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Opinion: Rebuilding Detroit takes everyone's cooperation

Daniel Cherrin

Our world is upside down. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and converging crises, including climate change, economic uncertainty, social inequality, and rising disinformation; public and private institutions need to show they are accountable, ethical, inclusive, and transparent. This is the only way to strengthen public trust and achieve a more sustainable future.

The debate whether or not the U.S. Senate should confirm a new Supreme Court justice and the hype around 2020 election will continue to divide our nation, while at the same time encourage energized people on both sides to speak up and do something.

I ran for the Oakland County Commission to bring people together to resolve difficult issues. I lost in the primary, but I learned that I could make a bigger impact outside of government by focusing on the issues I am passionate about, without the constraints of working within government, and outside the rancor of partisan politics.

What I saw during my campaign is that we already have the expertise needed to solve real problems, Cherrin writes.

The pandemic — and the political, economic, and social disruptions it has caused — has exposed where we are vulnerable and that we are short on time. Our region is faced with new challenges and new opportunities that demand ways we should think differently and tap our region's existing resources to help rebuild the region.

What I saw during my campaign is that we already have the expertise needed to solve real problems and many companies have the talent and resources to help strengthen our region while cultivating a new generation of civic leaders.

Detroit has a tradition of private sector involvement in the advancement of our region. Today's realities make it impossible for the private sector not to have a stake in Detroit's resiliency. To become resilient, we need to engage a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders to help solve our region’s most pressing issues.

It is difficult for anyone today to sit on the sidelines when there is so much work we can do together. The private sector, in partnership with community organizations, labor, the faith community, and academia must find a way to bring the tables together and collaborate with the people we elect this November, irrespective of politics. We need everyone’s help. Together we need to identify our priorities, isolate the challenges or barriers to progress and find a way to get at the root of the problem, if we are going to truly make a difference.

Through cross-sector collaboration, we can bring the right stakeholders to the table to create a better way of resolving our region's most pressing problems and at the same time, create a network for government leaders and perhaps a pipeline for future government leaders.  

This November, we need to elect people who understand that if we are to create lasting change and emerge from this crisis stronger, we must rise above the political rhetoric and bring people together to prioritize the critical issues our state faces and find a better way to solve them. 

Now is the time to come together and think differently in tackling our region's greatest challenges and steer our community onto a more equitable, inclusive, and a sustainable path. 

To ensure we advance systemic changes and build resilience into our economy, our current civic leaders need to mentor a new generation of civic leaders by involving them in the process to rebuild a post-pandemic community and economy.

Many of our political leaders are not willing to set aside politics to strengthen our institutions, laws, and systems. We also have few leaders willing to make decisions on difficult and often controversial issues.

As someone who has been an active member of our community for the past 25 years who has worked with elected officials and served the city of Detroit as its communications director and press secretary to Detroit Mayor Kenneth V. Cockrel Jr., I can tell you first hand, that as a private citizen we have more power to create change than the people we elect.

And I hope the people we elect realize we have a lot more to gain from cooperation than conflict. We should not have to wait for the election to identify our new priorities, bring the key stakeholders together, and start working on solving our region’s toughest problems — together.

Daniel Cherrin is the founder of North Coast Strategies, a public relations consultancy. An attorney, Daniel served as the communications director for the city of Detroit and press secretary to Mayor Kenneth V. Cockrel Jr.