Bill Cobbs’ background includes working as an executive at Xerox and a stint in the Navy to help pay for getting his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan. He also worked as a police officer while attending Wayne State University Law School. Now he’s running for governor because he says it’s time to “get Michigan back on track.” But Cobbs will be running as a write-in candidate.
The interview was recorded on Thursday. Monday morning, Cobbs’ campaign manager said that a problem had been discovered with the petition signatures collected to get on the ballot. The deadline to file petitions for the August primary ballot is Tuesday afternoon. Cobbs now plans to run a write-in campaign for governor.
Cobbs calls education the primary gateway to social mobility, and he says it’s the government’s responsibility to provide education. Cobbs says public education has been under attack. He says the “privatization of education” primarily through charter schools has not worked. Cobbs says he would like to return vocational training to every high school. He says there should be a pathway to a good life for students who don’t want to go to college.
Governor Snyder has called for boosting skilled trades. Cobbs calls it a “good idea,” but he says it’s important to get programs going in high school, rather than wait for community college. Cobbs says the cost of community college can prevent students from pursuing a trade. He says unions can only train only so many people.
Cobbs admits his proposal for a $60-billion infrastructure plan over the next 25-30 years is “aggressive.” But he says if the state doesn’t act soon, the price will only go up. Cobbs says while everyone knows the state’s roads are horrible, the water contamination crisis in Flint is “the canary in the coal mine.” Cobbs says it shows what happens when infrastructure is not addressed for decades. He proposes a 30 year municipal bond. But Cobbs says, he would hope to pay for it in part by changing Michigan’s tax policy. Cobbs says the state should have a graduated income tax. He says people making less than $200,000 now would not see any change in the current 4.25% state income tax rate. Cobbs says the top rate would be 10%, but he says it would only apply to people making $600,000 or more a year.
Changing the state’s income tax would require a constitutional amendment, but Cobbs says if the state doesn’t do anything it’s headed to a fiscal crisis that could require cutting essential services.
Asked about Governor Rick Snyder’s decision to end free bottled water for Flint residents, Cobbs says that would not happen if he were governor. Cobbs says he is disturbed that Snyder has not tapped the state’s rainy day fund to address the water crisis in Flint. “If Flint isn’t a rainy day, whatever will be in this state.” Cobbs says regardless of the results of tests on the water, people in Flint were betrayed, and state government needs to earn their trust again.
Cobbs says as a former police officer and gun owner he thinks the second amendment has been turned upside down. He says it’s not meant to remove all regulation on firearms, nor for people to have military grade weapons. Cobbs says there should be a balance between the right of gun ownership and the safety of the community.
While polling and some special election results have shown good signs for Democrats heading into 2018, Cobbs calls it frustrating that there seem to be fractures in the Democratic Party. He says there is plenty of room in the party’s tent. Cobbs says the party’s ultimate goal is to create public policy that’s in the best interest of all citizens.
Asked about the endorsement convention that resulted in women being backed for Attorney General and Secretary of State, Cobbs says voters should not get bogged down in gender, race or ideological politics. He says it only provides for more division. “And clearly the man in Washington (President Trump) is doing enough dividing.”
While he may not have the name recognition of other candidates, Cobbs says he’s been willing to meet citizens all over Michigan. Cobbs says he plans to continue being “a road warrior.” He says people throughout the state have to have a voice, and Cobbs says it’s important for him to understand what that voice is saying.
Discussion of other issues can be heard in the extended web version of the interview.
Cobbs calls himself one of few candidates in the race who has belonged to a labor union. He was a union member during his time as a Detroit police officer and while working in an auto plant while a teen ager. Cobbs calls unions the engine that drives the economy. He says while employment is at an all-time high, wages are not keeping pace.
While Cobbs says he supports the fight for a 15-dollar an hour minimum wage, he wants to phase it in gradually. Cobbs says the state should supplement the minimum wage through its welfare to work program.
Cobbs calls the Medicaid work requirements approved by the state Senate “a draconian approach” to containing costs. He says the state should be fiscally responsible, but people need to be first.
Cobbs calls tax breaks to businesses “corporate welfare.” He says large tax cuts given to businesses have to be made up through taxes or fee increases on citizens. Cobbs says Michigan should be a destination because of the Great Lakes. But he says that is at risk because of actions such as allowing Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 to continue to operate under the Straits of Mackinac and Nestle being allowed to increase groundwater withdrawals.
Cobbs says the privatization of mental health has left the state without mental health hospitals. He says that means too many people end up dealing with mental health issues through the criminal justice system.
If not for a heart transplant in 2011, Cobbs would not be alive, much less running for governor. He says accurate information about organ donation is needed. Cobbs says the transplant gave him the opportunity to see his children graduate from college and the birth of his first grandchild. Cobbs says he encourages everyone to consider organ donation, rather than “wasting tissues that could be used effectively to save lives.”