What Detroit Deserves — December 24, 2008

By JuJuan Buford

Americans are eager for change. After eight years of the Bush administration’s overall ineptitude and difficulty managing the truth (to put it mildly) concerning issues of national security abroad and freedom at home, coupled with one of the most ruinous financial catastrophes in U.S. history, Americans just flat out had enough. Certainly, Barack Obama’s exclamation of “enough” during his Democratic Convention speech could not have captured the sentiments of U.S. citizens more, and suffice to say the world for that matter.

However, what of Detroit?

Many would assume that Detroiters are eager for change as well. Popular opinion says that Obamania will inspire Detroit’s citizens to turnout en masse resulting in a clean sweep of the incompetence and decadence that has characterized city politics. And if the aforementioned were true, what a beautiful dream it would be. Especially considering that even for the most enthusiastic followers of Detroit politics among us, what has transpired over the last eight years in particular is enough to make you want to reach for a bottle of strawberry Pepto-Bismol on an almost daily basis.

Indeed, at times it seems Detroit exists in an alternative universe or twilight zone. The disintegration of former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, will undoubtedly inspire a motion picture some day. Once considered to be a rising star on par with likes of an Obama, Kilpatrick is now sitting behind bars. The interim Mayor, Kenneth Cockrel seems committed, if not vested in maintaining the status quo. The Detroit City Council inspires ridicule and embarrassment from even the most ardent supporters of the city. And the travesty that is the Detroit Public School Board is utterly despicable. Too strong, eh? It is said that you can tell a lot about a people by how they treat their children.

The list of slights to the public’s welfare, intelligence, and sensibilities are too long to chronicle in this article. And the bottom line is despite the love, appreciation, and commitment many of Detroit’s residents hold regarding the city, it is undeniable that the state of city affairs is thoroughly compromised from top to bottom.

Perhaps this abbreviated synopsis is a bit unfair. After all, Detroit is a small city, despite our big city attitude. There is little separation between competing political camps and enclaves in the city,and some would argue it is just simply the few soiling the reputation of the bunch.

Well, if that is the case then they are a very visible, prominent few, often brazenly displaying unscrupulous behavior that is downright gutbucket. Perhaps more than anything else it is the brazen, overt nature of the pillaging, pimping, and disrespect that is so disheartening; leading many to abandon the dream of what Detroit could be.

And it’s past time for an honest, unabashed assessment of the circumstances that are afflicting the city. It involves the acknowledgement that there is a class of politicians who run for office to be of service to the people, but nevertheless, compassion is not tantamount to competence. There is also a class of politicians who view politics as a means to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Yet, while playing the game so to speak, some are inclined to be of service to the public. In politics things are rarely so cut and dry as we’d like them to be. However, what is readilty apparent is that Detroit is inundated with a breed of politician that is particularly debauched and exceedingly inept.

However, worse yet, we continue to vote for them.

Yes, there is a segment of the electorate that may rightfully feel defrauded after the last mayoral election, but what of the city council, school board, legislators, senators, county commissioners, etc., etc., etc.? Was not the current cadre of representatives elected? What does it say about the residents who have voted for these domestic abusers and those who knowingly remain silent in their midst?

The truth is not pretty, because it means that a significant segment of Detroit’s citizens have abdicated their right to good government, reliable city services, and a good quality of life. It means too many Detroiters have become accustomed to pitiable living conditions. Too many have adopted the attitudes and examples of the most deficient morally and professionally among us. It means Detroiters have become too complacent (lazy) to research and recall the misdeeds of candidates who would not last one second in any other major metropolitan city in the United States.

Ever hear the saying, you get what you pay for? You get what you vote for as well, and Detroit is paying a frightful price.

If change is desired, it must start with the citizenry taking responsibility for constantly voting in the same culprits and their ilk time and time again, then expecting a different result. Good government — nationally, regionally, statewide, countywide, and locally — is predicated upon an active, informed, vested citizenry. If change is to occur, it will only occur when people take responsibility for allowing conditions to deteriorate to the extent that gunshots in broad daylight, underperforming schools, non-bid contracts, unreasonable insurance rates, the near political orthodoxy of the friends and family plan, and excuses for failure to become acceptable.

Nevertheless, given the sheer weight and scope of the corruption, the existence of an active, resolute, and credible media committed to insuring that citizens are equipped with the information necessary to make responsible decisions is imperative.

I recall listening to one early morning talk show host belittle the objections of those whom were less than pleased with a mayoral debate sponsored by WADL, TV 38 featuring only three candidates out of a field of approximately eighteen. The individual, also co-host of the debate, insinuated that those who were upset about the absence of the other 15 candidates, were disgruntled because they’re candidate did not have red carpet rolled out for them as well.


No. What we are upset about is having the same ancient bodies and recycled characters paraded before us, repeatedly being duped into choosing from the same restricted smorgasbord election after election, without the opportunity to truly examine the field for the existence of talented, intelligent, and committed individuals who may actually be able to deliver. Is it not ironic to hear folks hearkening for the days of principled, committed, tenacious leadership, then turn around and ignore basic democratic tenets that are required if people are too have the opportunity to elect sound leadership?

All that being said, it would be disingenuous to state that some of the media have not at times stepped up to the plate, but more is required.

Detroit, the choices are clear. We can continue to elect serial failures and scoundrels. Or apply our collective intellect, truly explore our options, and hold the media more accountable (or seek alternative sources). Ultimately, we’ve been getting what we’ve voted for, and this truth is inescapable. We are getting what we deserve, and if we want different we need to vote accordingly.

And as an aside. I hope to be as spry as Bush at that age. Wow! It was like watch Matrix Revolutions all over again. And here’s hoping that the Hendrix that has shown himself to be an advocate of young men and women re-acclimating to life after exiting the prison industrial complex, and be pretty heady during mayoral debates continues to show up. It’s obvious he learned some lessons from his last campaign.

Originally published at https://www.catchjsbuford.com.



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JuJuan Buford

I’m believe that change can occur when people are equipped with the tools to exercise agency in their lives. Entrepreneur. Writer. #catchjsbuford