Equality and Enforcement Looms Large at candidate Forum

By LaDon G. McNeil

Marriage equality and police enforcement in Flint proved to be hot topics at the 34th District Candidate forum at the Flint Public Library on Tues., June 24th. The forum was sponsored by the Flint NAACP, and co-sponsored by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the Concerned Pastors for Social Action and the League of Women Voters. Dr. Karen Williams-Weaver served as moderator. The forum gave all 34th District candidates an opportunity to share their views on pre-selected  topics and questions from the audience. Candidate Bruce Rogers did not attend the forum.

Those candidates present were: Jeff Bean, Flint teacher; Donna Calvin, Community Activist; David L. Davenport, Community Activist; Eric Mays, First Ward City Councilman; Nathan R. Moorish, EMT; Quincy Murphy, Community Activist; Sheldon Neely, Sixth Ward Flint City Councilman; and Omar A. Sims, Genesee County Commissioner.

The forum covered many topics such as public school/charter schools, post secondary education, increasing the minimum wage, and voting rights.  However, the overarching conversation appeared to center around marriage equality in Michigan and police enforcement in Flint.

In 2004 Michigan voters approved a ban on same-sex marriages in Michigan. Since that time, the issue has been challenged. Legislators have now moved to introducing legislation that would allow same sex marriage in Michigan and acknowledgment of same-sex marriages from other states.

Candidates were asked to offer their opinion on the issue of same sex marriage and how would they address the issue in Lansing:

Bean: “There should be a separation of church and state and that Civil Law shouldn’t interfere with what a church choices to do or not to do. So,if a church chooses not to marry couples, they should not be forced to. If a church chooses to marry gay couples the state should not be allowed to get in the way.”

Calvin: “I don’t really have an opinion on that. That is for God to judge. The constitution says marriage is between a man and a woman. I wouldn’t support it if it says that it is marriage because marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman.”

Davenport:” The bottom line is if you pay taxes you should be able to follow the law whether you choose to marry a man or woman. As for me and my house, we will serve The Lord. .”

Mays: “I am a Christian, I believe in the Bible. I am going to stick with what the Bible says, when I vote, I am going to vote my conscience. You might be surprised how I vote.

Morrish: “ I 100% support marriage equality. My partner and I of 14 years both have children that we have raised and they have two dads. The way to address it in Lansing is to tell the governor and attorney general to quit wasting the tax payers money.

Murphy: “This is a hot one for me, I was molested when I was little. I was called gay. If it’s with a man or woman that’s their choice. I believe in civil rights. I believe it is their right to do whatever they choose to do.”

Neely: “I have no problem with people choosing who they love and want to marry. I am a faithful man of God. I would not judge a person for who they love. I would support the legislation in Lansing to allow people to be with who they love.”

Sims: “In 2006, the people of this state voted on that issue. I am happily married to my wife, Donyale, that’s my choice. I strongly support a man and a woman because that’s the Bible way and that is my teaching. That is not going to change when I get to Lansing.”

Another issue discussed was the state police presence in Flint. In 2010, the City of Flint requested of then-Governor Jennifer  Granholm  for an increased police presence in the city. At that point, Michigan State Police tripled its patrols within the city during peak crime times in high crime areas. Four years later, the State Police presence remains. Candidates were asked if they were in favor of continuing to use state troopers in Michigan municipalities or would they prefer to find funding for local police officers?

Bean: “A police officer is much like an educator, relationships developed will create the quality of the product. We need to increase our numbers of local police to increase the number of relationships.

Calvin: “Finding funding for the police officers would make the difference. Crimes committed are mostly murders. You have to have investigations to solve murders. We need funding to investigate.”

Davenport: “We need our local city police. I think we should find funding for a mentor grant. Retired police officers could ride with officers which would give us more protection.”

Mays: “I don’t mind the state police being in Flint as long as they are doing things properly, but they have been doing things unconstitutional, such as profiling and stopping individuals walking. The proper way is with detectives and undercover officers.

Morrish: “Since 9/11, our country has taken the stance that we have zero tolerance on terrorism. The crime in Flint in my eyes is a form of terrorism.  I am for having the state police here in a harmonious working relationship. We need to put a stop to crime. I think with the state, county and local police working together we can do it.”

Murphy: “I don’t believe in racial profiling. I believe and many believe that the state police officers are pro-filing African Americans. I prefer a millage to hire people instead of more police officers.”

Neely: “I prefer local police officers and local municipalities as lead agency for law enforcement. We need the support of the county sheriff and state police to help reduce crime in our local municipalities.”

Sims: “I was a victim [of racial profiling] three years ago while on my way to a neighborhood meeting. I support the state troopers, but we need them to know the difference between Avenue A and Atherton. I am in favor of providing funding for local police officers. The officers should live in the city of Flint. It is not helping our tax base when they take money back to Clarkston or wherever they live.”

The 34th District seat, currently held by Representative Woodrow Stanley, is 91% democratic seat. Stanley, after serving three terms in the seat, is term limited and may not run for the seat again. Councilman Mays emphasized absentee voting and encouraged attendees to vote.

The primary election is on Tues., Aug. 5th and the general election is on Tues., Nov. 4th. The deadline for unregistered voters to register to vote in the August 5th primary is July 7th. Check with your local clerk or for polling place information.  As always, have a blessed week and remember only what you do for Christ will last.