Should the Mayor of Detroit live in Detroit?

The residency requirements to pay in-state tuition at the University of Michigan are higher than the ones needed to be Mayor of Detroit. That basically means I can run for Mayor of Detroit in November from my home in Bothell, WA.

A city’s mayor should be a city resident

For those that don’t know, Detroit elected a new mayor in a special election earlier this month to succeed disgraced former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Dave Bing beat out City Council President and then-acting Mayor Kenneth Cockrel. Only 15% of the city voted in the election, making his 52-47% similar to a basketball game without a ball. Problem: he lives in Franklin, MI, not Detroit, MI. (And yes, I know about his apartment in the city, but a married man lives where his wife lives, regardless of where his apartmnet is. Mrs. Bing lives in Franklin, so he lives in Franklin.)

Damaged credibility, authority, and standards

Just like it’s hard for me to accept pontification on the importance of public education from someone with kids in private school, it’s hard to believe someone who says they’re a leader invested in a city they don’t live in.

This idiocy, the idiocy of too little process for important things and too much process where it makes no sense, is unique neither to Michigan nor Detroit. This is the age of 2-page billion dollar bank bailout applications. It’s very troubling that it’s easier to get a multi-billion dollar loan or run for public office than it is to qualify for lower college tuition.

That definitely shows where our priorities lie.

One Love. One II.


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

6 responses to “Should the Mayor of Detroit live in Detroit?”

  1. Billione says :

    To be Frank(lin), the mayor should not only live in Detroit, but he or she should have lived in the city prior to petitioning for candidacy. In fact, their main residency would be within the city.

  2. RichardOn says :

    Interesting site, but much advertisments on him. Shall read as subscription, rss.

  3. RedMoul says :

    I so understand, in last paragraph just whole salt and is stated

  4. Karli Swift says :

    Am I reading this correctly? The Mayor of a major city does not have to live in the city in which they lead. Seriously! And all this time we have been wondering why (among other reasons) the Detroit is on the decline. If the Mayor does not believe in the city enough to find one neighborhood that he can raise his family…who will?

    I believe like many cities that have major problems the start to fixing them is to force all employees receiving a city pay check to live in the city. What will that do? It would increase the tax base, increase the quality of parent and student involvement and might even force people to take a look at areas that they once wouldn’t because they too have to live there.

    Bottom line…if the Mayor can only find an apartment in the city, why would anyone want to look for a home?

  5. Garlin II says :


    I agree wholeheartedly that municipal employees should be residents of said municipality.

    Such a policy would have the short-term benefit of fuller employment in the city. The long-term benefit would be a more self-sufficient city & populace that trains and educates its citizens to meet changing demands & needs.

    One Love. One II.

  6. Billione says :

    Karli & Garlin,

    I saw the effect of not having municipal employees first hand the other night. A detective visited by house looking for leads on a drive-by shooting on my block that ended will bullets spraying my house. No one in my family was targeted, but what started down the block ended on my door step.

    the detective mentioned that he moved out of the city after getting his job to have a better life for his family. I told him that when people from the community don’t police their own communities, I think it is unlikely that they would do as good of a job. He told me i was off base.

    I told him how my sister and 5 y/o nephew had to dodge bullets. i asked him if he would investigate the series of event differently if HIS nephew had been impacted. He said “Of course I would.” that alone suggests that the cases he works are not as important to him as it would be if it were his own nephew.

    That is a little too specific and personal, but what I wonder is if he investigates cases a little differently in my community than he would in his community. How can you police/lead a community you have no ties to. When layers argue cases, they sometimes state that defendants “have ties to the community,” hoping to gain credibility with the judge. People who lead or police places where they have not ties to the community are suspect and have no credibility with me.

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