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Jabs fly at Flint mayoral race forum

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Flint’s four mayoral candidates swapped ideas, personal stories and a few jabs at a candidate forum last night.

Much of evening focused on Flint’s problem-plagued water system and the recently ended state oversight. 

Dayne Walling has been Flint’s mayor for the past six years. He defended his record and said now is the time to look forward.

“The recession is behind us. The (budget) deficits are behind us. The emergency manager is behind us,” Walling told the overflow crowd, “but there are serious issues and critical issues that continue to face this community.”

But the other candidates were not so quick to put the past behind.

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Businesswoman Karen Weaver attacked Mayor Walling for not addressing "the bad" during his administration.

City Councilman Eric Mays took Walling to task for the role he’s played as Flint fell under state oversight in 2011 and the decisions made since. A major decision was switching the city’s drinking water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River.

“It was some politicians that went along to get along and Dayne you were one of them,” Mays said, pointing out that Walling threw the ceremonial switch. 

Businesswoman Karen Weaver also criticized the mayor for only talking about the “good” during his tenure, but not directly addressing the “bad.”

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
City Councilman Wantwaz Davis says the city should do more to help the poor and people with felony convictions find jobs. Davis himself has served time for a homicide in 1991.

“We didn’t hear one of the main issues or concerns we all have … and that’s how’d we get in this mess?” Weaver said at the end of the two-hour forum at the city’s main library.

There was a great deal of talk during the forum about how economic development efforts in the city seem to focus mainly on downtown. Mays, Weaver and City Councilman Wantwas Davis say not enough has been done for Flint’s north, south, east and west neighborhoods.

Davis spoke not only about the need to provide jobs, but to find ways to help Flint residents who’ve done time in prison.

Davis himself served about two decades in prison for killing a man. He claims the man has assaulted his mother. 

Davis told the audience his life story and where he has taken his life should be an inspiration. 

“God has purposed me to be a leader in this community. I believe that in my heart,” said Davis.  

In two months, Flint voters will narrow the field of candidates from four to two. The top two vote-getters will face off in the November general election.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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