Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Can Pontiac handle democracy?

Turnout for Pontiac’s first bonafide election in over four years was only 13 percent but let’s take the positive view: The return of democracy to the city is off to a good start.

The city has elected a highly qualified mayor in Deirdre Waterman. If she can accomplish half of what she has led the way for at the city’s library it will be outstanding.

Outgoing Mayor Leon Jukowski deserves a hearty salute for his role in Pontiac’s necessary transformation under an emergency manager. Jukowski, since he had no real authority, could have sat on the sidelines and criticized the EM as Detroit’s Dave Bing has done, but he chose instead to support all of the EM’s unpopular decisions.

Voters often claim they want politicians to just do what is right in spite of popularity, but when they do, they suffer Jukowski’s fate at the polls.

Pontiac residents lost their democratic rights in March of 2009 after then Gov. Jennifer Granholm declared a financial emergency in the city. Fred Leeb was then named as the city’s emergency financial manager with near-dictatorial authority.

Democracy began to be restored to Pontiac in August of this year when Emergency Manager Louis Schimmel left his position.

Now the mayor and city council are back in charge, with some restrictions.

Elected officials do not have a good track record in running city government in Pontiac. The public shares the blame because it is the voters who choose the leaders.

Waterman is the city’s first woman mayor. Perhaps she can also become the city’s first successful mayor in recent memory.

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