8 face off in Pontiac mayoral primary
Pontiac — Eight candidates, including Mayor Deirdre Waterman, are running in the Aug. 8 primary for the right to face off this fall for Pontiac’s top elected post and 11 hopefuls, including two incumbents, are competing for three city council seats.
The top two vote-getters in both the mayoral and the council races will face off in the November general election to see who will take office for the next four years.
Waterman has been mayor since 2014. In an open letter to city residents, she said she deserves another term.
“Pontiac is cleaner, safer, more financially sound and respected as a city and we have progressively freed ourselves from state oversight since I took office in 2014,” Waterman said.
Just a few years ago, Pontiac was bleeding red ink and had a succession of state-appointed emergency managers who laid off city employees and sold off tax-draining, city-owned properties, including the Pontiac Silverdome.
Under her administration, Waterman said, the city has a $15 million budget surplus and “virtually no operating debt.” The city has welcomed new businesses and jobs and $840 million in economic development in the past three years, the mayor said.
A blight elimination campaign has bulldozed more than 700 dilapidated houses, helping to reduce arsons and related crime and raising property values 10 percent in the past two years.
Her challengers, including three former council members, say they could do an even better job and their priorities range from helping to create a more attractive business climate to establishing a gun buyback program to clean up neighborhoods.
“Part of my plan is to market our city to industry and business professionals in a way that invites them to start or relocate to our city,” Bowman said. “This will increase jobs, tax revenue, tax revenue for our schools, as well as growth in city services.”Kone Bowman, a small business owner and former city councilman, is a member of the city’s General Retirement system board and a board member with Lighthouse of Oakland County. He feels one of the biggest problems facing Pontiac is the lack of revenue.
Councilman Mark E. Holland, who has nearly 18 years experience in banking, is an associate minister and on the board of directors for the city’s Tax Increment Finance Authority. Holland, who did not respond to interview requests for this article, has served on various committees and organizations, and is the nephew of the late Mayor Wallace Holland.
Craig Jefferson, who has college degrees in public administration, said Pontiac’s biggest challenges include “financial stability, responsibility and transparency in city government.” He would like to appoint a new business development team headed by an economic development director.
Jefferson wants to hold finance sessions for first-time homebuyers and set up an advisory group to retain and encourage small businesses. He sees “a lack of neighborhood pride, unity, and city beautification in Pontiac.”
“I will work to make Pontiac more beautiful, enjoyable and a more functional place to live and work,” Jefferson said. “I will work to create a more pleasant community appearance that will add to home values, help attract business investment, and improve neighborhood reputations.”
Jefferson said other priorities include organizing residents to plant trees and flowers on vacant lots and in parks, and to use volunteers to clean up trash and debris in alleys, parks and empty lots.
Alfred Patrick said he wants to be a “driving force in creating a new Pontiac renaissance.” He has 20 years’ experience in community organizations and as a board member with several groups, including Oakland County Workforce Development and the Pontiac Advisory Council. He is the senior deputy director of community relations for the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency.
Rosie Lance Richardson, chairwoman of the Pontiac Public Library board of trustees and an educator in the Pontiac school district, supports millages for youth services and senior citizens and would like to improve SMART transportation services.
Richardson, who has served on numerous committees and civic organizations, also is interested in resolving issues concerning the Phoenix Center, a downtown parking structure that some have proposed demolishing.
“We should not be known for Family Dollars, used car lots, liquor stores and unfinished business properties,” Richardson said.
Alexandria T. Riley, owner of a Pontiac-based construction and real estate development company, has served on the Pontiac Regional Chamber of Commerce and as vice president of the Pontiac Housing Commission. She wants to rebuild Pontiac, which she said “must have a fiscal plan that can be reconciled on all levels of government.”
Riley said she helped the housing commission overcome financial problems, avoid a federal takeover government and prevent the loss of millions of dollars in annual housing assistance for Pontiac residents.
“Since then, the agency has moved from being on HUD’s Troubled Housing Agency List, has balanced its books, eliminated its debt, opened up its Section 8 waiting list to new residents, and properties owned by the commission are seeing upgrades and renovations,” she said.
Kerry Tolbert, a Pontiac school board member, would like to see “community centers open, the streets repaired and empowering citizens by making classes available that speak to their most pressing needs.”
Tolbert would make removing illegal guns off city streets a priority and proposes a buyback program in which citizens would receive $100 for each firearm turned in — no questions asked.
The city council races are for four-year terms in three districts.
In the city’s 1st District, incumbent Patrice Waterman is being challenged by Robert L. Bass, Janiece Gage, Chris Jackson and Mark A. Seay.
In the 4th District, incumbent Randy Carter is being challenged by Ashleigh Altemann and Sherman Williams II.
In the 5th District, voters will choose from among Linda Kay Hasson, Gloria Miller and Joseph C. Sinclair to be the two candidates who will compete in November to replace Holland, who is running for mayor.