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Detroit residents urged to vote to shape future of Detroit City Council amid corruption cloud

Posted at 10:13 AM, Nov 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-02 10:13:55-04

(WXYZ) — Detroiters have seen more than their fair share of corrupt politicians. They deserve better with so much on the line.

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"It's chaotic. It's a mess ... it's broken government," said Bankole Thompson, Detroit News columnist and the PuLSE Institute's editor-in-chief.

And broken trust, that's how Bankole Thompson describes the state of Detroit City Council. Though they have not been charged with any crimes, councilmembers Janee Ayers and Scott Benson recently had their homes and offices searched in connection with a federal corruption probe.

And earlier this year, Gabe Leland resigned after pleading guilty to a state charge of misconduct in office.

Then there's Andre Spivey, an ordained minister who pastored in the A.M.E. Church, who resigned from council after pleading guilty to bribery. It's Spivey, who Thompson says, may have been the biggest disappointment for Detroiters.

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"He's the last person on that council, I thought, would actually acquiesce to that level of criminality and that level of serious violation of the public trust," said Thompson.

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey says corruption or alleged corruption could be a factor in lower voter turnout.

"That's been proven over and over and over again. And unfortunately in my world, it should have just the opposite effect," said Winfrey.

Sheila Cockrel, who served on the Detroit City Council for sixteen years, said, “I would prefer not to look at the situation, saying ‘I’m so tired, so I’m going to give up.’ It should be, ‘I’m so tired, so I’m going to get more involved. And I’m going to get more people to participate. And I’m going to understand why friends I may have or family members I may have don’t vote.’”

Cockrel says there's a lot at stake and that's why being a well informed voter is so important.

"For democracy to work, people must make informed decisions ... that reflect their values and priorities and ... what's in the common good, not just what's in my interest, but what is going to benefit the majority of people who live in the city of Detroit," she said.

With the resignations of Spivey and Leland, and council president Brenda Jones and member Raquel Castañeda-López not running for re-election, there will be at least four new faces on council, and after the raids at the homes of Ayers and Benson, councilmember Lopez had hoped to get mandatory ethics training into the rules for council.

“The rules can be complicated, not always clear. And so if you don't know, have someone that's professional who has integrity, who's going to be honest, helping you out, I can see how people make naive mistakes. But I also can see how people intentionally try to find loopholes and cheat the system," said Castañeda-López.

"All is not well. ... so what is at stake? The future of Black Detroit, and the future of the economic survival of Black Detroit. As it relates to council, we need to be able to have a council with integrity, a council with character, a council that represents leadership, not the council that is outgoing now," said Thompson.