Detroit— City Council incumbent James Tate faces a retiree, while a former state legislator takes on a city hearing officer in the Nov. 5 race for seats in two of Detroit’s most populated voting districts.
Instead of electing all council members at large, Detroit will elect two at-large council members and members in each of the new seven council districts.
Tate, 38, and Wanda Jan Hill, 63, will vie for the seat in District 1 to represent their northwest Detroit neighborhood. The district includes the city’s Stoepel Park, two police precincts and dozens of active associations and block clubs in communities ranging from Brightmoor to Grandmont-Rosedale and Old Redford.
Both District 1 candidates are lifelong residents and say the district’s concerns over crime, blight, streetlights and schools mirror those of voters throughout Detroit.
“It is my job and my goal, as I go hopefully into the next term, to utilize the relationships I’ve built over these four years to be able to make positive change to those areas,” says Tate, who is seeking his second term. “There is still a whole lot of work left to do.”
Tate said he strives to improve job creation, public lighting efforts and transparency in government. He is focused on a property maintenance code to reduce crime and prevent blight. He also has been working on a plan for special assessment districts throughout the city where residents agree to an additional dedicated tax for security, snow removal and mosquito abatement.
“My entire life this city has been on a decline. At some point we’ve got to improve our condition,” he said, pointing to finances, infrastructure and city services. “If there’s something that I can do, I’m going to do it to make sure I’m fulfilling the commitment that I asked the voters to provide me with.”
District 1 challenger
Hill worked for the city for three decades in environmental policy as well as a fiscal manager and administrator. If elected, Hill said she will work to restore pride in the community and encourage residents, clubs and associations to support neighborhood merchants.
“The neighborhoods do have a responsibility for the economics of the city, that is to support their neighborhood,” she said. “I plan to bring pride to this district ... as an example for others to mimic.”
Hill said she’s never run for public office before but “felt compelled.”
“At this time in Detroit’s life, we need someone to be able to step up,” she said.
Big plans for District 2
The District 2 race is between former Wayne County Commissioner and state lawmaker George Cushingberry Jr. and Richard J. Bowers Jr., a hearing officer for the city’s Building Safety Engineering and Environmental Department.
District 2 is primarily neighborhoods, also with close-knit associations including Sherwood Forest and Green Acres. It encompasses the Avenue of Fashion area on Livernois from McNichols to Eight Mile and borders the University District.
Cushingberry, 60, is touting plans for property tax reform, transparency in the city budget and green jobs. Other focuses, he said, are blight reduction and enhancements in recreation and transit.
“I don’t want to see my city fail because of the lack of attentiveness and understanding,” said Cushingberry, who is a Detroit-based lawyer and, at age 21, was the youngest person elected to the state House of Representatives.
In the Legislature, Cushingberry chaired committees including the House Appropriations and Fiscal Agency Governing Board.
Attracting and retaining residents and business in Detroit is a key goal, added Cushingberry, who served as a Wayne County commissioner for 16 years.
“We have got to convince folks to move into the city, especially if you work for us,” he said. “We need you to help keep this city in order.”
Bowers, 39, formerly worked as a staff attorney and on policy for City Council members Kenneth Cockrel Jr., Brenda Jones and Tate.
In his first bid for public office, Bowers said he’s focused on balancing the budget, updating ordinances and building new business and entertainment corridors as well as battling blight.
In his district, Bowers said, the main concern is abandoned houses, graffiti, tall grass, untidy properties and a lack of working streetlights. He said he wants to get the Police Department the resources it needs to succeed, including better code enforcement and strengthened laws.
“This is the most important election cycle in the history of Detroit,” Bowers said. “It is exciting that we now have an opportunity to rebuild the city and, if we fail, we may not have another opportunity. I am running for council because I believe I can help the city be successful.”
Gail Rodwan, a board member for the Sherwood Forest Association, said many northwest residents see the new district as a positive.
“There is a lot of hope that the districts will bring the City Council closer to the needs of the individual neighborhoods,” said Rodwan, who lives in District 2.