Detroit reparations measure wins, Duggan earns 3rd term

First out LGBTQ Latinx woman, former state lawmakers win City Council seats

By: - November 3, 2021 6:48 am

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan during an April 13 rally at the state Capitol to push back against GOP voter reform bills. | Ken Coleman photo

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan on Tuesday scored a third term, the state’s first Latinx out LGBTQ woman was elected to Detroit City Council and a reparations proposal was approved by voters in Michigan’s largest city. 

In 3-to-1 fashion, Duggan defeated challenger Anthony Adams, who was deputy mayor during the Kwame Kilpatrick administration and also served as an appointee during the Coleman A. Young tenure during the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

“Mayors rarely get elected to third terms in big cities in this country. It’s a tough job,” Duggan told reporters at a post-election gathering in the city’s Midtown community.

Duggan, first elected in 2013, becomes the first Detroit mayor to serve more than two terms since Young who was elected to five terms before deciding to retire in 1993. 

In other races, City Clerk Janice Winfrey won a fifth term in office by defeating Denzel McCampbell, communications director for U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and a progressive activist and organizer.  

Coleman Young II, a former state House and Senate member, won one of two at-large seats on the City Council. Mary Waters, a former state House member, won the other at-large seat. They outpaced incumbent Janee Ayers, who is a subject of an FBI inquiry, but has not been charged. Officials raided her city office and home in August. Council President Brenda Jones chose not to seek re-election. 

Gabriela Santiago-Romero

Gabriela Santiago-Romero won a Council seat in District 7. She will be the first Latinx out LGBTQ woman elected in the entire state, according to the Victory Fund, a national organization that helps to elect openly LGBTQ candidates win local, state and federal elections.Santiago-Romero will replace Raquel Castañeda-López, who made history as the council’s first Latina member in 2013, and decided not to run for reelection. 

“Nearly all major American cities have elected an out LGBTQ councilmember, and thanks to Gabriela, Detroit will now be on that list,” said Annise Parker, Victory Fund president and CEO. “As an LGBTQ Latinx woman and immigrant, her perspective will enrich policy discussions and ensure all people in Detroit are prioritized. Latinx people, LGBTQ people and women are severely underrepresented in government, but Gabriela’s victory will inspire more of them to consider public service and run for office in their communities.”

Voter turnout was 18.66%, which was lower than 21.78% in 2017, 25.38% in 2013 and 22.68% in 2009, according to the city of Detroit. 

Three proposals 

Proposal R was overwhelmingly approved with 81% of the vote. 

Led by City Council member Mary Sheffield, the measure requires the Detroit City Council to establish a reparations task force to make recommendations for housing and economic development programs that address historical discrimination against Detroit’s Black community. Detroit is 79% African American. 

Keith Williams, Michigan Democratic Party Black Caucus chair, said the victory on the issue was the result of a coalition that included the City Council, the caucus and various community groups. 

“We educated people on the issue,” said Williams, an early proponent of the issue.

Proposal R creates a reparations task force, but the proposal does not extend beyond establishing the body. It does not define membership of the body or any timelines it is supposed to meet. 

A voter urges a yes vote on the reparations ballot proposal, Nov. 2, 2021 | Ken Coleman

Further, it does not ensure any legislative or fiscal action towards enacting any of the recommendations the task force makes, according to the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) analysis. The task force has one specific directive: to make short, medium, and long-term recommendations for the city to specifically address the creation of generational wealth and to boost economic mobility and opportunity in the Black community.

Proposal E also was approved, decriminalizing to the fullest extent permitted under Michigan law the personal possession and therapeutic use of entheogenic plants. 

However, it does not legalize the use and possession of them, according to the CRC. It makes enforcement of laws relating to entheogenic plants the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority. 

One measure failed: Proposal S, which would have enabled local voters to petition for the enactment of city ordinances that include the appropriation of money. The measure was closely tied to Proposal R, the reparations question.


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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.