Through the Wednesday morning hustle and bustle at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit, cleaning crew members Derrick Holland and Darrion Dunbar hauled a ladder and a cart with a bucket and cleaning supplies through the lobby.
It seemed symbolic the day after an election that changed the makeup of the nine-member City Council in multiple ways, including its president.
The president-elect, Charles Pugh, also was in the lobby, standing near the exit closest to the Spirit of Detroit statue as he finished up interviews with two TV stations before going to observe a City Council meeting.
Pugh was swamped with well-wishers in the lobby. Some were big shots in the city, while many were just average people who shook his hand or hugged him as he slowly made his way to a security checkpoint. To the surprise of Holland and Dunbar, Pugh walked over to them and shook their hands.
“I want to know what your concerns are,” Pugh told them. “People will walk by you and not know what your concerns are.”
Dunbar, 45, said he was touched by Pugh’s words. “We have dreams and aspirations,” he said. “Someone like Charles Pugh can bring more of a perspective to the city in that manner.”
But the day wasn’t all smiles and hand shaking.
Pugh, a former broadcast journalist, will be leading the council of a city saddled with debt. He said he intends to tackle the budget first — which may include layoffs. But he said he intends to avoid layoffs in the Detroit Police Department, instead focusing on putting administrative officers back on the street and citizens in office spots.
“There has to be sacred cows in the budget,” Pugh told the Free Press on Wednesday. “They say everything should be on the table in this kind of crisis when you’re trying to avoid receivership. But our safety is the most important thing. We cannot be making more cuts to the Police Department.”
Old, new presidents meet
At the security checkpoint, Pugh encountered Freman Hendrix, who twice failed in bids to become mayor but was elected Tuesday to the Charter Commission. Hendrix told Pugh that he wants to know what the council wants in a new charter.
“We want to get off to a real fast start,” Hendrix said.
The two men exchanged cell phone numbers. Pugh got in line and soon was joined by Gary Brown, who also was elected to the City Council on Tuesday and was headed to the council’s meeting.
Just before the meeting, Council President Ken Cockrel Jr. summoned Pugh to his office. Cockrel had been critical of Pugh’s financial troubles, including Pugh’s home that is in foreclosure, during the campaign.
“He said everything that happened during the campaign was not personal,” Pugh said.
They are to meet again Monday.
Resolving his foreclosure
As for his foreclosure problem, Pugh said it won’t be a distraction when he takes office in January.
He said he’s getting help from a Wayne County foreclosure prevention counselor who is helping to renegotiate the loan on his home.
“Today I will be talking to Janice Winfrey, not only to congratulate her but to ask her for a certified letter that I was the top vote-getter … and the salary that corresponds to the top vote-getter is $85,000 a year,” Pugh said of the re-elected Detroit city clerk. “That’s officially provable income. And the mortgage company was kind enough to postpone the sheriff’s sale. … I’m on much more solid footing on negotiating.
“It’ll be wrapped up before the swearing-in,” he said. “Hell, it may be wrapped up before December.”
Contact CECIL ANGEL: 313-223-4531 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Tammy Stables Battaglia contributed to this report.