Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Can we escape the misery?

This morning I read a headline that said Detroit ranks seventh on this year's list of most miserable cities. It was against that backdrop that I went to a mayoral forum sponsored by the MorningSide Neighborhood Association featuring former City Councilwoman Sharon McPhail, Sheriff Warren Evans and former City Councilman Rev. Nicholas Hood. I am a member of the MorningSide board. While the forum was unspectacular, it was interesting.

Sharon McPhail said she wasn't crazy. Nick Hood said he had integrity and passion. Warren Evans said he will fight crime and spur redevelopment. I expected to hear each of them say what they said, and wasn't disappointed.

I recently read a book on leadership, from which my biggest takeaway was "great leaders inspire us." Well, I didn't leave the forum inspired. I was, however, pleased with the showing by Warren Evans. I like Evans and businessman Dave Bing in the race -- for what that's worth.

McPhail deflected her involvement in any problems created by the train wreck that was the Kwame Kilpatrick administration. She lifted up her accomplishments, some unfulfilled, others unappreciated. But at the end of the day, she had something upon which to hang her hat. Hood had little to show form his time on the City Council, and while his reputation is clean and his work as a pastor commendable, the reality is that he had an opportunity to create some semblance of change and came up short. Evans talked about his performance as sheriff, and his work has shown promise.

Current mayor, Ken Cockrel, Jr., wasn't there because he was giving the state of the city address, but to me it wouldn't have mattered much. He has had an audition that his opponents in the race did not have and has squandered the opportunity.

Each of the candidates remarked that they were pleased with our turnout, about 50-60 people. They said it was the largest community turnout they had encountered during the race so far. That admonition is scary.

Social justice, in my opinion, is the balance between power and inaction. The fact that 50 people in a city of 800,000 represents a show of force is sad. How can we hope to ever change the conditions in this city if so few of us try? Judging by our ranking on the Forbes misery index, it's time to stand up for justice. We can in a couple of weeks.

The Feb. 24 election will come down to the wire because, with a 10 percent participation rate expected, the votes will be split and diluted. Remember the overwhelming of the polls in November? That is how you create change. I'm thinking now, in Detroit, if that dismal expectation of a paltry turnout ends up coming to fruition, the theme will be "no we can't," as opposed to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama's (who was responsible for the large showing) slogan of "yes we can."

I fear that things around here are not about to get any better anytime soon.

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