Magazine’s X-mas gift for JoAnn Watson


The Nation magazine delivered a present on Christmas Eve to Detroit City Council member JoAnn Watson: It named her one of its 14 MVPs of 2009 among “progressives, liberals and the American left.” Other valued players included Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the California Nurses Association, LGBT activist Cleve Jones and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

The Nation said the intention “is not to identify perfect players so much as to make note of activists and activist groups that may not get enough recognition but that are having a demonstrable effect — in Washington and around the country.”

And Watson was cited as:

a neighborhood activist who has battled home foreclosures and environmental racism, a determined defender of her hometown who has blocked privatization of public services, and an ardent internationalist allied with the Institute for Policy Studies’s Cities for Peace and Cities for Progress initiatives. Watson has led fights for greater transparency and accountability in government, has gone after predatory lenders and has promoted a multifaceted Detroit Marshall Plan to revitalize her economically battered city.

And the piece concludes:

Re-elected to a second full term in November, Watson promises to bang on doors in Washington and say, “You’ve bailed out the auto industry. You’ve bailed out Wall Street. How about helping out Detroit in its time of need?”

While The Nation praises her for her ability at “getting local, state and national officials focused on fundamental issues,” those closer to her have more than occasionally seen her contentious side. We’re as convinced as anyone that a federal-level urban policy is needed in the long-term to address the dire straits of cities like Detroit — and none more so than Detroit. But what’s her plan for dealing with our problems absent an immediate infusion of cash? Curiously, however, The Nation made no mention of her tireless efforts to shut down Detroit’s waste-to-energy incinerator, which have been particularly notable.

Still The Nation highlights the best that Watson brings to the city’s political landscape.

Meanwhile, there was, perhaps one other MVP of particular interest to Detroit. Rebecca Solnit was cited for A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. Solnit’s idea of disaster spans the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 to Hurricane Katrina, and her position is that they bring out not only the “helpless and bestial” in victims, but also their best communal instincts.

Those who struggle with the slower-moving calamities facing the Motor City might also take inspiration in these.

The full list of MVPs can be seen at


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