Challengers play up Detroit’s ills in council races
Detroit — Incumbents in a handful of council districts are facing challenges on Tuesday from a variety of community activists and business professionals hoping to advance to the November ballot.
In each district, the two highest vote getters will face off in the fall.
■District 4: Andre Spivey, who is vying for his third term, is being challenged by a resident helping battle foreclosures, the founder of a neighborhood nonprofit and a community activist.
Spivey, 43, is touting his institutional knowledge and efforts to fight for residents in the east side district and citywide.
He spearheaded the city’s task force on economic development and inclusion, and an ordinance that required surveillance cameras for gas stations. He is also behind landlord/tenant legislation with property registration requirements.
“District 4 is a place with a lot of great assets,” said Spivey, a pastor for St. Paul AME Church. “The future is very hopeful, and people are moving in.”
Latisha Johnson, 41, is a longtime resident of the East English Village neighborhood and former board member of her community association. She has spearheaded efforts to hold financial institutions accountable for run-down properties in her area and serves as vice chair of Detroit’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
Her goals include sustaining current neighborhood associations, helping to improve economic development and making sure residents are informed and engaged.
“I feel like our community, especially District 4, is sort of lagging behind when you look at the city as a whole,” she said.
Longtime MorningSide resident Jackie Grant is making her first bid for office. The 69-year-old has spent years canvassing the city and compiling data on tax foreclosures.
Grant noted she wants to see a partnership between the city and nonprofits to buy back properties in the pipeline of the foreclosure auction and offer payment plan assistance and counseling for homeowners.
“We need to be proactive,” Grant said. “I want to keep things transparent, work with integrity and really let people know what’s going on so they don’t feel left out.”
Fellow contender and activist Ane Bomani wants to press for more recreational opportunities for east-side children. The 66-year-old ex-policy analyst and community liaison for former councilman Kwame Kenyatta said he is also concerned with environmental justice, battling water shutoffs and foreclosures.
“We are in serious need of grass-roots leadership in the city of Detroit,” Bomani said.
■District 5: In this southeast area, incumbent Mary Sheffield is hoping to hang on to her seat when she goes up against Wayne County Commissioner Jewel Ware in November. The race will not appear on Tuesday’s primary ballot since it involves two candidates.
■District 6: Southwest Detroit council member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez is being challenged by a retired police officer and an accountant.
Elected in November 2013, Castaneda-Lopez is the first Latina to sit on the Detroit City Council.
Among her efforts, Castaneda-Lopez introduced an ordinance to regulate the handling and storage of controversial petroleum coke and other bulk solid materials in the city, and helped negotiate benefits for Delray residents in the footprint of the planned Gordie Howe International Bridge.
If re-elected, Castaneda-Lopez said she will work on introducing legislation that protects residential neighborhoods from the pollutants of factories and industrial facilities. She also wants to work on streamlining the process for food trucks to get permits.
“I grew up in poverty so I understand the challenges that a lot of our residents face on a daily basis,” said Castaneda-Lopez, 35.
She is challenged by Tyrone Carter, a retired lieutenant from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office who has spent the last eight years volunteering with neighborhood associations in Detroit.
Carter, 55, said he believes there is a disconnect between what residents are discussing and city council conversations.
He argued the city needs to use technology to assist with public safety efforts. For example, Carter said there should be working cameras in known drug areas and dumping grounds.
“The majority of the neighborhoods have not seen an increase in positivity,” Carter said.
Felicita Lugo is a certified public accountant for Ford Motor Co. and political newcomer. She said her fiscal expertise would be an asset to the city council.
Lugo, 48, said she wants to focus on helping small and mid-size businesses grow in the community. This will provide jobs for residents and boost the economy, she said.
“A lot of people in our neighborhoods, they just need assistance, they need someone to listen to them,” Lugo said. “It’s time for us non-politicians to step up and get involved.”
■ District 7: Incumbent Gabe Leland faces two challengers — Regina Ross and JoAnna Underwood.
Leland, 35, said in the last four years his office has worked to help neighborhood block clubs expand and get access to resources.
The first-term councilman said he has been engaged with district residents, responding to several complaints earlier this year by backing an ordinance that banned front porch grilling in Detroit.
Leland said he needs another term to accomplish more goals, such as capturing city grants for revamping commercial corridors in the Warrendale and Russell Woods neighborhoods.
“There is a lot of work left to be done,” said Leland, a former state representative.
Underwood said she started her activist career at the age of 17 when she advocated for rape kits in Detroit.
The certified nursing assistant has since helped expand the organization New Era, which strives to to restore black unity. Underwood has assisted with launching New Era chapters in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama.
Underwood, 34, said as a council member she would propose an ordinance that requires security guards to staff gas stations in Detroit because that’s where much of the crime happens.
Ross said her experience as a program director for Wayne State University and the Detroit school district gives her financial and administrative skills that could benefit the council. She said she is equipped to handle contracts, sales and city litigations.
Ross, 49, is a community advisory councilwoman in District 7 and sits on the executive board of the 13th Congressional Democratic Party.
Ross said her priorities are public safety, education, training and employment, and health care.