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election

Campaigns should be about educating candidates about you.

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Campaigns should be about educating candidates about you.

Identifying, assessing, prioritizing and responding to the opportunities and risks that the public policy environment throws at an organization is vital to an organization’s success. An organization's response to the regulatory, legislative and political challenges may include seeking to influence that change through a strategic communications plan, the media and through strategic partnerships and engagement.

 With the primary over, it is important to work pro-actively to build strategic yet meaningful relationships with key stakeholders and develop the strategies to influence public opinion and the opinions of government leaders during the next legislative session.

Elections are about change. And change is at the core an effective public affairs strategy. Public affairs professionals help companies and individuals guide the changing landscape of politics, personalities and policy. What will a new legislature or administration mean for your business?  Or a new congress or even a new committee chair?

As we know focus on the general election, take advantage of the campaign to educate the candidates about your business. Invite them in to your factory for a tour, have them meet your members and work pro-actively to develop strategic and meaningful relationships.

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In this election, the Jewish vote doesn’t really matter

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*An edited version of this article by Daniel Cherrin first appeared in the October 17, 2013 issue of The Detroit Jewish News.

Despite Detroit’s bankruptcy, this November 538,000 registered voters in Detroit will have the opportunity to select a new mayor and nine City Council members.  Each one of these individuals will have an important role in rebuilding and rebranding Detroit while guiding the city beyond bankruptcy.

“Detroit is at a crossroads,” Benny Napoleon, Wayne County’s Sheriff who wants to become Mayor, recently told the Jewish News, “and where we go from here will determine the future of the city for generations to come.“

However, in this election, the Jewish vote won’t make a difference in electing Detroit’s next mayor.  Although more members of the Jewish Community may work in Detroit or attend services at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue than in years past, of the 72,000 Jews living in Southeastern Michigan, according to the 2005 demographic study, there are only 1,000 Jews actually living south of Eight Mile in the city of Detroit itself – and that is a rough estimate.   With only 18 percent of the registered voters in the city of Detroit voting in the August primary, Detroit’s future rests with just a handful of voters.

Although many people in Detroit’s Jewish Community cannot vote, it does not mean the next mayor is not important to Detroit’s Jewish Community. "For the past 30 years, Detroit's leaders have largely failed their constituents," said Gabe Neistein, Alumni Relations Director for Tamarack Camps and a Detroit resident, who lives in Midtown. "Living in Detroit, I take a lot of pride in not only living in the city during a time of resurgence, but also in having a say as to which leaders will help keep us moving forward."

Moving forward and beyond an emergency manager is what each candidate wants. “I understand that we succeed and fail as a region,” said Napoleon. “Right now, Detroit is failing, which is one of the reasons our region is divided. We will work to transform Detroit so we can come to the table as equal partners with the region and seek regional solutions to our issues, together.”

Mike Duggan, former CEO of the Detroit Medical Center and former Wayne County Prosecutor who is also running for Mayor, told the Jewish News, “We all saw how our region can work together when communities in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb rallied to save the SMART bus system during the time I was General Manager of SMART in the 1990’s. As Mayor, I will work with people of good will across this region to build coalitions that support our mutual interests.”

Despite not living within Detroit’s city limits there are a variety of ways the Jewish Community can still get involved.  “The buy-in to Detroit’s future is key,” according to Napoleon. “Once we begin to market our area as a region, southeast Michigan will be well on its way. The Jewish community has both influence and resources to shape and move this type of discussion.”

According to Napoleon, “in our region, the roots of the Jewish community in Detroit run deep.”  After all, Detroit is a city that the Jewish Community helped build, starting with Chapman Abraham who landed in Detroit in 1762 as a fur trader, followed by Sarah and Isaac Couzens a century later. Fred Butzel former Detroit city councilman David W. Simons and Albert Kahn further made the city stronger. Carl Levin, Mel Ravitz, Norman Drachler, Max Fisher and others helped rebuild Detroit after a turbulent time.  Today, the Jewish Community has new urban pioneers such as former State Representative Steve Tobocman, Summer and the City Founder, Ben Falik, D-hive executive Jeff Aronoff, Vice President of Business Development at Eastern Market Corporation Randall Fogelman, Detroit Farm and Garden founder Jeff Klein, Quicken CEO Dan Gilbert, Isaac Downtown Synagogue President and attorney Leor Barak, not to mention well established community leaders such as Gene and Elaine Driker, and Kathleen Strauss and others who are equally committed to seeing Detroit thrive.

With Detroit’s Jewish Community centered in Oakland County, a majority of our community still identifies as Detroiters with the City of Detroit sitting at the core.  There is no doubt that whoever gets elected will work with regional leaders on regional problems, such as the M1-Rail, a new regional water authority, the future of the DIA, the development of a new arena for the Red Wings and a new international gateway between Canada and the United States.

While others work on protecting Detroit’s assets, some candidates, such as Adam Hollier a candidate for City Council in District 5, will seek private funding for other important initiatives such as creating safe bus shelters for children and seniors.

However, there are other issues that those who are elected in November will tackle. Issues such as public safety, neighborhood growth and jobs through economic expansion in our neighborhoods, which are the top three issues of which Napoleon is concerned. When asked about public safety and the need to feel safe in the city, Napoleon, current Sheriff for Wayne County and former Detroit Police Chief said, “Detroit’s downtown continues to be one of the safest in America, and it is obvious that our visitors know that as evidenced on any given weekend in downtown Detroit where people from all over coverage to go to dinner, sporting events, concerts and theatre events.”

“The issues that I am most interested in and am hoping the candidates address,” said Neistein, “are education and the public school system, blight removal, improved public transportation and business development. I'm also very interested in the future of Belle Isle.”

Mike Duggan agrees with Neistein and other Detroiters as to where his focus will be as Mayor.  “Detroit should be a city that is safe, is growing, and has strong and vibrant neighborhoods and commercial centers,” Duggan said.  “Our citizens should be able to call the police and know they’ll come promptly, should expect timely repairs of the streetlights, a reliable bus system, and a commitment to rebuild the neighborhoods by moving families into vacant homes as soon as they become abandoned.”

Duggan also said, “we need to get back to where we can feel safe in Detroit by returning to the strategy of cooperation that existed when I was Wayne County Prosecutor,” he said.  “We had a partnership with the U.S. Attorney, the DEA, the ATF, the Detroit Police, and the Prosecutor that resulted in 2003 in Detroit experiencing the fewest murders in 30 years.  Lately we have had 5 police chiefs in 5 years, leaving Detroit with no consistent crime fighting strategy.  With no leadership and rebuilt partnerships we can make this city safe again.”

Literacy also will be a big issue for the next mayor to consider. According to the Detroit Literacy Coalition, 47% of adult Detroiters are functional illiterate.  “Illiteracy is critical. It has become an impediment to our children’s education when parents aren’t able to provide their children with the assistance they need at home,” according to Napoleon.

The Detroit JCRC has made this one of their focal points and has three initiatives to address illiteracy in Detroit, through Detroit Jewish Coalition for Literacy (DJCL), Team Lamed and Reading Works.  Bookstock also supports efforts to reduce illiteracy and donates proceeds from the sale to support education and literacy projects in the Detroit metropolitan area.

“DJCL’s roster of volunteer tutors has increased from 300 to 800 Jewish community members serving in almost 60 schools in Detroit and Oakland County. DJCL partners with Repair the World, Beyond Basics and other pro-literacy organizations, expanding each other’s reach and effectiveness and sharing expertise,” Robert Cohen, President of the Detroit JCRC said.

Beyond the JCRC and Bookstock, there are other ways the Jewish Community can reconnect with the city.   “Truly transforming our city requires working in our neighborhoods and healing our communities,” Napoleon said. However, a lack of transportation options limits the ability for Detroiters to access needed services. “Because our regional transit system is inadequate, we need to bring services to those who need it, but volunteers and workers from JVS and other services need to feel safe in our city,” Napoleon said. “I would integrate organizations like JVS into my "One Square Mile Initiative,” where they become a neighborhood asset and work closely within that structure. My One Square Mile Initiative places a police officer in each square mile of the city to partner with residents, businesses, community groups, places of worship and others to address crime and quality of life issues in that square mile. It truly looks at our city from the micro level in transforming the neighborhoods.”

“JVS has maintained a presence in the City of Detroit since opening our doors in 1941, and we are committed to assist in its revitalization.   By developing a partnership with business, schools and job seekers, JVS is preparing the workforce to meet the needs of Detroit’s economic development.  As evidenced throughout the Metro Detroit region, transportation remains a significant challenge in matching our workforce with business, “ said Leah Rosenbaum, JVS interim president and CEO.

With regards to how the candidates can serve as a bridge between Detroit and Detroit’s Jewish Community, Napoleon said, “The African American community and the Jewish people have a unique understanding of one another and deep respect for our respective faiths. Napoleon said he would serve as a trusted link between Detroit’s grassroots community and Detroit’s Jewish community.”

However, Napoleon said that despite a shared history of oppression and discrimination, there are many children living in the city of Detroit who have never met or know any Jewish children, or, according to Napoleon, “know much about the rich traditions and deep faith of the Jewish people.” “From the lessons of oppression, discrimination and contemporary issues like self-governance and determination,” Napoleon said, “our children are the future to a more just world. I can envision working closely with The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to build bridges and relationships in our respective civil rights communities as well, perhaps, a more robust youth exchange program.”

While there are many in this community that long for the days of riding the bus or trolley to Hudson’s along Woodward, or even summer nights along the shores of Lake Francis in Palmer Park, there are still many of us who fear travelling into Detroit, albeit for a guided tour from an air conditioned bus taking us to Old Jewish Detroit or to a sporting event. Both Duggan and Napoleon want everyone in the region to not only feel safe in the city, but for others in the region to know who Detroiters are.  “Detroiters are very loving, passionate and compassionate people who have largely been ignored by previous administrations as it relates to their neighborhoods, Napoleon said. “They want the same things out of life as anyone else: safe and livable communities; quality education for their children; and economic opportunities.”

There are many examples where companies emerge from bankruptcy stronger and more efficient. While cities will not disappear despite how they are run, this is Detroit’s opportunity. With a new international airport, new life in the downtown, a world-class cultural scene and a new entrepreneurial culture now occupying Detroit – Detroit is back.  In fact, each of the candidates expressed messages of hope, optimism and the ability to seek help from those wanting to lend a hand.

Mary Sheffield, a minister and candidate for Detroit City Council in District 5, which includes the areas between Midtown and Belle Isle, wants the Jewish Community to stay committed to the rebuilding of Detroit and use its influence to convince others to do the same, whether it is through synagogues, businesses or personal relationships.  “Detroit’s Jewish Community is an integral part of the future of the city, in my opinion,” said Sheffield, “and as such, in an effort to achieve our vision it would require this community to continue to embrace Detroit and choose to live, work, own businesses and enjoy all that Detroit has to offer.

Richard Bowers, an attorney who has worked for a number of City Council members in addition to Mayor Kenneth V. Cockrel, Jr. and now a candidate for Detroit City Council in District 2, which includes Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest and the University District, suggested ways that the organized Jewish community could stay connected. “I would like to work with ADL to make sure we have the most up to date ordinances and laws in the City of Detroit to protect citizens from bigotry,” Bowers said.  (In full disclosure, I worked with Richard when I worked for Cockrel).

According to Bowers, “The vast, vast majority of Detroiters want the same thing- clean, safe, well kept neighborhoods where everyone lives in harmony no matter what religion, race, or background and they are able to have a good paying job and top of the line retail.  In other words, the majority of Detroiters want Detroit back, and they need the help of Jewish people to share it with them.”

There was a time in Detroit’s history when the Jewish vote did mater, but that was when Albert Cobo, Louis Miriani and Jerome Cavanaugh were mayor.  Over the past few years, Detroit’s Jewish Community has not been as politically engaged as previous generations.  Although many of us cannot vote this November and help elect a new generation of leadership to help move Detroit forward, we have the opportunity to develop new relationships, build coalitions and create a bridge between our community and our city.

“Jewish people have always had a sense of social action and philanthropy,” Gabe Leland, a candidate for Detroit City Council in District 7 that includes Dexter/Davison and Russell Woods, and the only Jewish candidate in the race said. “It’s apparent with the many contributions to our education and civic institutions that we are small in numbers yet strong in philanthropy. Its hidden in the remembrance of where we came from and what this city meant to our families.  It’s apparent that keeping this connection to our roots is so important to the Jewish community, no matter the state of the city.”

Although the Jewish Community cannot vote for the next mayor of Detroit or for City Council, it is never too late to become involved and continue to have influence on rebuilding and rebranding Detroit.

Daniel Cherrin is the founder of North Coast Strategies, a public relations + affairs firm in Royal Oak. He is the former Communications Director for the City of Detroit and Press Secretary to Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel, Jr. 

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Elections are about change, Public Affairs helps manage the risk during that change

Elections are about change. In fact, Change is what President Barack Obama campaigned on four-years ago and won. And change is at the core an effective public affairs strategy. Public affairs professionals help companies and individuals navigate the changing landscape in capitals across the world, and help them better understand the politics, the personalities and the policies that affect their industry, company, employees and other key stakeholders. For example, what will a new administration mean for your business?  Will the leadership in a new Congress provide a Third Way, or does that new committee chair have priorities counter to my industry?

Public affairs professionals help CEOs understand the dynamics of governments in transition and help them build relationships with key decisions-makers who will have an impact on their business goals.

Public affairs professionals, also help companies manage risk -- Political risk and risks to their reputation in a constantly changing legislative and regulatory environment. You just never know who will get elected and who will sit in leadership positions. So you should know who these folks are and proactively work to develop meaningful relationships with them, should you ever need their help in the future.

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We Have The Responsibility to Watch Out For Each Other, Don’t we?

By Daniel Cherrin*This article originally appeared in the October 6, 2011 issue of The Detroit Jewish News.  

With the 2012 Presidential campaign well underway, and the field of candidates becoming a bit more clearer in the new Congressional and legislative districts, it is now your opportunity to get to know the candidates. In fact, with new districts, now is the perfect time to reach out and introduce yourself to them.

Just Ask! In campaigns, candidates want to raise money to advertise and get-out-the-vote, as much as they want to meet with voters and establish a connection with them.  Elections are therefore your chance to talk to candidates directly about your concerns and solutions. So engage them in a discussion. In fact, invite them into your home, plant, store or office to see first hand what you do. Our elected officials are approachable and they should take the time to meet with you one-on-one – All you have to do is ask.

How do you vote? With no single issue galvanizing our community, other than Israel, it is difficult to rely on the Jewish Community as a voting block. In fact, our community is getting more and more divided as Democrats and Republicans, which actually strengthens are importance as a voter. Just look at the recent special election in Brooklyn as an example, where a Republican beat a Democrat for the first time in decades, on the issue of Israel alone.

Yet there are still some that know nothing about the candidates on the election ballot, but if there name sounds Jewish or they look presidential, they will vote for them.  In an election as important as the one next year will be, it is important to know the issues that are important to you and what the candidates tell you about this issues. So take the time now to react to what you read in the paper and see if there is something there that will turn you into an advocate for that issue or cause and have something to talk to candidates about.

Reflection and finding the way forward

With the High Holidays now upon us, now, more than ever, is the perfect time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next. In synagogues and temples across this country, we will hear about Tikun Olam (repairing the world), Tzedakah (charity) and Klal yisrael (all of Israel).

As we reflect on the past year, we really need to take a deeper look at our community and its role in serving the larger community, throughout history. Our service to the public is and was not by choice, it is an obligation -- A Jewish obligation rich with tradition.  All Jews are responsible for one another. On Yom Kippur, for example, we do not ask G-D for our forgiveness, we ask G-D to forgive everyone. Whether we know them or not, whether we like them or don’t, agree with them or not, we have an obligation to look out for each other, to support our neighbor and to be involved in our community.

Yet lately, we have become comfortable in our own community and with our lives.  We as a community do not venture far beyond our home. We rarely stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others for the common good anymore and it is rare still that we have an open door to our elected representatives.

Today, it is vital that we keep that tradition of community engagement and political involvement as pillars of our community. Today, it is even more important that we get engaged, become more vocal, become visible and demand accountability for the principles and values we, as a community stand for. It is time that we re-establish relationships with the candidates running for office and those that are elected, to be a trusted resource to them, as should be to us.

Know what you believe in Before you become involved, however, first, you have to know who you are, what you believe in, and where you stand. Do you agree more with the Republicans, Democrats, or Tea Party, or are you truly independent.

Once we know who we are and what we stand for, we as a community and individually need to take the time to meet the candidates and our newly elected officials, invite them into our homes and share with them our suggestions for creating a stronger future, not just for the Jewish community, but the larger community as well.

The Jewish people have an obligation to make this world a better place.  We can start right here in our community and in Southeastern Michigan. Contact the candidates and meet with them, attend their events such as town hall meetings or fundraisers. Share with them your interests, issues, concerns and solutions. Most importantly, take the time to figure out who they are, what they have accomplished and where they want to take us as our representatives. I hope you will stand with me, get to know the candidates and your elected leaders and become a voice for the issues you believe in.

Daniel Cherrin, a father of three students at Hillel Day School, is an attorney, mediator, public relations executive and lobbyist with Fraser Trebilcock in Detroit and Lansing. 

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