NPR logo Good Luck, Detroit

Politics & Society

Good Luck, Detroit

New Detroit City Council member Andre Spivey (center at podium) addresses the media, on Monday. The city council members from left: Brenda Jones, Ken Cockrel, Jr., Gary Brown, Saunteel Jenkins, Spivey, Charles Pugh, James Tate, Kwame Kenyatta and JoAnn Watson. Tuesday, the group held their first meeting. Carlos Osorio/AP hide caption

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Carlos Osorio/AP

We know that the attempted bomb attack on the Northwest airlines Christmas Day flight is still much on many people's minds. It's interesting that some conservatives are blaming the attempted attack on the Obama administration's focus on domestic affairs. They say he is "distracted" by his aggressive domestic policy agenda.

I am having a hard time with that one.

People vote for a candidate for all kinds of reasons, even because he (or she) is the one they'd most like to have a beer with. But there is no question that Obama's commitment to address domestic issues was the most significant part of his platform and the reason most people voted for him, not to mention the fact that voters' assessment of his qualifications on foreign policy and security issues consistently ranked below those of John McCain. How Obama could take office and fail to address domestic issues is beyond me. As he put it, walking and chewing gum at the same time goes with the job,

And I guess that's one reason we have also chosen to focus on matters closer to home today. We're spending a good bit of time in Detroit. No disrespect, but if any major U.S. city can be said to be on the ropes, well, Detroit surely can. We are talking CRAZY high unemployment, like 30 percent. We are talking five-bedroom townhouses selling for $15,000. We are talking about a school that send the entire fourth grade home one day because there were not enough teachers to teach them.

And that doesn't even get into the personal misconduct of some of its leaders — former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his sexy text messages to his chief of staff, for which he went to jail (for lying under oath about the relationship), and former city council chief Monica Conyers' shady dealings around a contract are just two examples of recent political drama in the city.

So why did so many people want to lead the city at a time like this?

You'll have to ask them.

So we did. Charles Pugh and Saunteel Jenkins were just two of the 37 people who ran for Detroit City council in the last election and two of the five newcomers who came out on top. Charles Pugh, who is also the city's first openly gay elected leader, will be council president and Jenkins, a social worker, will be a member of the council, joining four veterans.

Whatever your politics, how can you not wish them luck. First order of business: a $300 million deficit.

Here's a local report on the transition at Detroit City Hall (Courtesy of WJBK-TV):

And ...

Hey, can I get you to help me out on the latest: canned goods drive/casino night/silent auction/faculty appreciation lunch/book drive at the kids' school? No? What's that, you say, you are busy already for the rest of YOUR LIFE?

Helaine Olen says, right on. She's telling her school volunteer recruiters, no, you CANNOT count on me.

And we say goodbye to trailblazing fashion magnate Eunice Johnson.