Well, no one with any sense is surprised that Charles Pugh won a seat on the City Council, and really no one who pays attention to Detroit politics should be surprised he took the top spot, despite his mortgage troubles. The man is a bona fide local celeb, after all.
Nationally the fact that an openly gay man won the Council President spot looks great, though. Nothing wrong with that. And I think he will be a decent President. I don't think he's brimming with ideas that will really take the city forward in a meaningful way, but I think he is the kind of person who is open to the ideas of others. And people like him so there's that kind of goodwill. I've been wrong before though.
Detroit News columnist Laura Berman commented today on Pugh's star status trumping the homophobia of the black churches, and opines that because Detroit needs to be open to more kinds of people, including gays, "his election signals that the city's getting more savvy and open and serious about its survival." I certainly hope that is the case.
I think Pugh's celebrity really did have something to do with his winning, but I don't think he was elected because of his star power. Pugh has been on tv and radio and part of the lives of people in the city of Detroit for so long that people really feel like they know him. And as happens so often, people who normally are anti-gay make exceptions for their neighbors, or relatives, or co-workers. And so they did in this election what they do with those gay or lesbian people in their lives: they overlooked it.
There's no way you are going to see a significant softening of the homophobia in the black religious community of Detroit, but what this election highlights is that Detroiters as a whole are actually very open to gay people as neighbors or friends. I've said before that Detroit needs to make an overture to the gay people of southeastern Michigan that the city welcomes them. Maybe this will help accomplish that.
All I know is that I certainly did not think I'd see a day this soon where not only was the mayor of Ferndale gay but the president of the Detroit City Council as well. There may be underlying factors but that's some kind of progress.