Neighborhood leaders challenge candidates, residents to take on Children's Agenda

DETROIT – Four Detroit neighborhood leaders called on residents Thursday to join them in restoring a focus on children in the local political conversation, and they challenged the two mayoral candidates to commit to holding a public forum on the Children’s Agenda in the first 100 days of office.

In a news conference held at Matrix Human Services, leaders from resident-led community groups in the Osborn, Cody Rouge, Southwest Detroit and Brightmoor neighborhoods of Detroit stood up to say to political candidates: It’s time to talk directly about your plans for children.

“For too long, politicians have ignored or overlooked issues affecting children,” said Maria Salinas, executive director of the Southwest Detroit Congress of Communities. “Our residents want to know what elected officials will do to improve outcomes for our kids.”

The grassroots Children’s Agenda effort began this fall, backed by funding from the Skillman Foundation. Residents identified four areas they want political candidates to directly address in their campaigns and if elected to office. They include:

  • Education: Residents want elected officials to focus on building pipelines of quality teachers, increasing the safety and inclusiveness of classrooms across the city, updating buildings to take advantage of technology, and providing an education that will lead to a meaningful graduation for kids.
  • Safety: Residents want elected officials to ensure safe environments for children and families by working with public safety and community leaders on effective safety programs that focus on reduction of blight, building safer routes to school, making dependable lighting a priority, improving response times for public safety officials, and increasing personal safety presence in the neighborhoods.
  • Youth Development: Residents ask political candidates to support building neighborhoods where children have better access to high-quality youth development opportunities and leadership development training.
  • Jobs: Residents ask political candidates to foster a more robust jobs environment by better connecting Detroit residents, including youth, with apprenticeships and training programs.

In neighborhood canvassing, residents have left fliers on 25,000 doors and have so far collected 8,000 names of people who have pledged support for the Children’s Agenda. Several City Council candidates have signed the pledge. Others have been contacted but have not signed.

“We’re asking residents in Detroit to stand with us and to stand up for kids,” said Pastor Larry Simmons, a board member on the Brightmoor Alliance. “We also call on the mayoral candidates to sit with us, sit with our kids, to have a public conversation after the election about what this agenda means and how we can move forward.”

The Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance and Osborn Neighborhood Alliance are the other two organizations involved with the grassroots efforts. Through door-knocking efforts, some Detroit residents are getting engaged in politics for the first time, including a woman in her 60s who registered to vote for the first time.

“Since working on the agenda for the past two months, I have become more educated about the election process and have become more interested and dedicated to being involved,” said Naomi Flores from Southwest Detroit, who alone has recruited more than 200 people for the Children’s Agenda