Can This Council Do the Job?



Charles Pugh

The people have spoken. Charles Pugh, TV journalist and radio personality, becomes the first openly gay president of the Detroit City Council. Gary Brown, a former executive of the Detroit Police Dept., is council president pro tem.

The other new faces on council are Saunteel Jenkins, Andre L. Spivey and James Tate. They will join incumbents Ken Cockrel Jr., Brenda Jones, Kwame Kenyatta and JoAnn Watson.

The decisions made on Tuesday ought to be respected by everyone who believes in the currency of absolute democracy.

One of the great values of the ballot box is that it affords even those who feel like their voices do not count an opportunity to demonstrate what they believe in by voting their choices.

South Africa demonstrated the sacredness of the ballot box with the nearly unending long lines to polling booths, shown all over the world, to elect Nelson Mandela in1994 as the first democratically elected president of that nation. This historic election sent a powerful message to the world, well as to those who take the power of the vote for granted.

And so here at home on Election Day, Detroit, etched further into the grand possibility of becoming a city where everyone who lives or is invested here can have an effectively functioning government.

The possibility that a new Detroit City Council for the first time in recent memory will include many new faces is what drove many voters to the polls.

Yes, there have been times — too many, in fact — when voter turnout was shamefully low in Detroit. Indeed, there are those who still feel that Tuesday’s demonstration of democracy was low and disappointing.

But while that argument is justified and significant and shows a need for an increase in civic participation, we cannot dilute the fact that what happened on Tuesday represented hope for a beleaguered and maligned city.

Detroiters and everyone who has a stake here hoped for a city where the local government would not be an embarrassment or the subject of national ridicule.

We hope for a city that would not provide the latitude for biased and unresearched national reviews that imposed a deeply skeptical future over this city.

That a new City Council, a new mayor and a charter commission will now work to address crucial structural problems that are inherent within the body politic is nothing short of cause for real hope.

For that voters ought to be commended.

Should we have expected a bigger turnout?

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