The race is becoming difficult with media influence and high-level endorsements for some candidates and grassroots campaigning for others. There are a number of qualified candidates that the community knows little about. If Detroiters really want to see change, they should change their ideas about who should be elected.
Candidates run the gamut, from teachers and businessmen to attorneys and even college students. Along with array of job titles, there is also a new generation stepping to the forefront.
Twenty-five-year-old Jonathan Edward Barlow is running for a position on the Detroit City Council. Attending Wayne State University, Barlow has worked for the Detroit Public Schools as a program associate.
He is running because he wants to see a cleaner Detroit, and the equal revitalization of Detroit neighborhoods. His platform is simple: “Make Detroit Better.” He believes that his campaign is strong enough to make it to the November general election.
“Detroit is home to me,” said Barlow. “I have Detroit on my heart, and I don’t think I can say the same for all of the candidates. I want to make Detroit a better place because I want it to be a better place for me, and I feel I can do that.”
Twenty-six year old Damond Childers is running for a seat on the Charter Revision Commission. He is a graduate of Morehouse and Wayne State University. He was one of the founders of Students for Barack Obama in the presidential election. He also worked as an auto salesman and feels that experience allows him to relate to the citizens of Detroit. He offers an extensive background in organizing and communicating.
“We need people with a lot of energy,” said Childers. “I like having the generational perspective, a good balance between generations will generate a balanced sense of ideas in the new charter.”
Childers would like to provide more power to ethics board, and more attention on the environment, health and sanitation committees.
Perhaps the youngest candidate running in the election is Ciara Donelson. She is a full-time student and an administrative assistant at her family’s business. She is 18 years old, and is running in because she believes the city needs a change. She wants to revitalize and restore the community.
Donelson wants more EMS workers, police and firemen on the streets of Detroit, and also wants to rid the city of abandoned buildings and houses.
Lacking the heavy influence of advertising on television, radio and buses, underdogs rely on their social skills. Going door to door, and entering churches and the facilities of businesses and other organizations to get their name out there. They are also using their past community involvement to propel them forward.
Another candidate using community involvement as the driving force of their campaign is Darlita Jones. A graduate of Stillman College and Clark Atlanta, she is also a psychology instructor and consultant. She is a board member of the Dexter-Amherst Community Center and worked with the Boys and Girls Club. She has also worked with Big Brothers Organization, writing proposals to acquire funding for programs for at-risk males.
Jones’ platform is based on quality and accountability in city government. She believes the communities come first.
“We need to help people realize that they are our stakeholders in the revitalization of Detroit,” said Jones. “Education will allow opportunity for our citizens.”
Mohamed Okdie is a licensed social worker, and retired from the Detroit Public Schools as a counselor in 2006.
“I am running for City Council because I have all of the experience in community and education,” said Okdie.
He has worked for Congressman John Conyers and is the former president of the American Federation of Teachers. He has served with Jesse Jackson and on the Rainbow Coalition.
“Being a member of various boards gives me a wide range of decision-making skills,” said Okdie, whose platform is based on economic stability. He believes that economic stability will lead to job creation which will help resolve the problems of crime, school closings and unemployment.
The ballot will also have names of previous hopefuls from 2005. They are using their experience as attributes.
Joan Gist, who sought election in 2005, is a legal assistant and sits on the board at ShareHouse, a therapeutic program for people dealing with addiction.
She works with the Cease Fire Youth Initiative, and at Moratorium Now, assisting foreclosure victims. She is also a lifetime member of the NAACP and attended the White House Project for women.
Gists feels a disconnect between the citizens and the elected officials and says she wants to restore that with more access to the legislative body.
“The last election was more or less a preparation for this race,” said Gist. “I feel that I prepared myself, and I have the skills that one should have in running for a position of this magnitude.”
Lee Yancy also ran in 2005. The candidate is a graduate of Florida A and M and a former teacher at Henry Ford High School. He formerly ran an advertising company called Moving Screens Marketing and Media Group.
“I am running again because people need a better voice,” said Yancy. “I want to be the person to fight for the people and restore professional ethics.”
His platform is based on integrity and accountability. He promises he will serve with honor and be a representative for all the people of Detroit.
Many candidates do not have law or business degrees; however, they are concerned about the well-being of Detroit and believe they have the skills necessary to help make needed changes.
Yvonne Jackson is a pre-law student. She feels there has been a breakdown in the Detroit city government.
“I want to serve with dignity and integrity,” she said. “I want to make Detroit a cleaner, safer city.”
Jackson wants reform and more programs for the homeless, which she identifies as her main concern. She wants the homeless in Detroit provided with transportation to find jobs, and places to stay in the midst of this foreclosure process.
Lorna Whitfield is a retired electrician. She is a volunteer for non-profit organizations such as the Goodwill Industries. She also helped coordinate after-school programs for the Detroit Public School.
Whitfield is running because she feels she has not seen any improvement or advancement in Detroit with the current council. Her platform is based on unity, service and solutions.
“We need to collaborate as a city to see any real improvement,” she said.
Gwen Gonzales is a professor of education at Wayne County Community College. She has a broad range of experience in community involvement, including volunteering for Detroit Radio Information Service, in which she reads information to the blind and print impaired. She also teaches computer and business etiquette to young women in transitional homes.
“I’ve sat back and watched people bring Detroit’s integrity down,” said Gonzalez. “I’m a taxpayer and I am not seeing the quality services that should be offered to citizens.”
Ken Donaldson is the associate director of Black United Fund of Michigan Incorporated, in which he raises money for nonprofits and puts money back into the community. He feels it is his commission to help the citizens of Detroit.
“My platform is about empowering the community,” said Donaldson. “Simply, if we can empower the community it is the most effective way to administer change in Detroit.”
He feels that despite not having big money behind him and name recognition, his chances at making it to the November ballot are good.
“Politics is not fair, and money can heavily influence decisions, but we remain steadfast and diligent in our campaigning,” said Donaldson.
Aug. 4 is the day the 169 candidates for the Detroit City Council and the Charter Revision Committee are separated into winners and losers. It has been a tough but well-run race for the candidates. They are pushing hard for more votes. The question remains: Have they done enough to make themselves known and make Detroiters want to vote for them?
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