In a significant, surprising shift in power that is certain to cause headaches for the Lansing-appointed emergency manager, the new Detroit City Council today selected the two most outspoken opponents of state intervention.
At-large Councilwoman Brenda Jones was elected as president by a 5-4 vote, and incoming Councilman George Cushingberry Jr. was tapped as president pro tem.
Those supporting the new leaders were council members Scott Benson, Gabe Leland, Mary Sheffield, Cushingberry and Jones. Those who supported Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins as president and Andre Spivey as president pro tem were James Tate, Raquel Castadenda-Lopez, Jenkins and Spivey.
It was unclear coming into the meeting how some of the new council members were going to vote. As it turned out, four of the five new members voted for Jones.
If anything, today’s election was a clear signal that council is digging in for a fight against the emergency manager’s authority and the bankruptcy proceedings – pledges most of those candidates made on the campaign trail.
Jenkins was calling for more cooperation with Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to end the infighting that has plagued the city for decades.
Jones, who often lost her temper last year and was a strong ally of former Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, was first elected to the board in November 2005.
At the end of today’s meeting, Jones said she wants to bridge the divide among members.
“We must all work to either to return Detroit to greatness,” Jones said. “Our unity will be a critical factor in the city’s success.”
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.