American democracy and a national penchant for fostering new beginnings were well in evidence on November 5, when voters in Michigan went to the polls. While Detroit elected its first white mayor in several decades, voters in Flint – a city plagued by violence and misgovernment – elected two convicted felons to its city council.
Wantwaz Davis was elected to represent the 5th ward of the troubled city, which has been under state control for several years. Davis once served 19 years in prison after pleading guilty to a second-degree murder charge in 1991. He was just 17 years old at the time when one Kenneth S. Morris was killed in his home. Davis was convicted of shooting Morris once each in the hip, abdomen and mouth.
Newly elected to the city council, Davis said he never concealed his murder conviction from voters, and it was not widely known. The local newspaper, The Flint Journal, reported that it was not aware of his conviction until the day after his election. For his part, of the death of Morris, Davis says he is “very remorseful.” He has been on parole since 2010. Acute observers of politics admit that Davis’ presence on the city council is not good for Flint.
Also elected to the council in the Tuesday poll is Eric Mays, who will represent the 1st ward of the city. Mays pleaded guilty to a felonious assault charge in 1987. At that time, Mays contended that his victim had threatened his life. Mays in turn threatened him with a firearm. He served a year of probation for the crime. He told the local newspaper that the incident took place while he was on vacation during his law studies. He admitted that it destroyed his law career.
Other members of the council with troubled pasts are Jackie Poplar and Monica Galloway, elected to the 2nd and 7th wards of the city, respectively. Poplar was first elected to the council in 2005 and was re-elected on November 5. In 2004 she filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and has repaid nearly $21,000 to her creditors. Galloway was elected to her first term in office, having succumbed to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1999 along with her husband. All four of the above politicos are Democrats.
This is not the first time voters in Flint have given a convicted another chance. Don Williamson was convicted in 1962 for several business scams and served three years in prison before being paroled. This did not stop Flint voters from re-electing him as mayor in 2007.
In October, federal statistics reported even while there were 500 murders in Chicago in 2012, and 419 in New York City, getting murdered in Flint is far more likely. Flint has a population of 101,632, and with 63 murders recorded in 2012 thus has one homicide victim per 1,613 residents. Nearby Detroit, which had 386 homicides in 2012, was nearly as murderous with one homicide for every 1,832 residents.
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