Oct. 5 2015 07:09 AM

Washington answers City Pulse general election questions

For the general election, City Pulse asked all the candidates to answer a series of general questions. In Ward races, candidates were asked to answer Ward specific questions and concerns. Here are the responses from Jody Washington, candidate for the First Ward:

Public Safety:

1. Lansing is in the midst of a "surge" or "epidemic" of heroin related overdoses and

deaths. How should the city address the increase in heroin use in the city?

We must provide our police with all the staff and tools needed to perform their jobs and

address these issues. The crime in our city, including prostitution, break-ins, murders and

assaults, can very often be connected to the ongoing drug issues in our community.

We must also ensure that we are partnering with other agencies to ensure that prescription

drugs that can lead to heroin addiction are not being over-prescribed.

Further, we are in an era when we are losing more funds for mental health and community

health. We have to fight for funding for programing and assistance for individuals who are

needing and seeking treatment — without them fearing retribution.

2. Chief Yankowski, with support from the Mayor and the Prosecutor, has announced

an immunity of sorts for heroin addicts seeking treatment. Do you support this? Why or

why not?

I absolutely support immunity for heroin addicts seeking treatment. If an individual in crisis

is seeking assistance, every measure should be taken to support the individual and find

appropriate resources to help them.

3. If elected to council what will you do to address the burgeoning heroin crisis?

I have and will continue to work with my constituents and subject experts to address drug

dealers, human traffickers, and others that are profiting from the heroin crisis. We have made

strides in this area on the east side of our city. I will also continue to work with these same

people and city officials to address the increasing need for services for addicted individuals.

4. Ingham County has one of the highest HIV rates in Michigan, however, despite the

surge in heroin overdoses, there is no needle exchange program. Does Lansing need a

needle exchange program and if elected are you willing to revisit paraphernalia laws in

order to prevent those providing clean needles from being charged with a crime? Why

or why not?

I would absolutely support a needle exchange program -- anything that can save lives and

keep people healthy. If revisiting the paraphernalia laws to keep people from being charged

with a crime by providing clean needles needs to happen, I would be in support. Having

people use unclean needles does not keep people from using heroin.


1. Over 30 percent of Lansing's housing stock are rentals. Is this too much, too little or

just the right mix of rental properties? Why?

I don’t think over 30 percent of rentals is too much. I am not opposed to rentals. Many

people either cannot or choose not be homeowners. I rented most of my life. Most renters

are very responsible citizens, and some go on to buy a home in our city.

2. Landlords continue to report significant lag times between paying for and obtaining

inspections on rental properties. How should Council address this problem?

This issue needs to be immediately addressed. We need to increase funding for Code

Compliance. With a third of our housing stock being rentals and the age of our housing

stock, we need to have a department that is strong and able to stay on top of the issues. We

need to have inspections done in a timely manner to ensure the safety of the individuals that

are renting those properties.

3. Landlord's are currently allowed to send a letter to code compliance acknowledging

having fixed identified violations. Do you support this action? Why or why not?

I absolutely do not support a letter acknowledging violations have been corrected is

appropriate. We need to have professionals actually seeing that the violations have been

taken care of. If we accept a letter, there is no guarantee that the violations were truly

corrected. We have heard the argument that some violations are so minor that it is not worth

the time to go out and re-inspect. A non-working smoke alarm may seem minor to some, but

I view it as a very serious issue for the individuals living in the home.


1. Lansing roads are in significant disrepair. The state is unlikely to increase revenue

sharing -- which has been declining for a decade. How you propose fixing Lansing's


I think this issue needs to be a community discussion. There are options that would include

putting a millage for only fixing roads on the ballot, bonding for road work, or re-prioritizing

areas in the city budget to fund road repair. We need to determine which roads are the worst.

Social issues:

1. Do you support marijuana legalization?

I haven’t smoked marijuana in decades, but I don’t much care if other people do. I don’t

think we will be having this discussion in another 10-20 years, as it will most likely be legal

across the nation.

2. Lansing has a comprehensive human rights ordinance. Is that law working, or is it

broken? If it is working, please explain why you believe that. If you believe it is broken

please explain how and how you would fix the problem.

Many, many people have worked on the human rights ordinance, and I’m proud of my work

in support of the LGBT community. I don’t necessarily think the ordinance is broken, as

much as there is a lack of information given to the public. A committee consisting of council

members and members of the community has been working to tweak the ordinance, but

mostly has been working to ensure that the message is distributed to the public. The

committee, along with Dr. Joan Jackson Johnson, has created a pamphlet describing the

ordinance along with how to file a complaint. The information will be put online and people

in different agencies will be educated on how to assist individuals to report human rights


3. Do you support a woman's right to choose?

I don’t anticipate abortion issues coming up at City Council. I made a personal choice many

years ago to side with life, and I have a beautiful 36-year-old daughter to show for it.

However, I would not impinge upon another woman’s choice to make a difference choice. I

believe this would be a difficult decision for any woman to make. Abortion is legal;

therefore, women have the right to choose. I don’t think morality can or should be legislated.

General questions:

1 Name the three largest issues facing the city (for at large candidates) or the ward.

1) Public safety is the top priority of city government, and it’s my top priority on City

Council. I’ve been endorsed by our local police and firefighters because I’m working

shoulder-to-shoulder with public safety officers and neighborhood watch groups to make

our streets safer for our children, grandchildren and seniors.

2) The conditions of our roads and public infrastructure is also a high priority. We must find

solutions to improve our roads if we’re to attract more jobs and investment in our city.

3) Economic development is critically important. I’m working closely with business, labor

and civic leaders to forge strong partnerships and attract new investments in the First

Ward. There is a lot of new development happening throughout the First Ward, and I’m

proud to have worked with all parties to make things happen on our side of town.

2. What are the three most significant things that have happened in the city or Ward

in the past four years.

1) The most significant thing that has happened in the 1st Ward is collaboration. When I

was elected to council, the 1st ward was fractured. In the four years I have been on

council, many bridges have been made and collaboration is at an all-time high.

I have built meaningful relationships and I meet regularly with developers, economic

development leaders and businesses, to help facilitate greater understanding between the

business community and neighborhood groups.

I hold a monthly meeting with the Director of the Allen Neighborhood Center, the

President of the Eastside Neighborhood Organization, two of the Ingham County

Commissioners that represent our ward, and House Representative Andy Schor. Many of

these folks, including Rep. Schor and all of my ward’s county commissioners, support my

re-election because they know I am tackling issues affecting our ward from the

neighborhood level, all the way to the state level.

2) $340 million dollars of investment in the First Ward is significant and exciting. The

Red Cedar project, the Sky View Project, the Ball Park project, the Market Place project,

the opening and expansion of many small businesses on the avenue, along with the new

“Under the Bridge” project are all exciting ventures that have happened within the past

four years.

3) Rounding out my list are the many issues surrounding the Board of Water and Light.

This is an ongoing discussion that requires extensive community input. I’ve made it no

secret that I don’t support privatizing the BWL, as that will hurt ratepayers and taxpayers.

3. What are the qualities of your opponent you most admire?

She seems like a nice woman. She’s lived in the City of Lansing for less than one year and hasn’t

really been involved locally, so I don’t know much else about her. I know is she works for a for-

profit cyber-school corporation called K-12 Inc., which works to siphon funds from our local

schools for the benefit of corporate investors. However, that doesn’t make her a bad person —

we just have a philosophical disagreement on the value of public education and the need to

strengthen our local schools.

Specific to the Ward and your Race:

1. FEMA has asked cities and localities to prevent buildings in flood plains. THe Urbandale

plan calls for clearing some of the area at the south end of the neighborhood bordered by

Aurelius to the west, Kalamazoo to the North, the city boundary on the east and 496 to the

South. Despite this plan, which has been in the works for years, very few properties have

been purchased. Do you support relocating people from the flood plain and demolishing

that housing stock? Why or why not?

I support relocating people from the flood plain and demolishing the housing stock or making the

homes safe for a flood plain. Unfortunately, the city does not have the resources at this time to

purchase homes or to provide funds to homeowners to make their homes flood safe. This will

need to be an ongoing issue and alternative funding should be sought.

For Jody Washington: Much has been made of the fact your son, Adam Hussain, is seeking

the Third Ward seat. There have been many questions about the creation of a family

dynasty and whether blood ties will run deeper than the interests of each ward. How do you

respond to those concerns?

That’s been an obsession of political insiders, but when I talk to people at the doors, they’re more

concerned about the safety of their neighborhoods, the conditions or their roads and the

deteriorating conditions of our housing stock. They care about who’s going to stand up for their

neighborhoods, not who’s related to whom. I’m very proud of my record serving First Ward

residents, and they know that I will fiercely compete for our share of finite city resources — even

if I have to compete with a potential Councilman Hussain.