Detroit — Northwest Detroit’s incumbent councilman is being challenged in the Nov. 7 election by a community activist who gained fame last year with a social media broadcast that helped nab a carjacking suspect.
James Tate, who is seeking a third four-year term in Detroit’s City Council District 1, will be facing off against first-time candidate Tamara Liberty Smith, a 43-year-old single mother of six.
The district includes the city’s Stoepel Park and nearly 70 active associations and block clubs in communities ranging from Brightmoor to Grandmont-Rosedale and Old Redford.
Among his accomplishments, Tate, 42, has touted the launch of Di$cover D1, an online district-wide small business directory, as well as the start of monthly community meetings with residents.
“For me, it’s all about finding ways to empower Detroiters,” he said. “I’ve always worked extremely hard to make sure residents stay informed. I’ve also done everything I could to be visible and accessible.”
Tate spearheaded legislation that governs how and where medical marijuana dispensaries operate in Detroit as well as an ordinance that permits communities to pursue special assessment districts.
The councilman said his office works to spotlight district businesses and youth and connect residents with departments and services.
“The biggest issues we have are not dissimilar to what people are hearing throughout the city of Detroit,” Tate said, pointing to illegal dumping, high auto insurance rates and the need for increased police patrols.
In her campaign, Smith is advocating for more “livable wage” jobs in Detroit, a crackdown on sex trafficking and efforts to reduce the city’s high car insurance rates.
Smith runs an independent transportation company that she said she launched after a serial rapist struck her area. She focused on providing transportation to women and getting children to school for their families in the early morning hours.
She gained attention last fall when she implored the public for tips on Facebook Live from the scene of where an elderly woman was carjacked in the lot of a northwest Detroit gas station. The effort helped authorities locate the man a short time later.
“I am not your traditional candidate,” said Smith, who said she also uses social media to help find stolen cars. “What I did that day and always do is call on the community to engage.”
Smith noted she also helped organize several searches in Brightmoor for Douglas “Chef Doug” Calhoun, a popular local chef who had been missing since May 31. His remains were later found in an abandoned home on the city’s west side.
The Henry Ford High School graduate who earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Wayne County Community College said she’s “completely dissatisfied” with what’s going on in the neighborhoods in comparison with the city’s downtown.
“I really want to implement change and want people to see if I can do it, they can do it,” said Smith, who lives in the city’s Belmont neighborhood.
Smith said she represents the “under-served” and “strategically left out neighborhoods.” She said she is not intimidated by Tate, who pulled in 70 percent of the vote in the August primary.
Too much poverty and crime remain in the neighborhoods and opportunities are lacking, she contended.
“I believe people are looking for a change,” Smith said.