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Editorial The City Charter – Don’t lose it before we use it

Editorial The City Charter – Don’t lose it before we use it

THE CITY CHARTER will be a hot topic in the next few weeks and if Proposal R passes in the Primary, Detroiters will be hearing about the revision process for 3 years. For many it feels like we just voted on a revision. 

While some were and are critical of the Council by District system the last revision supported, the revision also included community powers and protections that many consider beneficial. One of the issues here is that Detroiters are just getting to know their City Charter. 

The implementation of and adherence to the City Charter were interrupted by Emergency Management and Bankruptcy. Due to this, certain aspects of the Charter are just now coming online, one example being the Police Commission that was voted on last year.

With the current political climate in Detroit and Lansing there are many risks to opening the Charter now. There is also a process for changing specific aspects of the Charter through  amendment. This process can be taken up without opening the entire Charter.   

[bctt tweet=”We recommend a No vote on Proposal R. Rather than support the revision we are calling on the Mayor, City Council, Clerk and all who work within the framework created by the Charter to more fully implement, empower and abide by it.” via=”no”]

Whether Proposal R passes or not, whether the Charter Revision Candidates are on the ballot in November or not, Detroiters have an opportunity to learn what powers and protections the current Charter provides and how they can be used by and for betterment of our community.

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Civility Detroit Style

Civility Detroit Style

“Civil discussions with people who themselves may have already breached the bounds of civility are difficult.”(1)
– Vann R. Newkirk II

This started out as a response to the Detroit Regional Chamber’s tone-deaf call to “Create a Culture of Civility” earlier in the year.  Since that time, calls for civility have been issued from the national stage. Those in power and those in denial have called for civility in answer to righteous outrage over the upsurge of white policing of black living, of court decisions that uphold racist immigration policy and legitimize  bigotry, and over kids in cages. These offensive and strategic calls for civility resonate with Detroiters because they have heard them  repeatedly since Emergency Management and for decades prior. ~ ed.

Last year, we recognized the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit Rebellion and many in the city dove deep into discussions of its meaning and impact. This year, we continue to recognize 50th anniversaries associated with the civil rights movement, most recently Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination and the passage of the Fair Housing Act. Here at Detroit People’s Platform our attention also shifts to the fact that 2018 marks the 5th anniversary of Emergency Management and Bankruptcy in Detroit.

These anniversaries also remind us that transformational changes were not easily won and certainly not won by being polite or civil. These anniversaries are also important and vital to Detroiters as they represent touchstones of our history that denote the emergence of Black political, economic and cultural power in the largest majority-black city in the US. The changes that came from movement work in our city and across the country were in part sparked by the interruption of civility, most famously and powerfully, through nonviolent direct action. 

Nationally, there has been a renewed interest in improving civil discourse due to the Trump presidency and the complete breakdown of bipartisanship in our political and civic life. However, we must not confuse the legitimate push back against the President’s divisive rhetoric with the growing chorus of Detroiters demanding our equity stake in the city’s current revitalization. 

In March, the Detroit Regional Chamber hosted it’s 2018 Detroit Policy Conference. This year’s focus was on “Creating a Culture of Civility.”  The conference referenced the widely heralded example of the relationship between Mayor Duggan and members of City Council. In the Mayor’s recent State of the City he touted the difference in their relationship between now and the past. Perhaps he, and the Chamber fail to recognize the historically oppositional stance by some Council Members in the past was due to their protection and defense of their constituents. Some council members could be counted on to challenge the administration. While a new age of civility at CAYMC bodes well for the administration and corporate interests, it does NOT for everyday Detroiters. 

Let’s Count some of the ways government and corporate leadership have targeted Detroiters:

1. Public School Takeover by the State of Michigan

2. Consent Agreement/Emergency Management

3. Municipal Bankruptcy

4. Hijacking of Worker Pension and Healthcare

5. Privatization of Services like Lights and Trash Removal

6. Loss of governance of the Water System

7. Taking public funds and using them for private projects like the Qline and LCA (Little Caesars Arena) 

8. Creating legislation and a well funded campaign to defeat a  community-led CBA ballot  initiative 

9. Refusal to stop Water Shutoffs that harm Detroit children and senior citizens. 

10. Calling housing “affordable” when it isn’t affordable to the majority of Detroiters.

11. Using hardest hit funds intended to keep Detroiters in their homes to demolish homes.

12. Threatening and inappropriate physical handling of citizens in meetings by city appointees, staff and designees. 

13. Huge transfers of public funds and resources to wealthy white billionaires.

The list goes on.

It is an insult that in an 80+% majority-black city, both corporate and government representatives feel completely comfortable disrespecting community members. When leaders and their representatives are allowed to roll their eyes, make racist and condescending comments and negate the ability of Detroiters to engage in serious and thoughtful discussions they are replicating tactics used to silence opposition.  The levels disrespect shown when Detroiters speak out or show up and protest peacefully against injustices creates a culture of incivility across all of our institutions.

Don’t lecture Detroiters on Civility. The solution is to actually listen to Detroiters and meet us where we are, whether we fit into the plans or not.

(1) www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/
     2016/12/discussing-racism-white-voters/509528/

 

 

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What is Proposal R?

What is Proposal R?

On Tuesday, August 7 2018 there will be one proposal on the primary ballot. Proposal R asks Detroiters if they favor a “general revision” of the City Charter. The City Charter is an important document and there is a great deal of information to consider before voting on Proposal R. If R passes, voters will select candidates for the Charter Revision Commission in November, and have an opportunity to engage in the Charter Revision process. 

What is Proposal R?

Proposal R is on the Detroit Primary Election Ballot this year. The Primary Election is Tuesday, August 7th, 2018.

Proposal R asks Detroiters: “Do you favor a general revision of the 2012 Detroit City Charter by a charter revision commission? Yes or No”

What is the City Charter?

The City Charter can be likened to the US and Michigan Constitutions. It is the law that mandates how the City works on a day to day basis.

The 2012 City Charter supported the shift from an “at large” City Council to the current Council By District system.

The 2012 City Charter also provides for a level of community power and oversight.

The Police Commission and it’s District-based structure being one important example of community oversight.

Why is the City Charter up for a vote now?

A previous version of the City Charter mandates that a question about charter revision is placed on the ballot and voted on every 16 years.

This is the case for Proposal R; it is on the ballot to meet legal requirements.

The last time the Charter was opened it was through an independent ballot initiative regarding proposed changes to the structure of city council  i.e. shift to Council by District.

The current City Charter became the official charter for the city of Detroit in January 2012.

What about the Candidates for City Charter Revision Commission?

If Proposal R passes, individuals who were successful in having their petition signatures certified by the city Clerk’s office, will then become candidates for the City Charter Revision Commission.

They will appear as candidates on the ballot in the November 2018 General Election

As in any other election, the candidates will campaign for their seat on the revision commission and it will be up to the voters to cast their votes for the candidate of their choice. The Detroit People’s Platform does not endorse candidates

The top nine (9) vote getters will serve as members of the nine (9) member Charter Revision Commission.

There is a process for write-in candidates as well. The deadline for write-in candidates to file Declaration of Intent forms is 4:00 p.m. on July 27th.

The 9 candidates elected in November will be seated on the City Charter Revision Commission for three years.

What is the charter revision process?

The last charter revision process took three years and spent nearly a million dollars.(1)

Though the process includes public hearings and other opportunities for community engagement, the Commissioners themselves have a great deal of influence in determining what the revision process and final charter document will look like.

After the revision process, the Commission’s proposed Charter goes to the State’s Attorney General who has the power to change and edit it before approval by the Governor. The Detroiters must vote on it. 

Are there alternatives to revision?

There are other, less time consuming and expensive alternatives that allow for changes to be made to the city charter without opening it up for the full scale revision process.

The charter can be amended by a 3/5 majority vote of City Council or a ballot initiative that would put the amendment to a vote by Detroiters.

What’s good about the current City Charter?

The roll out of the 2012 City Charter was interrupted by Emergency Management and the Municipal Bankruptcy process.

Since the end of Emergency Management, the City Council and Mayor’s office have not fully implemented, or fully adhered to, the City Charter.

Citizens should be given an opportunity to both learn about and use the current charter.

The current city charter approved in 2012, includes strong citizen and community engagement aspects that could be of great benefit to the community.

 

Reference Links
2012 City Charter Revision Page: http://www.detcharter.com/charter/

Michigan Radio 2012 Charter Revision timeline http://michiganradio.org/post/detroit-voters-approve-new-city-charter

Charter Revision Budget: http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20100427/EMAIL01/304279999/charter-panel-makes-hires-gets-down-to-business

There is a great deal of information in this education document about the Charter Revision Process.

Revised-City-Charter

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Vote No on Proposal R

Vote No on Proposal R

On Tuesday, August 7 2018 there will be one proposal on your primary ballot. Proposal R asks Detroiters if they favor a “general revision” of the City Charter. If opened, the Charter could be changed in many ways. Proposal R, if passed, could; restrict community power and oversight, reduce government accountability and ruin our chances to fully restore democracy in Detroit.

Detroit People’s Platform encourages our members, supporters and all Detroiters to Vote NO on Proposal R!