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The upcoming election for Detroit City Council has literally left me torn between two loves – my great love and respect for retiring City Council President MaryAnn Mahaffey vs. my great love and concern for the City of Detroit.
Although I knew the day would come when she would no longer be on City Council, her official retirement announcement still came as quite a surprise. Like many I thought MaryAnn would always be there and one day just ascend to “Council heaven” on a cloud of light after bringing down the gavel on some important piece of legislation.
I can’t remember a city council in my voting life without MaryAnn vision and leadership. When the “Save Our Spirit” coalition annually battled Mayor Coleman Young’s budget for more dollars to Detroit’s neighborhoods, Marianne was right there with us. She has continued to advocate for the neighborhoods and citizenry of Detroit throughout the Archer and Kilpatrick administrations, alerting community leadership to important policy initiatives and making sure our voice was heard before council.
Whether it was affordable housing, trash pick-up, safe neighborhoods or domestic partnership and protection for same gender loving families, we knew we had a friend on council. But not just on council, MaryAnn was in the trenches with us marching in the streets, at meetings, town halls, dinners, always stumping for equality. All Detroiters – Black, White, Latino, Christian, Moslem, Jewish, Gay, Straight – knew she loved this great city and us.
Her commitment and vision has inspired me and fueled my passion for social justice and the city of Detroit. And this shared love for the city is the source of my dilemma. What would the reelection of MaryAnn Mahaffey to city council this November mean to Detroit?
Are we missing an opportunity to think strategically, look at the other seventeen candidates and elect a council of nine committed to continuing MaryAnn’s work? A special election to fill her council seat would cost millions of dollars our cash strapped city simply does not have to spend. Would an eight-member council after her retirement be able to accomplish the work of the city until the special election could be held? Or would it be better to have a new council fully seated with nine members in January 2006 that could hit the ground running, sleeves rolled up, about the business of re-building, re-defining and re-spiriting our city?
There are more questions than answers and far too little time. Whatever is decided at the ballot box, one thing I know for sure: we will all miss MaryAnn Mahaffey on Detroit’s City Council.
The ultimate tribute we can give MaryAnn is to continue her work. For each of us to take on a little of the responsibility for vision, leadership, advocacy and activism so there is no void with her departure. Her 30+ years of civil service has shown that one person can make a difference in the city, the state and the nation.
Hopefully that new face in her chair at the council table will continue her amazing legacy. But we don’t have to wait until January to see who will continue this work for better stronger more vibrant neighborhoods and communities. We can see that person each morning when we look in the mirror because ultimately it is up to each of us. Make a difference. Get involved. Her dreams live on in you.
Best wishes MaryAnn and good health MaryAnn and thanks for all you’ve done for Detroit.