Detroit Community Benefits Update, January 2017
In 2012, North End residents met with Council member Brenda Jones and then council member Joann Watson about the creation of a CBA ordinance. The original draft of the ordinance was created in partnership between the North End community and Stephanie Baught from Sugar Law Center for Social Justice. Once complete, the community began the process of moving the ordinance through city council.
In early 2014 community residents began educating the broader community, utilizing door-to-door canvassing, speaking with over 4000 Detroiters about the CBA proposed ordinance. In summer 2014 the collected non-binding advisory petitions were presented to then Council President. Representatives of the CBA citywide coalition were invited to join a CBA workgroup by Council member Gabe Leland, chair of Planning and Economic Development Committee.
Members of the coalition attended many meetings over a three-month period in Summer 2014. There were multiple failed attempts to move the proposed CBA ordinance through City Council, including 6 different attempted votes, and despite working with City Council in good faith no progress was made. In March 2016 the city-wide CBA coalition formed the campaign coalition Rise Together Detroit to conduct a citizen ballot initiative in time to be placed on the November 2016 ballot. The citywide coalition collected 5,400 signatures in 8 weeks and submitted to city clerk for certification for the November 2016 ballot.
From September 2016 through Election Day November 8th 2016, Rise Together Detroit Coalition anchored by Detroit People’s Platform, canvassed doors, lead community presentations and trainings, phone banked, and conducted social media outreach. Opponents of what became known as Proposal A, sponsored and supported a competing community benefits engagement ordinance, Proposal B.
While Proposal A would have created a mandatory process, triggered for any proposed development above $15 Million dollars, between developers and community members ending in a legally enforceable agreement between the parties, Proposal B was a community benefits ordinance in name only. Proposal B, triggered at proposed developments above $75 Million dollars, contained no required outcome of a legally binding agreement or true engagement of impacted communities. Backed by massive corporate developers, opponents of Proposal A, spent upwards of $1.5 Million dollars in an organized smear campaign to defeat the 26 Rise Together Detroit Coalition Members and our respective member bases.
Despite this on November 8th 2016, close to 100,000 Detroit Voters came out in support of Proposal A (46% total yes votes), and more than 114,000 Detroit Voters came out in support of Proposal B. Detroit voters clearly stated their desire for some kind of community benefits ordinance. While the ultimate defeat of Proposal A was a blow to the fight against gentrification in Detroit, many positive lessons were learned, and the clear next steps identified.
- There is a critical need for voter education and civic engagement training, many voters were confused about what proposal would truly serve the community.
- Despite being outspent during the campaign, voters ultimately decided to create the first of its kind in the nation community benefit agreement ordinance.
- Although Proposal A was defeated, Detroit People’s Platform and the Rise Together Detroit Coalition will continue to provide support for community groups attempting to negotiate community benefits with developers.
- Through the work of the campaign, new alliances were formed, communities empowered, and a resurgence of grassroots organizing has transpired in Detroit. The “scrappy little ordinance” unified close to 100,000 voters.
- The lessons of the campaign and the spirit of Proposal A have been used to create a tool kit and provide training materials for cites looking to duplicate the efforts to create community benefits ordinances and fight broad scale gentrification and push out of marginalized communities.
As part of the continued work of the Detroit People’s Platform on Economic Justice and Equable Development, we are happy to share lessons and best practices with community groups in need. If you have interest in training or volunteering, please contact us. visit detroitpeoplesplatform.org
or call 313.338.9396