Detroit’s mayoral candidates were quick to express their opinions on Detroit’s impending emergency financial manager (EFM) after an announcement last week gave Gov. Rick Snyder the green light to appoint an EFM to Detroit.
Mayoral contenders, former DMC CEO Mike Duggan, Wayne Country Sherriff Benny Napoleon, and Lisa Howze, found various ways to sound off on the topic.
While Duggan and Howze are still fighting the idea of an EFM for Detroit, Napoleon has said it’s time for Detroit to accept the fact that an EFM is on the way.
Napoleon posted on his campaign’s Facebook page:
“The winds have changed. Let's partner with the Emergency Financial Manager (likely to be appointed) to swiftly address the city's finances, improve city services and then focus on a strong Detroit future with local elected leadership. As a partner in repairing city government and setting our future, we have a voice.”
So far, Napoleon is the only candidate who has retired his fighting words about the looming EFM.
Howze said in a recorded statement last week:
“I beg to differ with this public perception that only option for the City of Detroit is an emergency financial manager. What we need is strong senior and middle level management in areas of human resources, finance, and legal. Where the State can partner with us is in passing legislation that will allow Detroit to better collect its income tax revenue through withholding.”
Duggan took the fight to an op-ed, published in the Detroit Free Press.
In the piece he blasts Detroit Public Schools emergency management, calling it an example of failure.
“Turnarounds demand exceptional management talent. Without that talent, the greatest strategies in the world are just documents on a shelf."
He then he dissed the future EFM team, whoever that may be:
“What successful executive is going to make a career change to join a city of Detroit emergency manager with an expected tenure of 6-18 months?
While Duggan, Howze and Napoleon all have their opinions, they hold little sway with the state. Even current Mayor Dave Bing has declared any decision on a Detroit EFM on out of his control.
Does that mean that we should all keep quiet and leave the financial fate of the city in the Governor’s hands?
Not necessarily. But the real battle against an EFM was, in a way, already fought. Last year when voters rejected the emergency manager law, Public Act 4, it was thought to have been won. But a month later, the state passed a new, very similar law, PA436.
The silver lining to PA436 is that the governor can’t just snap his fingers and appoint an EM. The city would have a chance to opt out—they could offer up a restructuring plan of their own, ask for another consent agreement, file for chapter 9 bankrupty, or get a mediator involved. Another notable difference is that PA436 is referendum-proof, meaning it's protected from ever going to public vote.
Here’s the catch: PA436 doesn’t kick in until late March. Currently, the state is operating under Public Act 72, the earliest EFM legislation passed in 1990. If Snyder acts before March 27, the city would be grandfathered into PA72, where the city cannot, in a sense, pick their poison.
So, should Detroit opponents of EFMs accept their fate, or keep on fighting what seems like the inevitable?
The New Year has barely kicked off but Detroit mayoral candidates are wasting no time getting straight to the politicking. Wayne County Sherriff Benny Napoleon and former DMC CEO Mike Duggan, both gearing up for a 2013 run, traded barbs this week over a very trivial issue: whether the city’s affluent Palmer Woods neighborhood was really “Detroit”.
What’s worse, political enthusiasts and social media armchair critics are eating it up. Long, rambling comment threads litter the web over whether Palmer Woods should be considered part of the Detroit experience.
Really? Is this what the Detroit mayoral race is going to be reduced to? This whole brouhaha is a prime example of how reader-hungry media outlets paired with exposure-hungry candidates dance to create a puffy election season cocktail of absolutely no substance.
Napoleon’s Palmer Woods comment blew up to the point where he felt the need to reiterate his comments on Facebook.
“Quality neighborhoods should be citywide in Detroit,” Napoleon posted to his Facebook wall. “The Palmer Woods experience far different than average Detroiter’s. But, Palmer Woods is Detroit and what we want all neighborhoods to aspire to.”
That’s what Napoleon had been saying all along, but a juicy quote was out of context and ran with like a football down the field. It makes for good water-cooler talk but not much else.
Still, the whole fluffy affair had to somehow be linked to race. After all, this is Detroit. Prevailing comments on social media threads have accused Napoleon of race baiting, claiming that his words about Palmer Woods and probable opponent Mike Duggan were somehow embedded in racial divisiveness. But these wed commentating people are obviously the ones with race on the mind.
If anything, it’s a class issue that Napoleon raised. Palmer Woods houses upper-middle class people in a city that is mostly sub-poverty line broke. Palmer Woods is a diverse neighborhood, not a white enclave in a predominantly black city.
So what’s the issue here? There really isn’t one; Except maybe a little media-candidate tailspin.
At best, this is the stuff soap boxes are made of.
Mayoral candidates Duggan and State Rep. Lisa Howze used this media-created spat as a campaign opportunity. They both immediately took to Facebook to declare the comically obvious: That the Palmer Woods Neighborhood is, in fact, part of Tha D.
Howze writes on FB:
“Palmer Woods is Detroit! When I walked this neighborhood in 2009, and as recent as last year, I encountered many great people. Residents were making repairs to their homes and planting flowers to beautify their properties. They care about their investment in Detroit and ask for no more and no less than any other Detroit resident who want value for their hard-earned tax dollars.”
Duggan Writes on FB:
Benny Napoleon unveils his campaign platform: "Hell no. Palmer Woods is not Detroit." Mike Duggan's campaign is made up of hundreds of volunteers who believe in his message of hope and unity. Now we know what this campaign will be like and what's at stake for our community in 2013. Please don't sit on the sidelines.
This has been a fun conversation but let’s keep it moving. If this type of thing keeps up it's gonna be a loong year. Detroit faces bigger problems than this sillyness.
Teach Me How To Duggan
But if Mike Duggan—or any other Detroit mayoral candidate— shares a genuine, hopeful and realistic vision to move Detroit forward through choppy economic seas, then more power to them.
It hasn’t been a week since Detroit Medical Center (DMC) head Mike Duggan threw his hat into the mayoral race and there have already been tough criticism of his status and work in Detroit.
Two-time mayoral candidate Tom Barrow charged Duggan with being an outsider and chided him for having to move into Detroit from Livonia in order to run for mayor. The Michigan Nurses Association accused him of being a “union buster” for ending an effort to unionize nurses at the DMC.
It would seem that in order to earn the title “union buster”, there have to be unions there in the first place to bust.
Duggan, like current mayor Dave Bing, is a businessman who lived outside of Detroit and moved into the city to make his mayoral run. Duggan, too, looks at running the city like running a business. He said his experience turning around the DMC when he came on board in 2003 would be similar to turning around Detroit.
As much as I don’t agree that cities should be run like businesses (a business’s bottom line is money, a city’s bottom line is people), I think Duggan deserves a fair shot.
The fact that Duggan would be the first white mayor since the 70’s should be considered a non-issue. It really doesn't matter if you’re black or white as long as you can do right by the city and do it well.
Duggan told the Detroit Free Press:
“What I’m focused on is we need to get the violence down, get the streetlights on, and get people moving into abandoned homes, not just knocking them down. That’s what I find everyone wants to talk about. And what I find is when you talk about those issues, issues like race melt away.”
While Duggan has shown successful leadership of the DMC, he still has a lot to prove. But let’s observe a bit before we start with sipping the Hater-aid.
After attending the Kilpatrick jury selection last week I can’t get affirmative action out of my head. I can’t get the racially geared questions out of my head, either. Last week I must have heard the same question asked 50 different ways: “Do you know what affirmative action is? Based on historical events do you understand why African American people would speak in an angry, frustrated way about white people?
If that’s in my head, I can only imagine how these questions have been branded into those who have been sitting in that courtroom for the past two weeks.
But I can’t help but ask myself those questions, over and over. Of course, I understand why black people are frustrated. Of course, I understand what affirmative action is.
But somehow it seems as though there have been so many tidy, sterile ways language has formed around race. Words like affirmative action, African American.
We go about our days and don’t talk about it’s. It’s a taboo topic, an emotional one. But race relations are still strained. Detroit in 2012 is certainly not Jackson Mississippi in the sixties, but it’s not exactly Sesame Street, either.
The worst part is that it seems impossible to pin down exactly what’s wrong. Race-based Discrimination is elusive, hidden and if you talk about it, you’re playing some sort of “race card.”
The fact is, there is no updated language to communicate about race. We’re stuck with terms from a civil rights movement long past.
Activist Jesse Jackson was on to something when he spoke in Detroit last week:
“This is the early morning of a new phase of our struggle. Freedom without equality is freedom to starve. In the business world, we are not playing on an even playing field,” he said.
Jackson is right, in the business world and outside of it, minorities are not playing on an even playing field. But today it’s not as obvious, there’s no easy way to describe what exactly tilts this proverbial playing field. It’s tangled in years of history, in culture, woven discretely into the fabric of society, in laws and knee-jerk thought patters.
The first step to changing is for people of all backgrounds be willing to talk about race first without emotions getting out of hand. There has to be some avenue to disscus race openly and often, and not in an accusitory way, but in one that seeks to truly understand what we mean when we say we aren't on a level playing field. Books have been written about this, great books, but it will have to be through everyday that change comes about.
“This is a very different dimension of our struggle,” Jackson said at a press conference last Thursday. He’s right.
Is Mayor Dave Bing gearing up for another mayoral run? Or has Gov. Rick Snyder really crossed a line with his proposals for Detroit?
Up until now, Bing has been mostly supportive of input from the State of Michigan to support and control parts of the city that are failing under the financial crisis. He supported the consent agreement, he supported cuts proposed by the consent agreement's financial advisory board, and he condemned the city's Corporation Counsel when she tried to stall the consent agreement.
But at a meeting with Detroit NAACP members in Midtown Wednesday, Bing hotly expressed frustration with Snyder's proposals for the city using words like “hell” and “damn”, according to a report in The Detroit News.
Bing said of Governor Snyder:
“You can't come in here and think you can do any damn thing that you want.”
Bing added that he does not want the state to “impose” decision on Detroit:
"I have never in my 46 years in this city seen a governor of the state of Michigan involved in city politics like this one," he said.
But The state has been imposing a lot of things lately, so why has Bing turned on this one?
My first guess is that he’s lining up his ducks for another mayoral run and in order to get a good footing with his electorate he has to start standing up the governor.
I’m no political advisor, but I guarantee candidates who toss the term “union busting” around a few times and throw verbal zingers Snyder’s way are bound to rack up Detroit votes.
City Council President Charles Pugh, who also has expressed interest in a mayoral run, has essentially done the same thing. He supported the consent agreement up until now, when he suddenly is calling it “union busting” and blasting the state for wanting to take over Detroit.
Looks like Bing, Pugh and DMC front man Mike Duggan will be top mayoral contenders in 2013. And it’s clear that a successful run it will be a tight balancing act of who can keep in good with the State while giving Detroit voters what they want to hear.
Does It Matter If You’re Black or White?
Michael Jackson didn’t think it mattered but when it comes to the ballot box, voters do. The question is, should it?
As the August 7 primary creeps near, here’s some bad news for Congressman Hansen Clarke: Yesterday, the Black Slate, a grassroots organization-turned-PAC that was founded in 1973 to make sure black voters are educated on which candidates are best qualified for the community, endorsed congressman Gary Peters over Clarke despite that fact that, well, Peters isn’t white and Clarke identifies himself as a black man. So what just happened?
It’s the first time the Black Slate has endorsed a white candidate running for a seat in the U.S. House. As much as we try to avoid this, in a region as segregated and steeped in racial tension as Metro Detroit, yes.
Should it matter? No. Let the most qualified candidate win. Politics without racial consideration would be a beautiful thing. And while it’s not the 60’s anymore, the way votes are divided along racial lines, it’s clear we have a long way to go before people take race out of the equation at he ballot box.
Still, it’s decisions like the Black Slate’s to back Peters that gives hope to a new kind of politics. A kind inspired by President Barack Obama’s election almost four years ago where a black man can get the white vote, and a white man can get the black vote; A country where we truly judge candidates by their political history across the board and not the color of one’s skin.
That’s what the Black Slate has done with the Peters endorsement.
"Ron Hewitt, the coordinator for the Black Slate, said race wasn’t an issue in the selection. He said Peters 'voted with President (Barack) Obama more than any other candidate in this race; helped to pass the historic healthcare legislation; and was a leader in saving the automotive industry from collapsing.'
'[Peters] record was more in keeping with what we were looking for,” Hewitt said...'"
Now that the 14th congressional district has been re-drawn into strangely shaped and sprawling space spanning over of white suburban communities as well as black urban ones, the vote along racial lines could really make the difference. How important is it that we have a black representative in Washington?
Writer Jack Lessenberry put it this way in a February article in Hour magazine:
“The 13th and 14th districts theoretically should elect black congressmen. Michigan has had two African-Americans in congress since [John] Conyers was first elected in 1964…”
This raised a question in my mind that I’m still struggling to answer: When we forget about race are we also forgetting the recent past or are we taking the struggles of the past and turning them into the future Martin Luther King dreamed of?
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