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Understanding and courage

In the upcoming year, Detroiters will pick a new mayor and elect council persons by district. Hopes are high that the cannibalizing of the city will stop if some strong persons are elected.

That will only happen if voters demand a strong message and platform from candidates.

Dave Bing coasted into office on the skids of corporate media articles that favorably portrayed him as a business leader. Bing got elected without one appearance at a debate or true town hall meeting. The corporate media has selected its candidate already for this election season and Mike Duggan is getting the same glossy, repetitive coverage that Bing got: a successful leader.

The corporate media lets Duggan get into print weekly without an iota of scrutiny. Duggan can say in the press he is for self-determination — a word that carries emotional weight in the African American community — without noting that Duggan sits on the board of the EAA (Educational Achievement Authority), the state district carved out of DPS that depleted Detroit schools further, taking buildings and resources without letting the public know at what cost. Detroiters will be paying for those same buildings for 20 years.

Thus, citizens cannot look to corporate media for an accurate or complete report of the campaigns. Even more important will be the ideas that candidates offer the public. Unless there are new and structural ways of looking at running the city, the same grinding poverty will continue to pull us down.

Here are some concrete suggestions that come from Truthout, which address directly Detroit’s basic problems. We want to see candidates that can offer revolutionary ideas like the following:

– The use of city, school, hospital, university and other purchasing power to help stabilize jobs, anchor wealth, support employee-owned businesses and cooperative ownership, strengthen local small- and medium-sized business and improve the local economy. Money has to stay and circulate here.

– The use of public and quasi-public land trusts (both for housing and also commercial development) to capture development profits for community use, and to prevent gentrification. There are more Hantz Farm deals in the making, including one for a tilapia farm that wants three acres of public land east of Eastern Market.

– An all-out attack on absurdly wasteful and costly giveaways — around $70 billion a year in public subsidies — that corporations extract from local governments. Detroit is big on these giveaways, but never audits the results to see if what was promised materializes.

– The use of community benefit strategies — and community organizing, backed also by labor unions — to achieve traditional development but also, where possible, to democratize the local economy, stabilize the tax base and support public services. The UAW and Michigan Democratic parties have aligned themselves with outstate interests for too long.

– The exploration of further ways for cities to make money by directly managing resources and providing services, thereby offsetting costs and taxpayer burdens. These include taking direct public ownership over utilities (as cities like Jacksonville and Los Angeles already do) to improve services, reduce costs and secure added revenues; and expanding city revenues through city-owned land and other existing strategies that provide non-tax revenue. Mayor Bing and the Council Six have been eager to take from the city and give too many city resources to DTE, private parties and state of Michigan. There is much opportunity here.

Nor do voters want to just let politicians mouth big ideas. These ideas are fundamental approaches that can and must be flushed out with local designs. If a candidate can’t do that they should be out of the running. If they do understand and can articulate, will they have the strength to resist the current powers that be? The bar is high.

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