Former President and second-term Detroit City Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins, 43, left, and third-term councilwoman Brenda Jones, 54, are vying for the president's seat, the first elected by the body under the new City Charter. )
Detroit— City leaders will begin their first full week in office Monday, beginning with a crucial vote to decide who will take charge of the Detroit City Council.
Former President and second-term Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins, 43, and third-term councilwoman Brenda Jones, 54, are vying for the president’s seat, the first elected by the body under the new City Charter. District 2 council member George Cushingberry Jr. has formed an exploratory committee to run for the presidency, but he hasn’t made clear the seriousness of his possible candidacy.
The nine-member panel, which had their leadership in the past determined by the top two vote-getters at the polls, will also select a president pro tem.
Five new members including Cushingberry will officially take office as they preside over the first session Monday morning.
Detroit-based political analyst Steve Hood called electing the leadership important for setting the panel’s tone. But it's not as crucial as in the past because Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr holds the cards on setting most of Detroit’s agenda and there's a willingness by the council overall to move the city forward.
“It’s a very important vote because the council president sets the tone and the agenda (for the body),” said Hood, whose father and brother served on the council. “(But) it won’t be setting the agenda as much because of the presence of Mr. Orr. Both of them (Jenkins and Jones) are about moving Detroit forward. The new members ... all of them are about moving Detroit forward. They are going to be moving Detroit forward, no matter who is there (as president).”
Political analysts also have noted a difference in style between Jenkins and Jones even as they both have opposed major proposals by Orr, including the state lease to operate Belle Isle, the city’s island park. Jenkins offered an alternative lease proposal that ultimately was rejected by the state’s emergency loan board in favor of the Orr plan, while Jones rejected both lease proposals.
On Tuesday, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan will give an address at a public investiture ceremony — a formal event that reflects the transfer of authority in a high public office. The event, which is not open to the public, also will welcome the council and the newly elected police commissioners into office.
Under the new charter, the Board of Police Commissioners is comprised of seven elected members and four members appointed by the mayor who oversee the department. Previously, the board had fewer members and was appointed by the mayor.
But Detroit Police Chief James Craig still reports directly to Orr, who hired the chief from Cincinnati.
The Rev. Soloman Kinloch of Triumph Church is scheduled to give a keynote address.
The event, which begins at 8:30 a.m., will be inside the Erma L. Henderson Auditorium on the 13th floor of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. It’s an affair much different than the traditional pomp and circumstance that Detroit has seen when new leadership takes the reins.
An inaugural gala, which is normally held during the transition, is on hold. But if Duggan has his way, there will be one this fall when the council could vote to get rid of the emergency manager after 18 months — though the state by law can maintain oversight of cities with financial emergencies after emergency managers leave through transition advisory boards.
“Our plan is to do an inaugural gala in October when the elected leadership takes back over,” Duggan said last week.