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Election lessons

By Shea Howell
Special to the Michigan Citizen

There is a lot of good news in the election results of 2012, especially for Detroiters. First, voters turned out in record numbers. After a relentless media barrage that portrayed us as uninterested and incapable of making political decisions, Detroiters went to the polls in the highest numbers in over three decades. A record 65.3 percent of active voters cast 289,982 ballots.

Casting our ballot was not easy. The day before the election, in order to avoid crowds, some people waited as long as seven hours at Wayne County Community College. In my own Northwest Detroit precinct, we waited over two hours on Election Day.

Just prior to the election, Mayor Dave Bing, who seems to continually misunderstand the democratic impulse, sent a memo to city employees revoking a long-standing policy of encouraging them to volunteer to support Election Day. The mayor said city workers would have to take the day off if they intended to participate.

In spite of the lines, most voters spent the time talking with one another. The vast majority of folks went to support the re-election of President Barack Obama, of course. But there was a lot of concern over the ballot initiatives.

Repealing Public Act 4, the emergency manager law, was high on everyone’s list. In an often contentious city, 82 percent of Detroiters voted to reject this law. A clear majority in 77 other counties joined us. This vote was an affirmation of our collective commitment to local self-government.

What should be most disturbing to us is that our nearest neighbors — Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, Kent and Ottawa counties, plus Berrien County, home to Benton Harbor — voted in support of emergency managers. These votes were clearly out of step with the wishes of Detroiters and the understanding of much of the state that Snyder’s emergency manager law violates fundamental democratic principles.

Detroiters also approved by nearly a 2 to 1 margin Proposal C, which clarified the intent of the Detroit Charter to allow the city’s corporation counsel to bring suit on behalf of the city, without the approval of the mayor. This vote was a strong endorsement of current Counsel Krystal Crittendon, who was vilified by local corporate media and threatened with removal by Mayor Dave Bing because of her refusal to go along with their interpretation of the so-called consent agreement.

Detroiters also supported the renewal of the 18 mill tax for public schools by nearly 75 percent and helped the Wayne County Community College 1 mill levy squeak past to a slim victory.

All of this should give the media and corporate foundation elite some pause to reconsider their oft repeated narrative of the city. In record numbers, Detroiters and much of the state spoke loudly and clearly. We demand democratic, local control. We believe in thoughtful checks and balance in our government and are willing to pay for our educational opportunities collectively.

The media and corporate foundation elites did everything they could to tell us we need an emergency manager to save us from ourselves. They heaped scorn on those who opposed them. They pulled every trick they could think of to stop the measure from being placed on the ballot. They accused Corporation Counsel Crittendon of being destructive, power grabbing and possibly unstable.

In essence, the corporate media-foundation-elite are as out of touch as Karl Rove on election night. And their pundits are coming to their rescue, generating yet another unreal narrative. Michigan Live tells us that state officials want to “reassure the public that a previous and weaker version of the law remains operational.” The Detroit News’ Nolan Finley tells his fellow Republicans, “No need to panic.” Such denial of reality does no one a service.

This election said something very profound about a longing in America to create a new kind of democracy. Those who want to be part of shaping this future have a lot of re-thinking to do.

Contact Shea Howell at

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