The 2020 election is far behind us, Joe Biden is in the White House and your slate of state, county and local officials have started their terms.
So you did your part for democracy, right?
Sorry, but no. The real work is just beginning.
As newly elected officials settle into their positions around the state, you have an essential role in ensuring they’re delivering on their campaign promises and showing up for your community.
Whether tuning in to City Council meetings, checking representatives’ social media accounts or writing letters, here’s a guide to staying engaged in the Detroit area. Do you have more questions, or other ideas for staying involved? Share them with us here.
Where can I learn about local politics?
Attending public meetings is a great way to get firsthand knowledge of the local political landscape. Now that these meetings are held remotely, it’s easier than ever to tune in and share your input.
To find the times and dates of upcoming meetings, check the official pages of the body you’re interested in — maybe Detroit City Council, the Board of Education or the Board of Police Commissioners, which oversees the Police Department. All have different schedules: City Council meets every business day for at least 10 months of the year while the Board of Police Commissioners meets weekly. Regular meeting schedules are posted to each body’s website at the beginning of the fiscal year.
Detroit’s Channel 10 broadcasts City Council meetings, mayoral press conferences, PSAs and other public service programming. You can check the schedule and watch it online here. The community outreach ordinance requires the Mayor’s Office and Detroit City Council to advertise informational sessions for citywide and neighborhood proposals on Channel 10 and official social media channels.
If you don’t want to watch a meeting, you can read highlights reported by Detroit Documenters. Documenters are Detroit citizens who report on public meetings as part of a partnership between Detour, WDET, City Bureau, Outlier Media and CitizenDetroit. The program’s website features a full list of all the meetings they cover; you can also search the hashtag #DetroitDocumenters on Twitter to find local Documenters and read their recaps. If you want to do more than just watch, you can also sign up to become a Documenter yourself. They regularly hold trainings, after which you can get paid to document public meetings. Here are some of the bodies they report on:
- Detroit Community Education Commission works to retain students in Detroit Public Schools.
- Detroit Neighborhood Development Corporation, which handles the city’s redevelopment programs.
- Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan, which manages public transportation
- Detroit Public Library
- Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network serves people with mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities, substance use disorders and more.
The City of Detroit’s Twitter and Facebook accounts feature press conferences, news releases, meeting announcements and other updates. For outside coverage of specific policies, check special interest sites. Chalkbeat Detroit covers local education news, Transit Guide Detroit tweets about public transportation in the city and Detour partners The Dig and Planet Detroit cover real estate and environmental information, respectively.
You can also sign up to receive email updates from your representatives. We’ve included links below.
Who are my elected officials?
To see a quick rundown of your elected officials, enter your address in Common Cause’s “Find Your Representatives” tool.
Now’s the time to check up on Duggan, who launched his re-election campaign in December.
If you live in Detroit, you can find the council member representing your district with this map.
- President: Brenda Jones
- Member at large: Janeé Ayers
- District 1: James Tate
- District 2: Roy McCalister Jr.
- District 3: Scott Benson
- District 4: André L. Spivey
- District 5: Mary Sheffield
- District 6: Raquel Castañeda-López
- District 7: Gabe Leland
Council members also serve on several specialized committees, including a Public Health & Safety Committee, a Planning & Economic Committee, a Neighborhood & Community Services Committee and more.
City Council meetings always include a period for public comment. Because they frequently meet throughout the year, speaking at meetings is an excellent way to voice your opinion on local issues directly to your representatives. You might also be able to talk to representatives one-on-one; for example, City Council scheduled four “virtual office hour” sessions during its December holiday recess for Detroiters to speak with President Brenda Jones via Zoom. You can also call or email your councilperson and sign up to receive their updates via email.
Michigan’s House of Representatives
- 1st District: Tenisha Yancey
- 2nd District: Joseph Tate
- 3rd District: Shri Thanedar
- 4th District: Abraham Aiyash
- 5th District: Cynthia A Johnson
- 6th District: Tyrone Carter
- 7th District: Helena Scott
- 8th District: Stephanie Young
- 9th District: Karen Whitsett
- 10th District: Mary Cavanagh
Members of the state legislature, which includes the state House of Representatives and the state Senate, vote on bills that can then be passed into state laws. You can read more about the process of passing a bill into law here.
Contact your state representative about local issues that you care about or directly impact your community. Personalized phone calls, emails or written letters are effective ways to share your perspective.
The above representatives, along with Detroit representatives in the state Senate, make up the Detroit Caucus, which works to pass legislation that benefits Detroit. Yancey is the chair of the caucus.
- District 1: Stephanie Chang (Facebook, Twitter)
- District 2: Adam Hollier (Facebook, Twitter)
- District 3: Sylvia Santana (Facebook, Twitter)
- District 4: Marshall Bullock (Facebook, Twitter)
- District 5: Betty Jean Alexander (Facebook, Twitter)
Contact your senator about local concerns and bills passing through the Legislature. You can see what bills are currently being discussed on the Legislature’s database. It compiles bills that have been passed and shares information about what the House and Senate are debating in any given week. Search by keyword or date on the calendar page to find information about specific bills or issues that interest you.
U.S. House of Representatives
- 13th Congressional District: Rashida Tlaib (Twitter, Facebook)
- 14th Congressional District: Brenda Lawrence (Twitter, Facebook)
Watch live House proceedings here.
When contacting national-level representatives, try calling their local offices rather than their D.C office. Both Tlaib and Lawrence have Detroit offices — their location and contact information are available on their websites, linked above. You probably won’t speak directly to your representative, but their staff will note and track your input.
Watch live or archived U.S. Senate proceedings here.
Contact your senator’s office about national matters that they are voting on, like COVID relief efforts. Peters emphasized his role in passing the CARES act for COVID relief and his commitment to affordable health care in his recent re-election campaign. Now is a great time to make sure that he continues to follow up on those efforts.
I’m up to date. How do I get involved?
Lobby your representatives
If there’s a cause you’re passionate or knowledgeable about or a problem that’s affecting your community, let your representatives know. Consider reaching out about a particular issue or bill that is timely and relevant.
In non-Covid times, you can contact your representative’s office to make an appointment to speak with them or a staff member in-person. For contactless communication, use the information above to call, write or email your representative. You can also reach out to them on social media. Some representatives — like Rashida Tlaib, Cynthia Johnson and Stephanie Chang, to name a few — are very active on social media, and you might get a response from them or their team by posting and tagging them or direct messaging.
This document, compiled by the state, has helpful information about how best to prepare and address your representative’s message.
If you’re interested in speaking at a public meeting, check the rules online first. “Public comment” instructions like the ones found on this City Council page will walk you through how to “raise your hand” in Zoom meetings and join the speaker queue. Larger meetings or meetings with national-level politicians might require you to register to comment beforehand.
Not all meetings leave time for public comment — for example, it’s not part of regular House or Senate proceedings. But politicians and governmental bodies sometimes hold town hall meetings, which allow community members to raise questions about specific subjects. For example, in March and April, Peters held virtual town halls to discuss Covid and the CARES act.
Announcements about town halls usually come from the candidate or group hosting the event; following representatives who you are interested in on social media or signing up for their email newsletters is an excellent way to stay up-to-date about upcoming town halls.
Activist groups often organize to lobby officials in a more coordinated, organized way than individuals can on their own. To find local organizations that align with your interests and values, try Meetup.com postings or Facebook groups like this one dedicated to Detroit-Area Activism. Detroit activists are currently working to improve the justice system (which is shaped by the legislators and judges you elect), get fair energy access, improve public transportation and much more.
Groups might share information about public meetings that are particularly relevant to their missions and organize supporters to speak or lobby together. For example, Detroit Will Breathe recently organized supporters to give public comment during Shelby Township’s Board of Trustees meeting. They spoke in support of five protesters arrested during an October protest in Shelby Township.
Get ready for the next election
On Nov. 2, Detroit will elect its next mayor, as well as City Council members, City Clerk and Board of Police Commissioners. First, though, are the crucial primaries, to be held on Aug. 3. The filing deadline for candidates is April 30.
If you’d like to see Detroit’s high voter turnout rates continue, you might also sign up to work as an election worker. Last but certainly not least: make sure you are registered and ready to vote in all upcoming elections. You can check your status here.