DETROIT — Councilman-elect Coleman A. Young II is weeks away from taking elected office, again. The former state senator will serve as an At-Large council member, representing residents from every cross-section of the city, rather than one particular council district as designed for seven other elected seats.
In an interview with Michigan Chronicle, Young says he believes Detroiters were fed up with corruption, his perspective on why voters wanted change at the table of the city’s legislative body.
“It reflects corruption will not be tolerated under any circumstances,” Young said. “I respect innocent until proven and I respect due process but I think people wanted change.”.
He is referring to the smoke of corruption investigations circling city hall. Former district 4 councilman Andre Spivey resigned in September after pleading guilty to bribery. Former district 7 councilman Gabe Leland resigned in May following his guilty plea to felony misconduct in office. In recent weeks, the FBI raided the homes of council members Scott Benson and Jaynee Ayers in an on-going investigation into corruption related to towing, according to media reports. The criminal probe has so far not resulted in charges for Benson and Ayers.
Young won election night with 31% of the vote for the At-Large race. Mary Waters took 2nd place at 25%, both becoming new members of the council and unseating incumbent Ayers for the citywide seat.
“I think the first thing we need to do is get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can,” Young said. “I want to work with the community health corp. to make sure we can have vaccines that are available but also work with our private sector partners in order to make sure we have testing stations for people as well.” The soon-to-be council member believes there needs to be an aggressive and creative approach to getting more people vaccinated for the good of public health and fully reopening the city’s economy.
He says he’s ready to hit the ground running on a number of issues, including crime. There are a number of program and policy ideas he has for tackling this issue he sees as a major problem. “Whether it be hospital intervention programs, group intervention programs, hire more investigators so we can solve murders, …and making sure there is a pilot for having officers walk the beat in high crime areas”.
Young says he is looking forward to working with his colleagues, police department, and the police commission to accomplish the goal of reducing violence and improving overall public safety, including increasing the closure rate of homicide cases.
The council-elect also wants to be an advocate for the poor and is firm about being a fighter for addressing poverty in the city. One of the ways he wants to address the chronic problem is by instituting a pilot 18-month social program. He’s calling for guaranteed income of $500 a month for 125 Detroiters with low income and in the hardest hit areas of the city. “I want to work with the private sector to create public-private partnerships, our philanthropic community, our non-profit community, foundation community, but I’m also fine with working with city funds, state and federal grants available for this.”
Young is looking to mirror a similar program tested in Stockton, California and bring to Detroit. “You have people right now who are making decisions between paying rent or ‘am I going to pay my prescription drugs?’ …this is just a supplement and I think this will help while their looking for jobs, while they’re looking for opportunities to get on their feet and survive.”
The former mayoral candidate loss in a landslide in his bid to unseat incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan during the 2017 election. Four years later, Detroit’s legislative government welcomes six new members to the nine-member body and interesting dynamics will be at play as Young will now deal with an administration he previously ran against. But, Young says there is no bad blood between himself and Duggan.
“I respect the mayor whole-heartly, he is the people’s choice and I respect the will of the people. I’m willing to work with him. I’m excited to work with him. If it’s something that’s going to be in the best interest of the community that elected me and that will move the city forward and add value to the lives of our constituency then I’m more than willing to work with him.”
Young says he wants to have a professional working relationship with his council colleagues and with Mayor Duggan. He also states on issues that he sees may be harmful and not in the best interest of Detroiters, he “will fight like hell against it, and standup for the people” who elected him.
Young hopes to be a good public servant. It’s not loss on him that he’ll soon serve in the municipal building that bears his late father’s name, former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young who served for 20 years. “I think about him all the time. When I think about entering a room or building named after my father and carrying that legacy and carrying that namesake. I have lived my enter life just trying to live up and be worthy of carrying that name. It is a humbling honor.”
Young says he is ready to live up to the challenge and represent everyone, an entire city whether they voted for him or not.
“I believe a public servant is not only what you’re doing for the constituency but helping those who can’t help themselves and giving back to those who can’t give anything back to you. My father was willing to give the shirt off his back so his constituency can have more. That’s the type of city I want to be involved in, a more inclusive city. My victory is as much my own as it is the people who elected me.”