Detroiters made Charles Pugh City Council president in 2009, and Brenda Jones' colleagues gave her the post in 2014. Will things go any better this time? (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)
The Detroit City Council is off to a disastrous start. In choosing an obstructionist like Brenda Jones as president, the new governing body signals it is not likely to offer Detroit the quality leadership thatís essential as the city emerges from bankruptcy.
Jones, a third-term councilwoman, represents the worst of Detroit political culture. She previously aligned herself with a three-member bloc that voted against nearly every reform presented to the council. For example, Jones opposed the consent agreement with the state that could have averted emergency management, had the council followed the plan.
Jones has also denied Detroitís financial crisis and refused to accept the dramatic consequences of the cityís circumstances. In addition, she is a labor loyalist who puts the interests of city unions ahead of residents.
The council voted 5-4 Monday to oust former President Saunteel Jenkins in favor of Jones. The cityís new charter gives the City Council the authority to elect its president and pro tem; those roles previously went to the two members who got the most votes in the general election.
In making this decision, the council is setting itself up to fall back into bad habits.
The council could only have made a worse choice in George Cushingberry Jr. ó an old-school political operative and former Wayne County commissioner and state representative. And while council didnít choose him as president, it offered Cushingberry the No. 2 position. He beat out the councilís former pro tem, Andre Spivey, who would have been the better option.
Both Jones and Cushingberry represent the status quo in Detroit politics and are not likely to support positive change or reform.
Jones has outspokenly opposed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, and now heís not likely to grant the council any real authority during the rest of his tenure.
Those responsible for supporting Jones are council members Cushingberry, Scott Benson, Mary Sheffield and Gabe Leland; Jones voted for herself. With the exception of Jones, these are all new council members who had an opportunity to offer a fresh kind of leadership.
Clearly, thatís not the path these elected leaders are taking.
We are especially disappointed in Leland, from whom we expected more. We endorsed the former state representative in both the primary and general elections because we thought he would join forces with the more reasonable council members. Leland will have much to prove.
Council members James Tate, Spivey and Raquel Castaneda-Lopez made the right call in voting for Jenkins, who also cast a vote for herself.
Jenkins was a pragmatic council leader who approached her role with common sense. She became president last July after former President Charles Pugh skipped town without warning.
We sincerely hope the councilís leadership choices will not be an indicator of its direction going forward, although these actions donít give us much confidence.
Detroit has an opportunity for a fresh start. Going through bankruptcy will provide the city a way out from under its heavy debt load. And Mayor Mike Duggan is raring to prove he really is the cityís fix-it guy.
The City Councilís decision to make Jones president is a huge step backward.