Thursday, October 22, 2009

Looking carefully at leadership

I read today that the Detroit Free Press is not supporting Proposal S, which would provide money through bonds and federal grants to build new schools, and the editorial left me with mixed emotions.

We all know Detroit needs some new school buildings. The average age of Detroit Public School buildings, I've heard, is 60 years old. I don't question that stat, because I've been inside many of the buildings over the years and I spent considerable time in the system.

I went to five DPS schools and they were all old buildings back in the day. In fact, only one remains open , John King Elementary. I wish those children had a facility that was more competitive with those of their peers in other municipalities, hell, in other countries.

The Freep's reasoning for the snub of Prop S is that DPS is far from stable, as emergency financial manager Robert Bobb is just a temporary figure head. And, the reality is that DPS continues to hemorrhage students and does not justify adding infrastructure capacity. Why approve money for new buildings with no guarantees there will be competent leadership to oversee the construction or enough students to occupy them once completed? Its not an invalid argument, and beside the uncertainty over DPS leadership, I'm concerned about who will be steering the city overall. Bing should easily beat substance-less Barrow. But the legislative branch race is the most interesting that I can recall.

Council race nearing the finish

The MorningSide Neighborhood Organization hosted a forum for Detroit City Council candidates recently and I was impressed with the showing (14 of 18), the turnout (about 150 people), and what the candidates had to say about charting a course for a new direction for the city. Jobs, foreclosures and government reform were the hottest topics. No surprise. I was disappointed that education didn't register quite as loudly. That's not to say that the candidates don't consider education of our children a high priority. But I think public safety, education and neighborhood stability should be at the top of the agenda for all those seeking office.

The candidates presented a more credible version of leadership than we have see from council in years. They were professional, presented cogent arguments and remained composed throughout. It was almost too good to be true. In fact, I sat there wondering which of them would change if elected -- once contractors start throwing money at them. (Probably shouldn't have put that out into the universe, but it is a reality).

Let's hope the city gets a fresh crop of new council members that makes education a top priority.

I like Spivey, Howze, Jenkins, Brown, Okdie and Tate to join the council, with Cockrel, Kenyatta, and Tinsley-Talabi (she's all the east side has!) staying. Who do you like?

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