Bending the Rules Has Failed Detroit

Why Tom Barrow is right to question Mike Duggan's candidacy.

Jun 5, 2013 at 12:00 am

Bending the Rules Has Failed Us


ACCOUNTANT, MAYORAL CANDIDATE and seeming perennial loser Tom Barrow (he’s lost three mayoral bids and a couple of congressional primaries — not to mention having served 18 months for a federal tax evasion conviction) actually has a point in his effort to keep mayoral candidate Mike Duggan off the ballot.

Barrow has filed a complaint with the city clerk regarding Duggan’s failure to have been a Detroit resident for a full year before filing to run for mayor, as stipulated by the City Charter. Duggan officially became a Detroit resident, moving from Livonia, on April 16, 2012. He filed his qualifying signatures to get on the ballot for the August primary on April 2, about 14 days short of a year. The filing deadline at the city clerk’s office was April 14.

The Detroit Election Commission voted to allow Duggan on the ballot; Barrow says he is considering a legal challenge.

Barrow may be taking on one of his August opponents early in the courts, but he is dead-on right. I don’t understand why the Election Commission would certify Duggan’s candidacy other than the fact that he has lots of friends in low places around here and political transactions are getting serious as the election nears. But this is about the rules. Detroit’s new charter has been in effect just over a year; let’s follow it.

Duggan’s camp is making noise about the “intent” of the charter, but it seems pretty straightforward to me. A year is a year — 365 days not 351. If Duggan wants to be mayor he should have taken note of the qualifying time period and complied with it. It’s not a little thing.

The city has lost millions of federal and state dollars due to missing filing deadlines (e.g. failing to get reports in on deadline or not using them in a timely manner). Part of the reason the city finds itself in the financial trouble it now faces has been due in part to bureaucrats letting the little things slide — until it turned into an avalanche. Kwame Kilpatrick might well be our mayor today except for a little lie about having an affair. Now someone expects us to look the other way about a little negligence on Duggan’s part. Bravo Barrow on this one.

I’m not for Barrow or against Duggan. I doubt Barrow will ever win any election of consequence. And Duggan — he’s been in the political and corporate fray for decades and is probably better qualified than most to be a mayor. However, he didn’t meet the residency requirement to run for mayor in Detroit in 2013.

I’m not a Benny Napoleon fan either. So far he is making a big deal out of being a lifelong Detroiter and that he is black. Other than that he is mouthing the usual stuff about jobs, crime and schools. All good stuff but those are the things everybody is for. He hasn’t yet broke down how he intends to fix those problems.

I don’t have a horse in this race yet. I plan on listening to as many of the candidates as possible and deciding who gets my vote based on what they have to say. So anyone could still get my vote — Lisa Howze or Fred Durhal or Willie Lipscomb or Jean Vorthcamp — or most of the others who are running.

I’m not much interested in Barrow because I’ve heard his shtick enough times. Nor does Krystal Crittendon do much for me. Her claim to fame is that she stood up for her principles against the power structure over the financial stability agreement. That may be right but doesn’t necessarily qualify you to be mayor. But either of them could still surprise me.

It was no surprise to me that Dave Bing isn’t running for mayor. He just seems out of place as mayor. The look on his face and his body language tell me that this has not been a good time for him. But that thing about possibly running for county executive caught me by surprise. I don’t expect that he will actually run for the office, but it is a reminder that there are other politicians around here who are even less popular than Bing. While 90 percent of respondents in a Free Press/WXYZ-TV poll last week agreed that Bing shouldn’t run for re-election, the poll showed support for him over current county executive Robert Ficano — at 33 percent to 22 percent. I guess that means that Ficano is very vulnerable in the next election, but if I were him I wouldn’t worry about Bing.

I urge everybody to dig in and see what the mayoral and council candidates are about. Electoral politics can be a game of name recognition. That’s how we got Martha Reeves and Monica Conyers on the Detroit City Council. Don’t let the big names sway your vote without digging in to see what they are about. That’s how we got Bing, the last guy who moved into Detroit in order to run for mayor and was championed by the business and media interests. At this point it doesn’t look like that has been a big success. Of course, this may have been a situation where it was impossible for anyone to do well.

In addition, I’m going to pay close attention to what Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr does and what the candidates have to say about it. I’m not looking for obstinate opposition or slavish devotion. I want to hear thoughtful assessments of what’s happening and how that will affect their policies going forward. 

Right now, polls are saying that this is a Duggan-Napoleon race. Despite his timing issue, Duggan may still end up on the ballot. Still, it is the responsibility of voters — and the media — to do a better job of defining those names that are not so big. We’re also going to be familiarizing ourselves with a slew of new city council candidates as we vote for council by districts for the first time in nearly a century.

So, this is a time when we really need to pay attention. Duggan should have been paying attention when he made the move to become a Detroit resident. Tom Barrow was. If not as mayor, Barrow has already done us a service by standing up for following the rules. Detroit’s future depends on doing things right.


When Everything is on the Table


WHEN IT COMES TO making sacrifices it’s always better when somebody else does that. That was emphasized last week when it came out that bigwigs at the Mackinac Policy Conference island getaway are upset at the prospect that Detroit could sell some artworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts to balance the books. This was so upsetting to some that state Sen. Randy Richardville, the Republican majority leader from Monroe, introduced a bill aimed at preventing such sales. Selling DIA treasures is akin to having the water authority pried from your hands. It’s like having arts education and sports cut from our schools. Not that I think any of these things shouldn’t happen. I liked the idea of making Belle Isle a state park for 10 years. The bottom line is that it’s just that it is good for everybody to see things from the other side when determining other people’s destinies. It makes you a lot more compassionate.


Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former editor of Metro Times. Send comments to him at [email protected].