By Keith A. Owens
Now that the election is over and the voters have made it clear
beyond any reasonable doubt who it is they prefer to be mayor of
this city, perhaps we can put the dirt back in the ground where it
Here’s what I mean…
We’re all aware that this is a majority black city, and that Mayor
Mike Duggan isn’t black. We’re also aware that former mayor
Kwame Kilpatrick is behind bars. Kilpatrick is most definitely
black. An ad put out by the Young campaign compared Duggan’s
admittedly problematic issues with how housing demolition
contracts were granted to the issues that landed Kilpatrick in jail.
The message was clear, saying “It’s as simple as black and white”
why Kilpatrick is in jail and Duggan is not.
Yes, it’s simple all right. Duggan has yet to be charged with any
crime. Kilpatrick was charged, indicted, and convicted.
Are there instances where white folks get away with murder (so to
speak) in the just-us system while black folks are unjustly
accused? Absolutely and without question. Happens all the time.
But this is not one of those instances.
And Young’s playing to
Detroit’s ever-simmering racial unrest (this ad was just one
example) to score some cheap political points in an effort to win a job that he is unqualified for was little more than an embarrassing stunt. Tuesday’s results bear that out.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Mayor Mike Duggan is not
the perfect candidate, but Sen. Coleman Young was never a
serious challenger. Because even though Duggan has been on
pretty much of a roll recently, a more serious candidate could
have forced Duggan into a matchup worth watching where the
outcome wasn’t so dramatically assured virtually from the
beginning of the race.
A good political matchup nearly always creates better candidates because it forces each candidate to bring
their ‘A’ game. Not that Duggan was slacking; he definitely didn’t
make the mistake of taking Young for granted even after
trouncing him in the August primary. But I can’t help but imagine
what might have transpired with some real heat on his trail.
But alas, no heat. The challenger was barely lukewarm from
beginning to finish.
Not only was Young unable to raise any noticeable amount of money, but more importantly he was unable to mobilize his base.
His supporters may point to the relatively low voter turnout as
evidence of the fact that Duggan can’t legitimately declare a
mandate, but do they really want to go down that road? Because
where it leads is to the question of why Young couldn’t energize
more supporters to carry themselves to the polls. All those
downtrodden Detroiters that he claims to represent, if he truly
represents them at all, should have been storming the polling
If there was so much dissatisfaction with Duggan, then why didn’t
all that dissatisfaction manifest itself at the polls? And even if the
argument can be made that a significant amount of voters weren’t
excited or enthused enough to support either candidate – a dreary
assessment to be sure – that still doesn’t paint a prettier picture of
the Young effect. All that says is that among the relative handful
who showed up to vote, he was the loser. The rest, even if not
enamored of Duggan, didn’t care enough about Young to get off
Detroit Free Press columnist Stephen Henderson wrote a stinging
column last week that effectively destroyed Young’s argument that
he represents the poor and downtrodden using nothing more than
basic reporting and simple mathematics. After reviewing the
primary returns from the poorest districts, it was clear as day that
the residents of those neighborhoods weren’t roused to overthrow
Duggan in favor of Young.
“Young did not carry the majority of precincts in any of the
city’s notoriously poor areas, such as the 48205 ZIP code on
the east side or 48204 on the central west side. And he
posted among his worst showing in 48209 and 48217, areas
of deep southwest Detroit that are hard hit with residential
and industrial abandonment.
“In the city’s poorest precinct, near Chandler Park on the
east side where 83% of the people live in poverty, Young got
26 votes, while Duggan got 25.
“In the second-poorest precinct, on the west side in the
Dexter-Linwood neighborhood, which has a poverty rate of
77%, Duggan got 32 votes while Young got 23.
“And in the Oakwood Heights neighborhood in southwest
Detroit, where 70% of the residents live in poverty, Duggan
got 26 votes, or 79% of the ballots cast, while Young got 6
votes, or just 18%.”
That about wraps it up. So let’s put the dirt back in the
ground where it belongs.