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Amend the CBO!

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“In the first century BC, Cicero said: “Freedom is participation in power.” Negroes should never want all power because they would deprive others of their freedom. By the same token, Negroes can never be content without participation in power. America must be a nation in which its multiracial people are partners in power. This is the essence of democracy toward which all Negro struggles have been directed since the distant past when he was transplanted here in chains.”  – Dr. Martin Luther  King, Jr. Where do we go from here, Chaos or Community?


The current Community Benefits Ordinance (CBO) has failed Detroiters with an inadequate process that denies residents true power and prevents them from obtaining genuine community benefits. Authentic community power is the highest level of community participation, and it is necessary for equity in the community development process and the creation of a REAL Community Benefit Agreement.

Without community power, community engagement is an empty ritual. Meaningful negotiation allows community members to utilize their power as decision makers to influence development projects in ways that work best for them. Through an equitable partnership, negotiations result in benefits that meet the needs of both the developer and the community.

The developments that have gone through the current CBO process have involved no negotiation between Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) members and developers. The current process provides no accountability regarding the use of public money, because community needs are not required to be addressed in exchange for the incentives and resources developers are receiving.

The CBO Reports produced by Planning and Development for each project do not accurately reflect a negotiated agreement between the NAC and the developer, and therefore are not genuine community benefit agreements.

Under the current ordinance developers are receiving a windfall, and community is receiving nothing. Detroit’s current CBO is in need of amendment to facilitate truly negotiated agreements between residents and developers.

Amendment Recommendations:
Legally Binding Community Benefits Report:
The result of the CBO process must be a legally binding contractual agreement between the NAC and the Developer.

Require Authentic Negotiations between Developer & NAC: The developer should be required to receive NAC approval before the CBO Report is presented to Council. This would incentivize the developer to negotiate and compromise with the NAC regarding the community concerns they present. This requirement would also provide a method for the NAC to secure genuine community benefits in exchange for the developer’s receipt of public funds.

Penalty for Non-compliance: Developers who do not participate in the CBO process in good faith should be restricted from receiving public funds and benefits from their projects, or subject to suspension or revocation of public funds and benefits.

From Detroit People’s Platform NEWS #12, MLK Day edition, January 15, 2018. Download the Detroit People’s Platform NEWS at and learn more about our work in REAL Community Benefits, truly affordable housing and transit that meets the needs of everyday Detroiters. Join the conversation #DetroitPeoples


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