Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Detroit election: Lessons in clout

Posted on Wed, Nov 4, 2009 at 11:22 AM

What are the lessons of Tuesday's city election?

Well, for one thing, we’ve seen how much influence endorsements by the city’s daily papers don’t have. Both papers, after endorsing Pugh, withdrew those endorsements after his home went into foreclosure. It wasn’t just the problem with personal finances — there was also concern about Pugh’s candor during the interview process. Despite all that negative ink, Pugh still went on to capture the top council spot. So much for the power of editorial boards.

In some ways, Pugh’s election to the council presidency reflects both well and poorly on the city’s voters. On the one hand, a guy who had little more going for him than high name recognition because of his years on local TV gathered more votes than a solid, conscientious veteran like Cockrel, whose experience both as interim mayor and council president by all rights should have earned him the top spot.

On the other hand, in Pugh, Detroit has taken a big step forward by electing its first openly gay public official. That is a landmark the city should rightfully be proud of.

Overall, the new council promises to be infinitely more professional than the collection of clowns — Conyers, Reeves and Collins — that caused the body to become a national laughing stock.

As far as the mayor’s race: So much for Tom Barrow’s internal poll he claimed showed him crushing Bing. In a profession where credibility is a key currency, we’d say Barrow is going to be operating with a deficit if he ever again seeks public office. (We heard him on the radio ruling out another mayoral bid, but another office?)

On the other hand, the fact that Barrow was able to cut significantly into Bing’s massive lead coming out of the August primary, when he captured nearly 75 percent of the vote among a field of six, says something about the clout Detroit municipal labor unions still have. Barrow, despite the baggage of a prison stint for income tax evasion and fraud, with broad union support, was able to capture 41 percent of the vote.

And, finally, despite all the recent unearthing of past financial mismanagement of Detroit Public Schools money, voters still voted for a $500 million school bond measure. At a time when unemployment in the city is approaching 30 percent, in a town awash in hard times, its residents are still willing to pony up big money to help provide the best for the city’s children. In a city that has become the poster child for post-industrial decay and ruin, Detroiters have just shown that they haven’t given up hope for the future.

All in all, there is much to feel good about on this morning after.

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