to be able to replace the capacity in the city hall. We have many departments that don’t have leadership. We have to make sure that we have the capacity to provide services to residents. We have to abide by the city charter. We have to do all those things that’s mandated to us by law and we will fulfill every obligation that we have pursuant to law and also provide the best service available to residents by making sure we have the best qualified staff to do so.”
Q: What do you bring to the table that other candidates don’t?
Neeley: “A level of experience, teamwork, understanding, and also a vision to take us beyond the water crisis and through this particular crisis and also to give us a level of stability inside the city of Flint. We have a wealth of knowledge and wealth of experience and we stand by our track record moving this community forward.”
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