District 1: James Tate vs. Tamara ‘Liberty’ Smith

istrict 1 (Grandriver, Lahser) incumbent James Tate will be challenged by newcomer Tamara "Liberty" Smith. Tate is a seasoned politician while Smith has roots as a community organizer. BLAC chatted with both candidates to discuss the challenges facing Detroit and their district.


James Tate

Age: 42

Education background: Wayne State University BA- Communications (Radio/TV/Film)


Bio: Tate was first elected to the Detroit City Council in 2009. He was re-elected to represent District 1 in 2013. Before Council, he served as Second Deputy Chief for the Detroit Police Department and as an Emmy-award winning assignment editor at WXYZ-TV. He is a graduate of Benedictine High School and Wayne State University and has lived in District 1 his entire life.

On why voters should choose him…

I am asking District 1 (D1) residents to re-elect me to Detroit City Council District 1 because I have and will continue identifying ways to ensure that they are informed, that their voices are heard and that they count in my role as a legislator. By no means do I think that every D1 resident knows who I am or what I have done in office. I have tried earnestly, but there continues to be areas of apparent communication disconnect with some households across the district. In an effort to make sure that residents are engaged and that In an effort to make sure that I keep the pulse of the community in my voting at the City Council table, I host at least three community meetings every month. Many of my meetings attracted more than 100 residents. My office set up a social media site to reach the online audience (www.facebook.com/districtonedetroit/). We also regularly visit the more that 68 block club and community associations that we have been able to identify across D1 proving them access to our office and information. I created an initiative called Discover D1 (DiscoverD1.com) that promotes and assist small businesses in the district. I am the founder and Chair of the Task Force on Black Male Engagement which focuses on engaging and uplifting our youth (www.facebook.com/DetroitBlackMaleTaskForce/). I am also the Council member who sponsored the ordinance enacting laws and enforcement surrounding the Medical Marijuana industry in Detroit.

On the most pressing issue facing the city of Detroit…

I believe that the biggest issues facing Detroit is citizen apathy over the systems that has failed them (including government) as well as the actual systems (including government) that have failed the people which have left them apathetic. Residents can’t always expect the systems to suddenly change and work on their behalf if they believe that they are being wronged. Simply being angry about issues that challenge their quality of life is not enough. They must actively get involved in changing them by seeking information/training, organizing and staying engaged and applying pressure or support when necessary.

On an issue specific to his district and how he plans to address it…

There is no singular issue facing residents in D1. Our district is simply a microcosm the City of Detroit as a whole. While there are a great number of great and satisfying reasons why residents chose to live in D1, it has its issues no different than residents throughout the city. Whether the issue is property taxes, water accessibility, unemployment, academic achievement of the students in the schools, crime or any other challenge Detroiters are experiencing, D1 residents fell the same strain. Zip code 48223 has been identified by various sources to have the highest auto insurance rate in the country. Efforts are underway to address this issue but law makers in Lansing have the legislative authority over auto rates. 


Tamara “Liberty” Smith

Age: 43

Education background: WCCCD (Wayne County Community College District) -Associate, Liberal Arts

Bio: Tamara “Liberty” Smith was born and raised on Detroit's west side, attended Detroit Public Schools and is a graduate of Henry Ford High School. Raised by one of Detroit's greats, Wayne County Prosecutor, Morton Tatken, “Liberty” has been exposed to community activism since her childhood years and has adapted the desire to see and implement improvements within her community. As a proud mother of six, Tamara's priority has always been family first which drives her motivation to create positive change among the citizens of Detroit. As an active proponent of grass roots community organization and community leadership, Tamara has embraced the New Age of viral communication (doing great numbers on social media) as she continues to do the work of her community. Her stance on public safety, education and battling Detroit's rapidly growing yet underground Human Sex Trade epidemic has consumed her focus as she prepares to go forth into official city and district leadership. 

On why voters should choose her…

As a true activist, I am informed politically, sincere and very transparent. I have dedicated my life to serving the people prior to the conception of my candidacy. I love our city and work hard every day to ensure safety in my community. I have new innovative ideas that will shift the economy upward in my district. My plans are to attract new minority businesses, along with bringing development in the forgotten areas such as Brightmoor. 

On the biggest issue facing the city of Detroit…

Failed leadership, & poverty is and has always been the biggest issue in Detroit. Thirty-five percent of the population is below the poverty line. This should be major concern for a city that has one of the largest populations in the country. Although there has been some progress in the city’s economy, still only 70% of the jobs obtained are held by Non-Detroiters. We need skilled-trade development and accessible liveable wage jobs for Detroiters if we really want to see a vast improvement in the city. 

On an issue specific to her her district and how she plans to address it…

Like most communities in Detroit, blight, jobs and crime are always a major issue. But what is of unique concern in my community is auto-theft. There is a part of my district that has the highest rate of auto-theft than any other part of Detroit. I have a plan to address this called the “Bait Car Program” that has proven to reduce auto-theft in heavily crime infested cities by 71 percent. 

Want to read what the candidates in the other districts had to say? Head back to the main election page.

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