Bankole Thompson Poverty Forum Response

On February 19th, 2018 Bankole Thompson of The Detroit News and 910 AM Superstation held a Gubernatorial Town Hall on Poverty for residents of Detroit.  I corresponded with him to ask to be included in this event, and was told I was not invited to participate and that the event was for Democrats only.  I did attend, took notes of the questions that were asked, and here are my responses to the questions that were asked at the forum.  

I have done my best to give short answers to these questions, as close to the style of the forum as possible, but as I have had time to review them more than the time at the forum, in some instances I have gone slightly more in-depth since I do have the luxury of answering them after-the-fact.


Questions & Answers


  • What would be your strategy to address poverty in Detroit?


There are many things that need to be addressed, but as a strategy, we need to address housing, education, community benefit agreements, and gentrification. Housing first due to the Hardest Hit Fund being reallocated to blighted homes instead of its initial use to help people keep their homes from the Great Recession. Because of this and the actions of the Detroit Land Bank, homelessness and homeless children has increased across our state and in the city. Poverty is certainly tied to housing, and until we can ensure every person across Michigan and in Detroit has access to a roof over their heads, we will never be able to eradicate poverty. Education also is tied to poverty not just because of funding, but because you can’t teach a child who is food insecure. Across the state ¾ of the schools in Michigan are considered Title I, meaning that 40% or more of those children in the schools are on free and reduced lunch. We need to provide breakfast and lunch for free for all kids in our state.  I believe in local control, and that Detroit must have sovereignty over its own local decisions but that means we need more accountability on what Community Benefit Agreements must include which can be done on the state-level and we also must address the issue of elections in Michigan and ensure that Detroit and other communities have proper oversight to elections that would include the ability to recount them.


  • How can you leverage the office of Governor to help Detroit and how will you work with the Mayor? (combined two questions)


I think the first way to leverage the office of Governor to help Detroit is to allow Detroit to function without forced state interference first and foremost by repealing the Emergency Manager law. To be the example of transparency and openness that other offices across the state will have as an example to emulate. My plan for a Green New Deal for jobs includes removing tax breaks for big businesses and taking that money to be reinvesting it into startups by way of small grants for the average citizen in Michigan who doesn’t have the funds to start their own business to do so. Renovating our manufacturing in Michigan to be more diverse is also important to the state’s economy and Detroit’s. Giving tax credits to green energy businesses to reopen our vacant manufacturing hubs and turning them into new businesses with good union jobs for our tradespeople to be part of the economy of the future will also help the city. I would work with heads of cities across the state to ensure that these plans were followed through with openness, transparency, and locally created jobs.


  • Objective reasons of why people are poor must be more than just a speech about if you're elected. Have you had any history of having food stamps, helping with food stamps, section 8, etc and have you spoken to people on these programs who are low income?


I worked in retail banking for over a decade, and I did so during the Great Recession. I have worked with small business owners who had trouble accepting food stamps with their merchant services, and I also worked with small business owners to be able to accept them. I had customers who were on food stamps and helped them navigate their finances as best I could in order to survive. I also have friends who have been on food stamps, and I serve on the Redford Union School Board where we were recently able to provide free breakfast and lunch across our entire district because we have such a large population of children on Title I assistance. When I served as President of the Redford Jaycees, our community garden project donated 1 ton of fresh produce to our local food pantry, a project which is still ongoing and providing fresh produce to our community. I understand what it means to be food insecure, and have had to make the tough decisions myself even when I was working a full-time job during the Recession to pay a certain bill or to have food to eat.  I will continue to have open dialogue with those who are struggling, because those are the people who I am running to represent, not the wealthy corporate class.


  • Our current Governor robbed pensions and made the city poor – how can you make difference?


I do not believe Detroit’s bankruptcy was done in a legal or ethical manner, and would order an investigation into every example of Emergency Management under Rick Snyder across the state. I would reverse the bankruptcy if possible, and also work to restore those benefits that were taken. Changing our tax law to a progressive tax will also allow the state to reverse the taxing of pensions, both in a manner of revenue, and also in a manner of a form of reparations with refunds or credits given to those retirees who had taxes removed from pensions previously.


  • Question from SCLC Detroit mentioning the successes of Resurrection City – Instead of talking about what you want to do, what are you currently doing and what have you done to help poverty issues?


I fully support Resurrection City, and commend SCLC for helping people who have been living on the street. I have visited Resurrection City multiple times already, and am planning on doing a roundtable discussion with residents once the weather warms up again. I am a community activist and have been on the ground across Michigan starting when I was 19 years old working on environmental issues canvassing with Clean Water Action. I have been attending the meetings of numerous organizations across Detroit since before I ever considered being a candidate for this office, and as stated a couple questions above, I have been working to help issues of poverty in my community as well in my leadership roles in Redford.


  • If you become Governor who will spearhead and be in charge of a program for misguided youth?


I do not have any answers for who would be in charge of any programs yet. I believe in fairness and transparency, and all appointments will go through a full vetting process in manners that will be public. I do believe we need to have more supports in schools for misguided youth, and that we need to fully fund the newly required restorative practices for schools across Michigan, including fund professional development for staff around both that and in cultural proficiency.


  • Show of hands who is familiar with Dr Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund? 50 years later what has been missed in the fight to address poverty in children?


I looked up Dr Marion Wright Edelman and the work of the Children’s Defense Fund. Pulling up the policy positions of the CDF, I agree with every one of them. The first we must do is ensure all kids attending school in Michigan have access to free breakfast and lunch because you cannot teach a hungry child. I am a firm supporter of the Fight for $15, and in my school district we have introduced an Early College program including trades pathways, and would encourage every school district across the state to have such a program available. I firmly believe we must have child care access and universal health care and support the MI Child program’s continuation, and am currently working on a plan for universal health care for Michigan. I support Head Start programs and Early Childhood education, and this must be expanded across our state. Too many of our kids are starting Kindergarten behind their peers because of socio-economic issues, and that can be fixed with proper funding of those programs. I firmly believe the state must provide for literacy in public education, but that does not mean having a mandated and unfunded requirement to hold children back in 3rd grade, because that has also been shown to be detrimental to children’s education. We must, as a state, provide for curriculum directors in every district who can ensure curriculum is properly aligned K-12 in every district so all children are getting the same education in every district in every grade-level classroom. Protecting our kids from abuse and neglect is an important component of the issue of sex education. I believe we need to begin teaching consent in elementary school, so children understand their own authority over their own bodies, and ensure that counselors and social workers are prepared and trained to believe and help children when they are told of untoward behavior. I firmly believe in restorative practices and further cultural proficiency to end the school-to-prison pipeline, and that this must be funded by the state with professional development for all teachers.


  • The last Democratic Governor of Michigan wasn’t great and did things that hurt us. How will you separate yourself from Granholm? What have you done to help create jobs? How will you create jobs in Detroit?


I agree that we have had issues with Democratic and Republican Governors over my lifetime. That is one of the many reasons why I am a member of the Green Party. I have not personally created jobs but I have hired many people.  I also worked closely with small business owners for over a decade, and am aware of what needs to be done to support small businesses instead of large corporations which is what will stabilize our local and state economies. A Green New Deal for Michigan’s economy looks like this: Removal of large corporate tax breaks, moving those funds into a grant program to allow Michiganders who do not have the means to start their own businesses to do so. Creating new jobs of the future in the green energy industry. We can reopen our closed manufacturing factories with new good paying union jobs for our tradespeople to build windmills, solar panels, and put our STEM/STEAM graduates to work finding ways to harness the power of the Great Lakes for clean hydro power.


  • Emergency Management is corporate colonialism. Detroit has been taken over unfairly, assets have been given away, there have been water shutoffs, and foreclosures. The State of Michigan has done nothing for Detroit for 50 yrs. Where have you been in the fight for Detroit? How will you bring prosperity to Detroit? Will you repeal PA-436, return revenue sharing and restore pensions?


I agree that Emergency Management has been a form of colonialism, and certainly racism in our state that approximately 50% of the African-American population in Michigan has been under this disastrous law since Rick Snyder has been in office. I worked on both Stop Snyder campaigns, after the law was passed and then re-done in an unethical if not illegal manner by the state legislature, and after the Flint Water Crisis. I agree that we need to repeal PA-436, and that we need to remove taxes on pensions with a full progressive tax. I believe we need to hold a constitutional convention and re-look at the issues such as Proposal A, the Headlee Amendment, and term limits.  We have not followed Headlee in a manner that supports our local municipalities, and unfunded mandates have been harming our urban cities, especially those that lack diverse economies.  Detroit is the hub of the state, and I agree with comments made by the audience that Michigan as a state we cannot have a healthy economy if Detroit is not thriving also.


  • Poverty is a cycle. How will you fix systemic racism that attributes to further poverty?


I wish fixing systemic racism was an easy fix, but obviously it is not. First, we need a governor who understands what systemic racism is, and how this cycle actually works. The best way to break the cycle is to start with fixing public education. There has been an increase in segregation in public schools over the past two decades with the onset of charter schools and school of choice. This is both due to funding and also to inherent racism in our society as black residents move into majority white cities, many of the suburbs surrounding Detroit have also seen white flight. We need to remove school of choice, and focus instead on repairing our public school system. We need to ensure that the laws we create do not have inherent biases within them, either in language or in practice. Michigan is not a one-size-fits-all state when it comes to legislation and legislative practices, but that is what we have seen for far too long with politicians receiving bills from organizations like ALEC, barely reading them, and then making them public statute. We need to fix our criminal justice system, not just from working to end the school-to-prison pipeline, but also in the way we treat people who are incarcerated and who have been incarcerated. That includes legalizing marijuana and expunging all records of those who have been convicted of a possession crime, and releasing all who are serving time for possession. We need to remove the cash-bail system, and work on creating ways to keep non-violent offenders out of jail as often as possible by creating more probation programs tied with community service hours instead of jail time.


  • The biggest issue statewide is bought relationships. Flint paid for them. A most unique qualification is to be a table turner in order to rebuild the system. What qualifies you to be a rebel amongst your peers?


I am inherently a rebel among my peers as a Green Party candidate. I researched and created a documentary on the Flint Water Crisis and have been on the ground there since the beginning of 2016. In February of last year, I hand-delivered a 5-lb packet of information to every office of every State Senator and State Representative that included 4-key documents that show the state’s culpability in the crisis and that all involved were fully aware Flint’s Water Treatment Plant could not properly treat water as early as 2009. I then went back that following June and gave them all the costs associated with making Flint whole with an offer to write legislation with any of them. I only heard back from 11 of the 148 legislators with 4 accepting my offer to write this legislation with them. After following up with those 4 legislators, I was not granted a meeting except with one who then subsequently cancelled our meeting the day prior. I do not believe that a single current sitting legislator in Michigan should ever be elected to public office ever again. I also have had to fight local corruption that included friends and peers of mine in Redford over an attempted hostile annexation of my school district. I will always put my elected duties over friendships.  I believe the best way to fight corruption and to be a table turner of the system is to be open and transparent with the people, and to fight alongside the people, not by trying to co-opt local movements, but to join them and listen to them.


  • What will you do about the nepotism/cronyism in Detroit?


Fighting nepotism and cronyism in Detroit is certainly a tough task, but it starts first with transparency and then with free and fair elections. The fact that Detroit’s recent Clerk election was unable to be recounted and that there continue to be questions of accountability even with new machines is a huge problem. The best way to stop nepotism and cronyism is by voting those people who perpetuate those issues out of office, and I have also been working to build up the Green Party in Detroit so there is another option from the current status quo in the city. If you or anyone you know is interested in running for office, please contact my campaign.


  • Why should you vote Abdul over Shri? Will 2 progressives in the race split the vote?


Having multiple “progressives” in a race is a strategy of the Democratic Party to split the vote for the establishment. I do not believe anyone associated with the Democratic Party can be a true progressive when the party itself is not, and is still beholden to corporate donors. I am confident in securing the Green Party’s nomination for Governor, and will be on the ballot in the General Election to be the progressive choice. I am also recruiting candidates across the state to run for State House and Senate, and we will be running as a team as soon as possible. What we can do in Michigan is change the face of Michigan politics, by creating a super-minority of Greens in office and with a Green as the head of state we will remove the ability for either the Democrats or Republicans to have a majority to transform how our state works.


  • They have heard the same things from candidates a million times, but once they’re in office, they don’t do anything. How can you say your limited experience qualifies you to be in charge of our state? There have been three past Governors who have cleaned Detroit out. How can you say you know how the city and state run?


I have been involved in Michigan politics since I was 19 years old. I canvassed for Clean Water Action for three years, and fell into banking for over a decade afterwards. I have served in numerous civic leadership roles within the Redford Jaycees and the Michigan Junior Chamber and in Redford Township. I have worked on numerous political campaigns including local assessments for our library and our first responders. I currently serve on my local school board finishing up a 6-year term with the past three years as its president, and am proud to say that the issues I ran on I have delivered for my community by working with them and my board. I have my degree in Political Science Public Affairs from Wayne State University. I have also worked elections for over a decade. I believe my background makes me uniquely qualified for this office more than anyone else in this race.


  • Older adults in Detroit are having issues of choosing between medicine and food, what will you do to help?


This is a moral problem in our country and our state. We should not have anyone having issues of choosing between medicine vs food. I think that as a state, to begin with, we can negotiate with Canada to find ways to get cheaper medicine for our residents. We are so close to Windsor here in Detroit and have other border crossings that we can set up exchanges to ensure our residents have access to cheaper medicine. The state also needs to be supplementing more for food stamps for residents, as I believe the current poverty line is not accurate with today’s cost-of-living, and needs to be adjusted to include those who fall under the class of working poor. We also need to fix the right-to-farm act and allow more Michiganders to grow their own food not less.


  • How are you going to bridge the literacy gap between 3rd graders in underprivileged communities?


The answer to all of these questions on education comes back to one thing, funding. This includes for curriculum and professional development for teachers to understand both how to use curriculum that will fix this literacy gap, but also in how to properly teach children today instead of using the broken methods of teaching with a lecturer in the front of a classroom for a full class period. We need to be engaging kids in the classroom and that means removing the model of teachers as lecturers and ensure that we are providing the tools for the social needs of children as well. 


  • Can we have a small business/entrepreneurial incubator helping small business through steps and teach kids how to be their own boss?


Absolutely. It is so important to teach life skills to our kids. We need to support classes in life-skills for high schoolers and encourage STEM and STEAM classes to prepare them for jobs of the future. On top of that we need more Early College opportunities and encourage schools to partner with local businesses to bring community supports and opportunities to public school districts.


  • In 1997 Engler closed mental health facilities – what will you do to restore those facilities that were closed? In the past year Detroit has lost 8 officers in the line of duty and already 1 this year. How will you protect police officers and their communities both?


Two very important questions. We must give funding to re-open mental health facilities which is something that can come from revenue from marijuana legalization, be part of a universal healthcare plan, and/or from further revenue from a progressive tax plan and removing tax breaks for big businesses. This is important because we need to stop shipping those who are mentally ill to prisons because they are not equipped to handle mental illness and we have other issues in our prison systems when it comes to treatment of our prisoners. My brother is a police officer, I have friends who are police officers, and I worked on my local special assessment campaign to fund our local police and fire departments a few years ago. It is important that we support our first responders while also not separating that we can both support the issue of ending police brutality while supporting our officers at the same time. We need to address the issue of gun violence and how we handle violent crimes, we need to ensure that our officers are equipped and trained in deescalation techniques, and that they are more involved in their communities with community policing. The more an officer knows the community they police the safer the officer and the community are. We also need to fund neighborhood watch programs and give local police departments the resources they need to create these programs. One of the biggest killers of police officers are car accidents, and we need to work with police departments to find alternatives to car chases and ensure that we have top-technology safety features in police cars for these instances of accidents to save lives.


  • The rate of poverty in children in Detroit is 35%, and 50% of the entire city. How do you cut that percentage in half today?


The first way is to ensure that everyone has access to safe housing, by working with the land bank to put people in homes instead of their current priorities of selling large blocks of homes to investors instead of individual families.  Renters who have landlords that are being foreclosed on must be able to have the first ability to purchase the home they currently live in.  We also need to invest in education and ensure all children have access to food at school for both breakfast and lunch, as well as expanding our food stamp program state-wide. We lastly need to ensure we have grants available for Michiganders who wish to start their own businesses be able to do so, and provide job training opportunities alongside locally owned small businesses to create more good paying jobs.


  • If it is too costly to reopen large mental health institutions, what plans do you have to increase inpatient stay for mental health patients? There is currently no mechanism to assess how the medications work, if they will continue to have access to them, no follow up, etc. How will you be proactive for mental health?


It would be costly to reopen large run-down buildings, but there are other ways to fund mental health institutions in a larger yet smaller scale, with buildings that may be city-owned that need tenants that can be leased to the state on a short-term basis while we figure out the funding for larger scale buildings. We need to form a coalition of mental health experts in the state to come together and come up with both a short-term and a long-term plan of how to provide for those who slip through the cracks. First, by expanding state funding for mental health care, and second by solving the long-term issue of how to provide for permanent funding for health care in Michigan, and enshrining it into legislation or our state constitution so we never have this issue again in the future.


  • How can childcare be provided so it’s affordable for parents and also be high quality with positive long-term effects on kids?


We can empower local schools to provide childcare alongside head start programs. By allowing local schools to house these programs and create funding specifically for early education programs, we can ensure these programs are quality by putting them in the hands of teaching professionals who are trained in early childhood education. We need to encourage businesses to help their employees manage work/life balance by providing tax breaks for those who provide childcare benefits for their employees. We also need to ensure there are the right regulations and state checks and balances for private childcare providers to ensure that the programs and facilities are up to par and are properly taking care of our children.


  • Detroiters have spent billions for kids in schools. Will you ask for an audit of DPS?


I would support a full audit of DPS, including prior emergency management’s handling of the district. I certainly understand why Detroiters are wary of what happened to the bond funds that were the cause of EM control under Jennifer Granholm and the continued questions of management under Rick Snyder. I would first ask for a review of the annual audits that have been done, ensure that process is transparent, and then look deeper into the issues that are shown (or in some cases seem to not be shown) in those audits also with full transparency.


  • Are you aware there is a Hepatitis A outbreak due to water shutoffs? There are mothers who are afraid of the health dept because they are afraid their kids will be taken away if they call. 50% of citizens in Detroit live in poverty, there have been over 33k foreclosures in the city, along with this water crisis. There are 20th century models in suburbs yet city schools are stuck in the 19th.  What will you do for public schools?


Yes, I am aware there is a Hepatitis A outbreak and that this disease is a waterborne one that likely has ties to the issue of water shutoffs on the GLWA system. This is also tied to the issue of paid leave, and we must ensure all workers in Michigan have the ability to take time off of work if they are ill with pay in order to stop the spread of communicable diseases. Access to water is a human right and is also a public health issue, it should never be acceptable to cut anyone’s access to water off for any reason, and we need additional help to be given to those who struggle with water bills. The reason why we have water and sewer systems is because of public health, and that must always be top of mind when creating policies around water and sewer infrastructure. My local school district was just finally able to get technology in our classrooms due to grant funds that we hired a company to help us get. We still do not have enough for every student, but have enough for a couple carts of handheld computers for each building. Our students have been disadvantaged due to their socioeconomic status and the problems of inequitable school funding in Michigan. We must fund technology supports for every district in Michigan. Allowing any child to not have access to technology in schools is detrimental to our economy, as you cannot even have a job as a cashier in today’s world without knowing how to use a touchscreen machine or run a computerized cash register. Any school in Michigan that does not have access to technology must immediately be given access, and the state can purchase this technology in bulk to provide for our districts at a much lower cost than individual districts can on their own. We must also ensure that as we fix our road infrastructure that we also include technology infrastructure to ensure that all communities across the state can be connected to internet access because children, families, and small businesses also need that access to be successful in today’s and in future economies.


  • The money given to schools in Birmingham vs others etc is part of the problem with the achievement gap. What will you do to solve these problems and the achievement gap?


I believe we need a new constitutional convention in our state to fix the issues with Proposal A, the Headlee Amendment, and the issue of term limits. We must properly fund our schools equitably, including funding school infrastructure, technology, and curriculum. We can fix the achievement gap by ensuring all schools have the proper tools to have their kids be successful, including funding professional development for teachers, curriculum, curriculum directors, and professional development around restorative practices and cultural proficiency.


  • Our country and the city is built on corruption. How will you promote unity to fix the heart of the city?


I am running on the issues, and I am running as a candidate who is for the people and funded only by the people, in a party that is only for the people and only funded by the people. I cannot do any of the things that need to be done to fix our state without the support you. We can all work together, we all have the same goals to make our state a better place, we just need someone with integrity, vision, the knowledge, and the imagination to make sure we can achieve all of this together. I encourage everyone to look at the Green Party’s platform, what we stand for, our Ten Key Values, and help me recruit more like-minded people for office who will run with me to change the face of Michigan politics, become a super-minority in our state legislature, and to save our state from the corporate duopoly that may give good face, but represent the 1% not all of us.




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