DETROIT – Socialist Party candidate Matt Erard was among five candidates elected to a three year term on the city of Detroit’s Downtown District Citizens’ District Council in the municipal election held for that office on Tuesday April 5th. Erard and other successful candidates in last week’s citizens’ district council elections gained their first opportunity to learn of their elected status this week, due to the unavailability of any unofficial results from the city’s election department prior to the release of its official post-election canvass. In particularly notable congruity with Erard’s election this year, all candidates elected in Detroit’s April 5th citizens’ district council elections will formally begin their terms of office on this year’s international labor holiday of Sunday May 1st.
Though Detroit’s city charter rules prohibit any candidate for city office from being listed with a party label on the ballot, Erard entered the 2011 race for Downtown District Citizens District Council (“CDC”) upon receiving the Socialist Party’s official nomination for that office at the February monthly membership meeting of the Party’s Detroit Socialist Party local and correspondingly centered his campaign materials around both the platform and banner of the Party. Erard’s election on April 5th marks the first time since 1976 that a Socialist Party candidate has been elected to public office in the state of Michigan….
While each of the candidates who submitted the requisite number of valid district-voter signatures to qualify for 2011 Downtown District CDC election ballot were ultimately successful in winning election to office in this year’s race, the city elections department’s rules and procedures also provide voters in each CDC election with the option of casting valid write-in votes for any other registered voters who reside within their districts, rather than limiting voters’ choices to only those candidates whose names are printed on the ballot.
Notwithstanding such exceptionally wide-ranging voting options afforded to city voters who do cast ballots in CDC elections, however, Erard also expressed significant concern over the greatly limited voter turnout in each of the nineteen CDC elections held last week, following the apparent absence of any city advertised or website-published information concerning the election date, candidates, or irregularly designated polling places. Accordingly, Erard strongly suggested that an effort to initiate the development of new department of elections polices, aimed at making CDC elections far more reasonably transparent and accessible to city voters, should be among the top priorities of the all-CDC representative Coordinating Council on Community Redevelopment (“CCCR”) during the coming year, pursuant to the specific authorization given to the CCCR in this context by the Detroit City code.
Each of Detroit’s nineteen citizens’ district councils is composed of twenty-four members, with six members annually elected to three year terms and the remaining six members appointed by Detroit’s mayor. As mandated under both state law and Detroit city ordinance, the Detroit City Council and Detroit Planning & Development Department are required to continuously consult with, and seek approval from, each applicable CDC prior to the implementation of any proposed development project, ranging from sidewalk construction to residential re-locations, intended to take place within a given CDC’s jurisdiction; and to incorporate CDC recommendations to the full extent feasible. Each CDC is correspondingly empowered to delay implementation of such projects through a vote of disapproval, and to request and obtain information from any city department on matters of concern to district residents.
While pointing to the present city administration’s principal development goals of residential “urban downsizing” and accelerated downtown gentrification, Erard argues that low income residents of the city now face a greater threat to their well being from “urban renewal” policies than at any time since the mass displacements of poor and minority residents imposed during the city’s first major wave of “urban renewal” projects during the 1950s. While committed to staunchly opposing any proposed measure serving to inhibit poor and working class residents’ access to affordable living spaces or city services, Erard has also centered his campaign around a myriad of proposed new measures aimed at fundamentally shifting the city’s present priorities away from the interests of the city’ downtown “partnership” of local aristocrats and Wall Street firms, and toward those of the city’s oppressed and working class majority.
Included among such urgently needed measures, Erard contends, are universal downtown and city-wide rent control, city termination and reversal of all residential utility shutoffs, mandatory hiring of under/unemployed city residents for all Detroit Land Bank Commission housing rehabilitation and neighborhood revitalization projects, and elimination of the city’s nearly $137 million annual handout to corporations in city grants and tax breaks.
At the same time, Erard hopes to use his elected seat on the city’s downtown citizens district council to help actively support all measures, grass roots organizing campaigns, mobilizations, and mass actions, that can help lead the way to Detroit’s working class majority, and that of other struggling cities, taking control of its own political system and economic institutions.
“Rather than continuing to subordinate the political will of the people of Detroit to the economic will of our city’s Wall Street- and Grosse Pointe Shores-dwelling overlords, the working class population of Detroit now stands exceptionally primed to lead the way in demonstrating what it means to bring the economy under the political will and democratic control of the people,” Erard said.
Erard for CDC campaign site: http://erard2011.spmichigan.org/