Do elections matter this year?
By Adam Hollier
For the past four years, I, like many Detroiters, have looked forward to positive change. It started with our new City Charter, calling for a drastic shift in our election process.
Our City Council would be elected by district, something not done for almost a century. Unfortunately, there have also been changes that we neither wanted nor expected: the appointment of an emergency manager this past March, the resignations of two council members and seemingly unending ballot challenges.
The problem is none of those things make our neighborhoods any safer, cleaner or more vibrant. The new charter sought to make one person responsible for our neighborhoods by creating a direct pipeline to city government, and it still can.
Now that the City of Detroit has an emergency manager, who should be squarely focused on the city’s finances, the City Council should be squarely focused on improving our neighborhoods.
Streetlights remain out, blight covers our city and people don’t feel safe. This City Council election is an opportunity to hold someone accountable for addressing these problems and advancing the neighborhood character of our city.
We need to elect someone that will advocate for areas not named Downtown or Midtown, someone with a proven record of solving problems in the districts. In order to do that, though, we need to vote.
Detroit’s problems did not begin this year, and they will not be solved in the next 16 months. We have to think long term; the new members of the council will have a four-year term where they will be called to make the seven districts of the City of Detroit stronger.
As a resident of District 5, I know we have varied challenges in our district. From addressing blight and crime, to improving transportation and education, our needs are great, but I have the knowledge, skills and relationships to meet those needs.
The next council must be composed of people who can do more than answer questions — they must be able to solve problems. Electing officials based on their name alone or what their family did years ago hasn’t produced the results we deserve. We need council people who have the experience, education and ability to do the work.
I graduated from Detroit Public Schools, earned a B.S. from Cornell University and a master’s in urban planning from the University of Michigan. I understand the issues residents deal with because I deal with them, too, and I have worked to correct them both personally and in my professional career.
Think about the candidate you’re supporting for City Council. Does he or she know what it’s like to live with vacant homes on his or her block in Detroit today? Or to stay on a block where streetlights haven’t worked for years?
I know what it takes to step up to do what’s right instead of what’s easy. I bought the eyesore of my block because I wanted to raise my family in Detroit, not a gated community or the suburbs. I ran prostitutes off my corner because my wife and my neighbors needed to feel safe. My neighborhood needed a young family to move in with the energy to work the cleanups and be involved in the association.
I approached these issues by asking the same question I would ask while serving on the City Council: What is needed to make it better? Instead of talking about how the Detroit Department of Transportation doesn’t work, I was the lead legislative staffer on the Regional Transit Authority Bills. These bills will create one unified system for Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw County. I chose to work toward making our city better and that’s what our City Council needs to do now.
Many have lost faith in the elected officials of the City of Detroit, but that doesn’t mean we lose faith in the electoral process. We just can’t afford to say this election doesn’t matter and we’ll vote when the emergency manager is gone.
The election this August will decide if we have qualified capable leaders or not. We need a strong City Council because we need to have stronger neighborhoods.
Having a representative that is accountable to you doesn’t just give you an advocate; it gives you a partner in city government that will get you the resources you need to make your block, your neighborhood, your district and your city better. What better partner than a neighbor?
Adam Hollier is a candidate for City Council, District 5.