Jason Hoskins for Southfield City Council: ‘We Can Do Great Things If We Have the Right Voices’  

Ellen Shanna Knoppow
By | 2019-08-22T10:41:10-04:00 August 21st, 2019|Michigan, News|

Millennial Perspective

Jason Hoskins believes Southfield has a great foundation. And he sees tremendous potential.

“I never thought I’d be actually running for office,” said Hoskins, a candidate for Southfield City Council. “For as long as I can remember, public service is something I wanted to do. In my role in Sen. Moss’s office, I’ve been able to work with the city a lot; I live here … so this is the area I’ve grown to love. And working with the city at the state level, we’ve been able to do a lot of great stuff — but I see all the potential.”

At the age of 35, Hoskins is in a unique position as a candidate for Southfield City Council, where the average age of council members is 61. He considers that a benefit.

“This is a goal of the city, to try to bring more young people to the city,” Hoskins said. “And I think if you’re trying to bring more young people to the city … it’s good to have those young voices there, too. I want to be part of those conversations because I think we can do a lot of great things here if we have the right voices.”

Despite his comparative youth, Hoskins’ resume boasts accomplishment and experience. A political science major at Eastern Michigan University, Hoskins then earned a master’s in public administration with a concentration in local government. Later, he received a law degree. In addition, Hoskins taught at Lawrence Tech University and has been active with the American Civil Liberties Union. It was because of an internship in former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s policy division that Hoskins said he realized his calling for public service.

After law school, Hoskins interned for State Rep. Rudy Hobbs, where he came to find his interest and talent for constituent relation.

“I feel like most people … don’t know who their state legislators are,” Hoskins said. “And so, if they found us, it’s usually they went through a lot of other people. They’re probably at their wit’s end, a little frustrated, and so it’s nice to be able to help them once they get to us or be able to point them in the right direction.”

It was in then-State Rep. and now-state Sen. Jeremy Moss’s office, where Hoskins is his legislative director, that Hoskins has been able to pursue his interest in policy. And it’s where he’s been able to work directly on issues that affect Southfield.

On the state level, Hoskins has worked to advance Southfield in a number of ways, in areas including neighborhood revitalization, protecting the environment and economic development.

Top Priorities

Hoskins sees great potential in attracting more people to Southfield — or giving them reasons to stay. He said he’s encouraged about talk of creating a little downtown in the Metro Detroit suburb, not far from the Southfield Civic Center campus. Hoskins said he believes some kind of center attraction is exactly what the city needs.

“I think a lot of people … from Southfield, they grow up here and they end up leaving. They feel like there aren’t things to do. You kind of either live here or you work here, but you don’t live here, and work here and play here,” he said.  “We have a daytime population of 175,000 people, and our normal population is 73,000. So, trying to capture some of those people and making sure they stay here is very important to me, because when there are more people here … that helps everybody.”

Neighborhood revitalization is at the top of Hoskins’ list, too. He helped Sen. Moss craft a bill that provides tax incentives to homeowners in certain neighborhoods. And, noting that Southfield has a great housing stock, he stressed the importance of maintenance.

“People care very much how their neighborhoods look, how their properties look,” Hoskins said. “And so I want to make sure they have all the tools available to make sure they can take care of their properties here in Southfield.”

“This is Definitely Doable”

Hoskins would not be the first openly LGBTQ person on the city council in Southfield. Not only was Sen. Moss a council member, the current mayor of Southfield, Ken Sivers, is openly gay as well. Still, Hoskins said that for a long time he wasn’t confident that running for elective office was a possibility for him — that maybe he should be satisfied with public service but not launch a campaign of his own.

What may have changed Hoskins’ mindset is working for Sen. Moss, whom he considers a role model.

“He has certainly shown me the way, and shown me this is definitely doable,” in terms of running for office, Hoskins said.

“Sen. Moss will always say, ‘When people say or talk about some gay agenda, well my gay agenda is to make sure the roads are fixed. Or to make sure your government is working well,'” Hoskins said. “And I think that’s what most people care about.”

What can be an added challenge for Hoskins, though is being an LGBTQ person of color. He elaborated on the significance of representation, for both communities.

“Seeing people that look like you, it matters,” Hoskins said. “It can be quite a weight on you. And I’m used to that, being a person of color, period. You don’t have to add letters after that. A lot of times I’ve been the only person who looks like me in a room. And when you have to add a person of color plus LGBTQ, I’ve got to make sure I’m good for the LGBTQ community and the black community.”

Hoskins also talked about how representation influences the broader community, too, in terms of acceptance. And ultimately, the impact that had on him.

“I think when you know somebody who is of the LGBTQ community, it makes it a lot easier for you to accept others. It’s easier to demonize people when you don’t know them. But when it’s like your son, or your daughter, or nephew … or city councilperson, all of a sudden, they’re real people now,” he said. “We’ve come a long way. We’re more accepting, to where I don’t feel like I had to be in the closet as I’m running for office here.”

Taking Southfield to the Next Level

Hoskins acknowledged that Southfield has undergone a lot of changes in the past generation, as many cities have. However, he’s certain the city he loves and calls home is on the upswing — and that may not just be youthful optimism.

“In the next few years, there’s gonna be so many changes for the better here in Southfield,” Hoskins said.

He then mentioned a recent story in Business Insider that ranks Southfield as one top the 25 suburbs in the country where home values are rising the fastest.

“We’ve always been a great place. I like to think I’m building on the legacy that so many other people who are in elected office have started,” he said.  “And I’m hoping that if I am elected, that I can take Southfield to the next level, build on the progress that we’re making now, because we’ve got a lot of potential here. And very soon, everybody’s gonna see it.”

The Jason Hoskins Campaign Kick-Off Fundraiser will be held on Sunday, Aug. 25, at 17239 New Jersey St., in Southfield from 2 to 4 p.m.

About the Author:

Ellen Shanna Knoppow
Ellen Knoppow is a writer, editor and activist.