Caller: Council President Pugh a corrupt racist? Give us a break

Detroit Council President Charles Pugh, who has earned a reputation as a hothead in the face of criticism, showed surprising restraint during a call-in segment of a radio show this morning.

A rambling caller to the Angelo Henderson Show on 99.9 FM said Pugh was a corrupt politician with no interest in improving the lives of black people.

The caller, Levi, said he knows this because Pugh used some of his airtime talking about the city’s dire budget problems instead of the death of a 7-month-old in a house fire Tuesday.

“In order to improve things,” the caller said, “you must first be concerned with preserving the lives of the people who live in Detroit.

“How many babies have lost their lives because you politicians do not put your emphasis on the lives of Detroit citizens?”

This is normal banter in Detroit politics.

And while Pugh has shown impatience with handling legitimate criticism and this kind of nonsense, the first-term politician has become more tolerant over the past month.

Whether it’s a sign that Pugh is maturing won’t be known for some time.

Pugh has been criticized over the past year for trying to influence media coverage and lashing out at critics at council meetings and on Twitter and Facebook.

Pugh even told a resident last month that he’s not running for reelection, partly because of incessant complainers like herself.

But in today’s case, Pugh knew the caller was wrong. The president was one of only two council members to support asking voters for a tax increase to improve police services this year. Pugh also has been an outspoken proponent of equal rights.

“You may come on the airwaves with your eloquent speech and fool these black folks, but you don’t fool me,” Levi told Pugh on the show. “The black politicians in this city don’t care about black people.”

Henderson appeared to stumble for a moment, unsure how to handle the call.

“People are just trying to survive,” Henderson finally said. “Until we get to the point economically where we can make Detroit better and have jobs and more trained people, then we are where we are.”

And that is why Pugh was talking about the budget. Until the city digs out of its enormous debt, people are going to die because Detroit can’t afford adequate services.

Related story: Pugh raises cash from builders, developers for nonexistent campaign

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.