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EDITORIAL: Reading between the results

why bother votingBetween emergency management in Detroit and low voter turnout in Detroit and Wayne County, participation is at an all-time low. Turnout in Detroit was about 14 percent with only about 75,000 people voting. In Wayne County, only 18 percent voted.

The region must be nearing new lows, and it is hard to pinpoint why and how. The move to force photo identification hasn’t helped, nor the fact this was a primary.  Yet, government cannot be representative if, as the national rule, on average, only about 40 percent of all citizens vote. In 2010, in Michigan, the year Gov. Snyder won and Republicans took the House and Senate only about 40 percent of Michiganders voted.

In contrast, in 2008, 66 percent of Michigan voted. This was also the year, African American participation surged. A general election year will likely get more participation than a gubernatorial year, but the difference shows us what a dynamic candidate and participation does for the political process. 

2010 ushered in harsh EM policy and a legislature that rolled back benefits for seniors and kids. When we have more participation, typically Democrats and more fair-minded social policy wins.

We must demand a few things including better candidates and improved access to the polls. The first may be easier to achieve. Most Detroiters are uninspired, beat down and generally suspect of the political environment. Detroiters have lost Belle Isle and the Detroit Institute of Arts without seeing any improvement in city services. Most candidates who campaigned talked about the empty houses and general apathy for the political process. Whether it is the lack of overall lack of city services and poor customer service — i.e. the execution of the water shutoff campaign and $45 parking ticking rollout — or the crushing economic environment, Detroiters are clearly not inspired by their leadership.

Emergency Management policy is particularly harmful to the political process because it reinforces and grows the belief your input doesn’t matter and is not needed.

We need a new class of political leadership in Detroit. Not the career hacks who live to run, or the well-funded and resource-rich candidates who aren’t particularly representative. The senior citizens living on more than one public pension need to retire, the young people who have nothing more than a family name need to cultivate some original ideas and broaden their perspective by talking to planners and policymakers facing the same sorts of problems Detroit is. 

We need some homegrown talent with the pedigree, ethics and vision to put Detroit on the right track.

The election results are mixed. Overall, as usual, money and resources candidates faired well, except for in the case of Rudy Hobbs who has the money and connections but failed to beat Mayor Brenda Lawrence of Southfield who bested him with the women message and Emily’s List.

Congressman John Conyers, at 85, fought back from being disqualified from the ballot to beat the Rev. Horace Sheffield. Conyers, a legend, will accrue the benefits of being the longest serving member of Congress — the dean. We hope with this victory, the congressman takes this moment to groom someone for the seat.  He should expect more difficult races in upcoming years. 

It’s this kind of strategy and leadership Detroiters will need to employ in upcoming years or we will continue to lose representation and grow apathy. Unions must organize again. Political leadership must inspire and execute. 

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