• Please, Detroit Needs a Real Mayor’s Race

    By Bankole Thompson

    I watched the mayor’s debate last night at the Charles Wright Museum of African American History and could not help but called it almost a political clown show. Most of the candidates on the stage knew very well that if they were applying for a job they would offer something more substantive than that instead of rambling and treating this important election like it is a baseball game for them.

     Because democracy enjoins everyone to have a voice in the process doesn’t mean we should settle for mediocre candidates who have no clue what it takes to run a city or an understanding of municipal governance. I listened to some of the candidates struggle to make clear their vision for America’s 18th largest city and the home of the auto industry.

    Their sometimes rather inept presentation, unclear mandate and lack of a strategic vision really lowers the leadership threshold in this town. We have capable men and women in this town who could do 100 times better than most of what we saw on television last night. What we saw does not represent the whole of Detroit and it is unfortunate seeking the highest office in the city would attract individuals who know very well that if this was a job classification to run a giant institution, they won’t even show because they can’t pass the interview test.

    Yes, I understand the need to use the mayor’s race as a platform to express anger and frustration in our local government. Candidates do that all the time. But as I painfully watched the debate I just kept getting a flashback to the last presidential campaign and asking myself “how many Ron Pauls do we have in this mayor’s race?” How many Sarah Palins reminders do we need in this mayor’s race?

    Detroit deserves a higher leadership threshold than what we saw last night. Most of the candidates who were doing mostly a political circus show on television, know well that they can’t and are not even prepared to serve as deputy mayor of the city.

    To remotely suggest that they are prepared to be Detroit’s next mayor without any concrete evidence of public service at the highest levels of local government and civic engagement is beyond any comprehension. This is a big JOKE.

    Certainly every voice needs to be heard in a democracy. That is an uncompromised principle. But leadership requires careful demonstration of passion and commitment to uplift the lives of those mostly out of the reach of government and community. And not everyone should walk into that platform claiming their own definition of leadership makes them ready to be Detroit’s next mayor.

    It is sad because I know well what I saw last night does not represent whole of Detroit. The city is bigger than that. Let’s demand a real mayor’s race from the long circus we’ve seen in this primary campaign.

    In my view the real race is between Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan. Tom Barrow, Lisa Howze, Fred Durhal and Krystal Crittendon have demonstrated public service. But Napoleon and Duggan would give Detroit the race for leadership in the general election.

    Bankole Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle and author of the forthcoming 2014 book on Detroit titled “Rising From the Ashes: Engaging Detroit’s Future with Courage.” His most recent book “Obama and Christian Loyalty,” deals with the politics of the religious right, black theology and the president’s faith posture across a myriad of issues with an epilogue written by former White House spokesman Robert S. Weiner. He is a political analyst at WDET-101.9FM (Detroit Public Radio) and a member of the weekly “Obama Watch” roundtable on WLIB-1190AM New York. Email him at bankole@bankolethompson.com and visit www.bankolethompson.com

  • Duggan v. Napoleon in November

    By Bankole Thompson

    Detroiters deserve to have a real mayoral race where the candidates can speak to the issues in a more constructive, engaging and realistic way. From the very beginning I have argued that we should not have a mayor by default and that we need to have a race that raises the stakes in this historic election. With the specter of bankruptcy and all of the accompanying issues rising from the state of emergency management, it is crucial that voters put forth a stronger searchlight on the candidates. That means choosing former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon to square off in the general election in November. Notwithstanding, all of the current contenders in the race are all qualified public servants.

    But the seriousness of this moment in Detroit’s history and given the threshold of leadership needed to confront the challenges of leadership the city faces, a Duggan-Napoleon race, would be an epic battle. Detroiters would get a rare opportunity to see two strong candidates make the case for the highest office in the city.

    A Detroiter walked up to me at the newest Whole Foods store in midtown weeks ago and was complaining about the caliber of candidates running for mayor. In his view majority of the candidates did not match the kind of leadership he believes the city needs at this time. Detroit is Michigan’s largest city and the mayor is a significant player in the region.

    That alone should compel voters to want to see a real race for the November general election. We missed the opportunity to see a competitive race in this primary campaign leading up to the election even though it has been an entertaining political season. But all distractions aside it is time for Detroit to have an election where Duggan and Napoleon can be put to the truth test, face the hard questions and show their vision for Detroit.

    Detroit voters should be given a choice in the general election and the primary campaign hasn’t given them a choice. Instead what we have seen has been a political entertainment season that offered nothing but conspiracy theories and subterfuge. The main election will begin the day after the Aug. 6 primary if voters push Duggan and Napoleon to the general election. That is why the primary election is important to select the candidates that will offer two choices of meaningful and real bold vision for Detroit.

    Bankole Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle and author of the forthcoming 2014 book on Detroit titled “Rising From the Ashes: Engaging Detroit’s Future with Courage.” His most recent book “Obama and Christian Loyalty,” deals with the politics of the religious right, black theology and the president’s faith posture across a myriad of issues with an epilogue written by former White House spokesman Robert S. Weiner. He is a political analyst at WDET-101.9FM (Detroit Public Radio) and a member of the weekly “Obama Watch” roundtable on WLIB-1190AM New York. Email him at bankole@bankolethompson.com and visit www.bankolethompson.com

  • Did Unmarried Mothers Caused Wall Street Collapse?

    By Bankole Thompson

    Conservative ideologue and ABC analyst George Will became the latest right-wing intellectual parading as a self-appointed moralist to link Detroit’s gigantic financial problems on moral failure and collapse of the family system. But of course this narrative is so familiar among Republican Christians – right-wing evangelicals- because whenever these so-called Christians run out of any rational way of thinking, they run to the “moral card” for rescue as if we’ve not had a litany of major right-wing evangelicals who have been exposed for serious moral failures as it relates to their sexual indiscretions and other activities they once denounced.

    During a July 28 taping of ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Will suggested that “unmarried mothers” are also responsible for Detroit’s bankruptcy, the largest of its kind in U.S. history. And this is how Will explained it on the roundtable interview.

    “You have a city, 139 square miles, you can crave cattle in vast portions of it, dangerous herds of feral dogs roam in there. Three percent of fourth graders reading at the national math standards, 47 percent of Detroit residents are functionally illiterate, 79 percent of Detroit children are born to unmarried mothers. They don’t have a fiscal problem, they have a cultural collapse,” Will said on ABC.

    For a so-called analyst of Will’s own standing to abandon the economic argument facing municipalities across the country with Detroit being the latest litmus test, and instead opt for a moral crusade as the answer to this economic crisis is beyond any form of comprehension. Either it is a lazy job, an elitist approach or a downright racist diatribe because in plain conservative language, whenever “unwed mothers” are used in the argument it is meant to render white liberals as morally bankrupt in their alliance with black voters. And Detroit being a major black city it is no mistake that Will played the moral card in this instance.

    So Will only showed his true color by offering a prognostic about Detroit that won’t pass the smell test. We’ve seen men and others like him before mask under a so-called intellectual debate while the argument that they are making is incoherent.

    Will, could have done better than that. But like many on the national stage he is not only blinded by his own self-righteous rules, but also by the wrong narrative that has long confined Detroit’s image on the national scene.

    Yes, the city has problems that are inexcusable, most of which have to be put at the feet of its leaders even though federal and state policies cannot be excused in this financial reckoning.  But to blame the life style or choices that hard pressed and taxpaying residents make as a major factor for this collapse is insanity, intellectual dishonesty and a fraudulent argument put forth by a purported intellectual.

    Why is it that whenever issues of economic significance are tabled, the masses or the majority poor are always blamed and their lifestyle brought up as the reason?

    Was it unmarried mothers who caused the collapse of Wall Street?

    Was it unwed mothers who caused the collapse of the international economic system that was bailed out by the Obama administration?

    Was it unmarried mothers who forced homeowners out of their homes after buffeting them with subprime lending and incomprehensible loans and interest designed to create a rainy day on Wall Street?

    Was it unwed mothers who were responsible for the economic crisis that greeted the Obama administration?

    But we know why Wall Street collapsed. The greed and fierce competition of elitist white men.

    George Will, and others like him can longer mask under “rational thinking” while offering us code words that we know are not only racist but elitist and downright dishonest. If this is what he has to offer Detroit’s economic crisis on national television maybe the longtime conservative ideologue has run out of ideas for the growing problems facing this nation, and it might just be time to bench him from the ABC roundtable.

    Bankole Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle and author of the forthcoming 2014 book on Detroit titled “Rising From the Ashes: Engaging Detroit’s Future with Courage.” His most recent book “Obama and Christian Loyalty,” deals with the politics of the religious right, black theology and the president’s faith posture across a myriad of issues with an epilogue written by former White House spokesman Robert S. Weiner. He is a political analyst at WDET-101.9FM (Detroit Public Radio) and a member of the weekly “Obama Watch” roundtable on WLIB-1190AM New York. Email him at bankole@bankolethompson.com and visit www.bankolethompson.com

  • Bankruptcy and the Future of Detroit – July 26 WCCCD First Public Symposium on Largest U.S Municipal Bankruptcy

    NEWS RELEASE

    DETROIT,MI, July 23- Following Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s July 18 filing to put Detroit in chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, many are wondering what will happen to the Motor City. Some national and international reviews have already started writing the city off its potential and future.

    What is the way forward in this largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history that is being closely watched around the globe?

    Wayne County Community College District Global Conversation Series under Chancellor Dr. Curtis Ivery will help to provide different perspectives to that crucial question by presenting the first engaging expert public forum “State of Emergency: Bankruptcy and the Future of Detroit,” July 26, from 12noon-1:30pm at the downtown campus of WCCCD, 1001 West. Fort Street in Multipurpose Room 236.

    The forum which is open to the public will discuss what bankruptcy means, its local and national ramifications and how Detroit can emerge from this dire economic crisis.

    The panel members are the Honorable Ray Reynolds Graves former federal bankruptcy judge, Tom Walsh longtime business columnist at the Detroit Free Press, Faye Nelson, CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and member of the Board of Directors of Compuware, and Sheila Cockrel, former member of the Detroit City Council.

    The forum moderator is Bankole Thompson, a distinguished journalist and editor of the Michigan Chronicle. He is the author of the forthcoming book on Detroit titled “Rising From the Ashes: Engaging Detroit’s Future with Courage,” to be released in 2014.

    The WCCCD forum is the first insightful public conversation and response to news of Detroit filing for bankruptcy. Seating to this event is limited and interested attendees are being encouraged to be seated half hour earlier.

  • Affirmative Action Symposium to Feature Original Debaters in University of Michigan Case at WCCCD Downtown Detroit Campus

    NATIONAL NEWS RELEASE

    DETROIT,MI, July 11- Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the University of Texas-Austin affirmative action case, Wayne Community College District Global Conversation Speaker Series, will present a symposium today open to the public on the issue that continues to define the debate on access to higher education for minorities and the future of diversity in a rapidly expanding global marketplace.

    “Affirmative Action and the Battle for a Diverse Education,” will be the topic of the open forum at the downtown campus of WCCCD, 1001 West. Fort Street beginning at 10am in Multipurpose Room 236 and featuring some of the leading voices who were at the forefront of the University of Michigan affirmative action case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The panel members are Jennifer Gratz, CEO of the XIV Foundation and lead plaintiff in the University of Michigan affirmative action case, Robert Sedler Wayne State University law professor and one of the leading constitutional experts in the Midwest, Godfrey Dillard lead defense attorney in the University of Michigan Grutter/Gratz affirmative case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Detroit News conservative columnist Henry Payne and Joshua Bassett director of the Institute for Social Progress.

    The symposium is Bankole Thompson, a distinguished journalist and editor of the Michigan Chronicle.

    The WCCCD forum is the first public conversation and response in metro Detroit since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Fisher V. University of Texas-Austin sending the case back to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Early seating at the July 11 forum is encouraged because seating is limited.