Principles for Corporations Negotiating Community Benefits with Residents of Detroit

Call for Racial and Economic Justice
Principles for Corporations Negotiating Community Benefits Agreement (CBAs) with Residents in the City of Detroit


Detroit is the largest Majority Black City in the country, with the intention of celebrating and preserving that distinction.  Historic residents have stayed when others left, but nevertheless  remain marginalized and mis-represented in democratic processes.  We are denied meaningful voice over the policies that impact our lives.

The name George Floyd has come to symbolize the cumulative effects of four-hundred years of racism in America.  The violence of police brutality is physical and structural.  Other aspects of racialized violence are also structural, as revealed by the health disparities of Covid-19.  The systematic disinvestment in cities like Detroit is yet another form of structural violence, as is the diversion of public resources to subsidize private economic development. During the past decade  corporations doing development in Detroit by our estimates have been awarded nearly $1.5 billion dollars in tax abatements (mostly concentrated in the downtown business district). And yet, Detroit remains one of the nation’s most impoverished cities.  It is obvious that majority Black Detroit is not benefitting from these public investments.

In this national moment, business as usual is no longer acceptable.  Existing processes are structurally flawed and fundamentally unfair. We need to adopt new practices to ensure more equitable outcomes. How corporations engage with Detroit residents is a good place to start to repair these long-standing injustices.

The Equitable Detroit Coalition calls on corporations receiving public subsidies and engaging in negotiations for Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) to commit to the following principles:

Demonstrate Corporate Commitment to Racial Equity

Racial Equity is both a process and an outcome. 1) As a process, we apply racial equity when those most impacted by structural racial inequity are meaningfully involved in the creation and implementation of the institutional policies and practices that impact their lives.  2) As an outcome, we achieve racial equity when race no longer determines one’s socioeconomic outcomes (Center for Social Inclusion).

Corporate Commitments to Racial Equity as a Process

  • Respect the community. The community has deep expertise that others lack, particularly about the impact of development on the neighborhood and the needs of the people.
  • Be transparent. Be forthcoming and timely with information and honest about your plans and intentions. Engage community early, not after all decisions are made.
  • Engage authentically in the proces Negotiating Community Benefits Agreement (CBAs) is not a check box activity.  The Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) process is an opportunity for building racial equity.
  • Take the time needed to do it right. Racial equity cannot be rushed.  There is nothing in the Detroit’s Community Benefits ordinance that prevents a corporation from spending more time in the negotiating process than designated.

Act in good faith.  Acting in good faith requires a commitment to good will and the exercise of best efforts, an admonishment against forms of opportunistic and exploitive behavior and clear standards of accountability towards the community. 

Corporate Commitment to Racial Equity as Substantive Outcomes

  • Commit to a fair rate of community return on the public investment. Outcomes of Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) should reflect the principle of reciprocity. Community Benefits should meaningfully correspond to the size of the public subsidy.
  • Commit holistically to enhancing the quality of life in the Detroit neighborhoods along a number of dimensions – environment, housing, education, employment, recreation and youth and senior services.
  • Commit to do no harm.
  • Commit to accepting the Community Benefits Agreement as binding and agree to forfeit the value of the public subsidies if the conditions of the Agreement are not met.

Racial equity is achieved when race no longer determines one’s socioeconomic conditions.  Corporations should commit to using Community Benefits Agreements to support quality developments in the neighborhoods they are subsidized to invest in so that these neighborhoods will look like the neighborhood that their executives go home to at the end of the day

A version of this document appears as a Commentary in Crains Business Detroit. as “Community Benefits are more than just a checkbox” by George Gaines and Peter Hammer.

George Gaines is part of the Equitable Detroit Citywide CBA Coalition. Peter Hammer is professor of law and director of the Damon Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University Law School.

George Gaines is a former Detroit city official and part of the Equitable Detroit Citywide CBA Coalition. Peter Hammer is professor of law and director of the Damon Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University Law School.

They’ve got the QLINE on lockdown

Quicken/Bedrock, Penske and other corporations accessed nearly $78 Million in public funds and resources slated for public transit on this quasi-public/private real estate project. Now that many downtown buildings and the corporate entertainment complex, (also funded with public $$$) are empty, the Qline is sitting idle. Once again, local corporations exploit the public resources of Detroit, the nation’s largest majority Black city. This isn’t racial equity or justice from many of the corporations that claim to be making commitments and changes. We demand a Racial and Economic Justice Community Benefit Agreement!

CBA for Racial and Economic Justice

Mayor Duggan’s Juneteenth is Problematic

There are many reasons why Mayor Duggan and his administration laying claim to Juneteenth is so problematic.

He failed to stop water shutoffs during the  COVID-19 pandemic until compelled by State Emergency Order.

He refused to fight for environmental protections for residents on Beniteau and in the FCA Impact Area.

He expanded Project Green Light and racially-biased Facial Recognition Technology throughout the city. 

He fought against the People’s Community Benefits Ordinance (Proposal A). 

and many others.

Violent Policy Every Day in Detroit

Violence against black bodies shows up in public policy every day in Detroit.

Air, Water and Land Pollution
Cuts to Basic Services
Lack of investment in youth
Public Health Dept. Defunded

Land Grabs & Water Shutoffs
Disinvestment of Neighborhoods
Corporate “Giveaways”
Foreclosures & Evictions

Under-funded Transit
Unaffordable Housing

No ‘Right to Counsel’ in Housing Court
Surveillance & Over Policing
Mass Incarceration

along with many other issues and policies.

We demand more than words. We demand policy that centers race, racial equity and JUSTICE.

Downtown Detroit’s Corporate calls for diversity and inclusion are diversionary and dismissive 

Detroit People’s Platform NEWSJune 3, 2020 

We demand Quicken/Bedrock and other Corporates do away with the discredited language and positioning of diversity and inclusion” and substitute racial justice and racial equity as the goal.   

On June 1, 2020 Crains Business Detroit gave a platform for corporate leaders to comment on the protests in Detroit in reaction to the latest violence upon black bodies by police, most recently as visited upon George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Some of the corporate leaders called for greater inclusion and diversity. On June 3rd many of the corporate leaders attended a downtown press conference coordinated by Rev Wendell Anthony and we assume Mayor Duggan where similar sentiments were expressed. 

The Black community is all too familiar with this type of response in the face of tragedy.   Another statusquo corporate response, committing to doing things differently. But,it rarely is the case that the actions taken result in systemic change in a system which enshrines white privilege and power. 

Quicken and the Bedrock “family” of companies along with many other corporate leaders, like the Ilitch’s featured in the Crain’s article and the Mayor’s press conference, have reaped incredible profits and benefits for their personal business interest. Through massive public subsidies in the form of tax abatements otherwise known as corporate give aways awarded by the city of Detroit. For years we have watched proceedings where many of our elected officials are complicit in the undermining and oppression of Black Detroit. They do this through their neglect and inaction to advocate on behalf of their constituency in the presence of white male corporate power.  

Failing to raise the slightest objections or make demands on behalf of Detroiters, many of the electeds usually defer to the white corporate class while at the same time paying little to no attention to the concerns of residents who show up asking for a fair deal. They are given a minute or two to state their case. We experience the harmful impact of these decisions in our daily lives. This is the unspoken form of economic and political violence perpetrated against Black Detroiters.  

Tax abatements during the past five (5) years total close to a billion dollars. All of this awarded at a time when Detroit, the nation’s largest and poorest majority Black city, was reeling from a recent bankruptcy, high rates of childhood poverty, mass water shutoffs, historic housing foreclosures and failing public services. The city’s general fund foregoes the taxes that otherwise should accompany these types of economic development projects, sometimes for up to fifteen years. Downtown/midtown booms while neighborhoods suffer from years of neglect and disinvestment.  

This is what revitalization looks like in Detroit led by the white corporate elite and their philanthropic and nonprofit enablers. Black Detroiters who raise concerns and reject this model of exploitation are labeled as “anti-development.”  We lift up the following illustration of how the corporates sidestep anything that resembles equitable and community led solutions offered by Black Detroit.  

As part of the city’s mandated Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) process, several grassroots groups reached out to more than one of these corporations with the hope of negotiating benefits for the communityThe CBA process known to have been successful in many other cities has been reduced to a mockery here in Detroit; where certain city council members organized to undercut the more progressive CBA ordinance proposed by community. The harsh and racist rhetoric directed towards local organizers fighting for equitable development during the CBA ballot campaign is indicative of how those with power choose to wield their power over Detroiters.  

Some local media described the organizers and residents as “shake-down artist” and some groups in organized labor and other insiders accused them of scaring away development with their demands (code for construction jobs for suburban white males would be threatened). And, Mayor Duggan scoffed at the notion of allowing Black Detroiters to sit at the table with developers to negotiate a community benefit agreement, citing the tendency of Detroit residents to argue and bicker among themselves therefore incapable of getting anything done. 

Portraying Detroiters as incapable, unreasonable and therefore unworthy has become sport in Detroit’s civic landscape. 

Here we lift up just one example of the type of ask proposed by a group of Detroiters to Bedrock as part of a proposed community benefit process. 

  • As Bedrock received hundreds of millions of dollars in tax support to build luxury high rise apartments and housing, the community ask was that Bedrock donate (no specified amount was specified) to the Housing Trust Fund which is managed by the city’s Department of Housing and Revitalization. Established as the result of a three-year advocacy and organizing campaign by organizers and local residents, the Housing Trust is intended to support affordable housing for those who have an annual income of $35K or less. 
  • Support for the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network’s Cooperative Grocery Store, a project long in the making intended to not only benefit Black Detroiters but open to serving all Detroiters interested in supporting this model of food justice and community self determination.
  • Establish a computer lab at an emergency food pantry to increase internet access for children and adults in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

These are relatively moderate asks in comparison to the public tax support provided to Quicken/Bedrock. Yet, in spite of several meetings the asks were not implemented. Many of us believe the ask were never seriously considered by Quicken/Bedrock staff to begin with.

If Quicken/Bedrock and other corporate players are sincerely ready to commit to improving and reducing the social, health and economic disparities of Black Detroit here are a few recommendations on how to show up in a tangible way RIGHT NOW.  

(a) Forego tax abatements on your development projects and PAY YOUR FAIR SHARE here in the nation’s largest and poorest majority Black city; OR, 

(b) Commit to a real community benefit agreement process with community. It is not too late for Ford Motor Company, Fiat Chrysler, Illitch Holdings, or TCF*.  As a first step towards living into their statements of commitment, these corporate leaders can immediately move to amend their existing Community Benefit Agreement with the city of Detroit, engage with community representatives and center racial equity and the needs of everyday Detroiters in these agreements.  

(c.) Corporate and other developers from the business class can set aside opposition to the proposed amendments to the current Community Benefit Agreement Ordinance now before city council. Then perhaps the process can move forward and city council can pass a REAL CBA ordinance. Adopting equitable development practices will go a long way towards demonstrating to Detroiters that the corporates and their development partners are serious about taking action to address issues of systemic racism in the way they do business in and with Black Detroit.   

In the coming weeks Detroit People’s Platform will continue with our allEquitable Detroit, the citywide CBA coalition, to organize with Detroiters and call for corporate accountabilityWe will also mobilize Detroiters to demand elected officials move forward and pass the necessary amendments the Community Benefits Ordinance in this year’s legislative session. This will create a CBA ordinance that gives Detroiters voice and power.  

In closing, we offer for reflection words appearing in Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famous work, Where Do We Go From Here, Chaos or Community  

Social Justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention. There is no other answer. Constructive social change will bring tranquility; evasions will merely encourage turmoil.” 

*Note: TCF declined to enter into the usual CBA process outlined in the Community Reinvestment Act when bank mergers occur that may have a negative impact on low and moderate income communities as a result. In a bizarre twist TCF actually received a community benefit from taxpayers in the amount of $35 million dollar tax giveaway.

New Video The Water is NOT Restored in Detroit

Many Detroiters are working hard to bring down the COVID-19 curve and keep their neighborhoods safe.

But in the midst of this pandemic that is hitting black people hard, in the nation’s largest MAJORITY BLACK CITY Shutoff notices continue and the water hasn’t been restored for many in spite of the Governor’s Executive Order.

Don’t let this failure to do what is mandated make us more vulnerable the next wave of COVID-19.

Call the Governor’s Office 517.373.3400 (dial 5)


BREAKING: From the Guardian

Detroit families still without clean water despite shutoffs being lifted

“Common sense says it is racism,” said Bouier, noting that most of those who have had their water shut off are black and poor. The fatality rate of Covid-19 in Michigan is 7% of confirmed cases, but while African Americans make up only 14% of the state’s population, they make up 40% of the state’s deaths.

Brightmoor Connections Food Pantry

New VIDEO Turn The Water On Mayor Duggan

To survive the next wave of COVID-19, EVERYONE must have access to affordable water. In the midst of a pandemic hitting black people hard, in the nation’s largest MAJORITY BLACK CITY

Mayor Duggan is the face of Detroit’s Black Women and Children WITHOUT WATER

Call Mayor Duggan! Tell him to turn the water on so we can ALL wash our hands!

Turn The Water On Mayor Duggan! 313.224.3400

BREAKING: From the Guardian

Detroit families still without clean water despite shutoffs being lifted

“Common sense says it is racism,” said Bouier, noting that most of those who have had their water shut off are black and poor. The fatality rate of Covid-19 in Michigan is 7% of confirmed cases, but while African Americans make up only 14% of the state’s population, they make up 40% of the state’s deaths.

Brightmoor Connections Food Pantry

 Rejecting and Resisting the Resilience Trap : Black Detroiters don’t always bounce back

COVID-19 is the most recent and perhaps the most horrific in a series of catastrophic illnesses fueled by long standing health inequities that make Black Detroiters especially vulnerable. The most recent data indicates that Detroit accounts for 9,881 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. (May 7, 2020)

Elected officials and senior public leaders tasked with representing the needs and interest of Black Detroiters have been heard lately referring to the resilience of Black Detroiters as a strategy for our survival in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last time we checked, the definition of resilience included: “The ability to adapt or rebound quickly from change, illness or bad fortunes; knocked down by challenges but they return as a stronger person more steadfast than before.”

The truth is that Black Detroiters don’t always bounce back from the historic systemic and structural damage visited upon our households and our communities.

The truth is that Black Detroiters don’t always bounce back from the historic systemic and structural damage visited upon our households and our communities.  This is underwritten by the facts that:

  • We don’t bounce back from mass water shut offs the absence of affordable running water in our homes
  • We don’t bounce back when our homes are overtaxed and swindled from us by unscrupulous lenders
  • We don’t bounce back when we are displaced by rents that consume more than 60% of our monthly income
  • We don’t bounce back from low pay no benefit jobs that make being an essential worker a death wish
  • We don’t bounce back from a plan for economic revitalization that transfers billions of public tax benefits to wealthy white developers and leaves our neighborhoods shrouded in blight and disrepair

Calls for resilience from policy makers are no substitute for thoughtful and bold initiatives that get at and eliminate the root of these unjust conditions reinforced by a status quo system of white supremacy.

In fact, the call for resilience and the need for Black folks to “step up” in the face of the most devastating public health event in this century, could be interpreted as shifting the responsibility for defeating this pandemic to individuals and to giving those in power a pass.

The call for resilience in the face of COVID-19 also reinforces the racist notion that Black bodies are somehow more capable of experiencing repeated episodes of physical pain, sorrow and loss – that somehow both experiencing and surviving trauma is normalized among Black Detroiters.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Majority Black Detroit deserves leadership that rejects and resists the notion of individual resilience as a strategy for COVID-19 relief and recovery.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Majority Black Detroit deserves leadership that rejects and resists the notion of individual resilience as a strategy for COVID-19 relief and recovery.  Instead, we call upon our elected officials and public leaders to be guided by a strategy that centers racial justice and equity in COVID resource allocation and related public policies. To do anything less will undermine the long term success of Black Detroiters for generations to come.

We Don’t Need Another QLine

In a recent Crain’s Detroit Business article on the new DDOT Director, Mikel Ogelsby, Mayor Duggan frontlines the idea of an expansion of light rail as part of the new directors responsibilities.

We do not need another Q Line (light rail) on Jefferson or Michigan, we need buses back on time, service restored, and riders & drivers safe.  When bus riders are waiting hours for the Jefferson #9 on weekends prior to Covid 19, what we need is better service.

We are concerned that this focus on light rail development distracts from the need to restore bus service in majority black neighborhoods that serve essential workers. These are workers who remain employed during this pandemic/public health crisis and need better service.  We cannot neglect essential bus riders and their families further siphoning our public funds to more failed private development deals.

We need buses back on time, service restored, and riders & drivers safe! The QLine is not a post-pandemic priority for Detroiters, just more of the same. 

Link (behind firewall, so we’ve quoted below)

Duggan: “”I also think it’s within the realm of possibility, depending what happens in the national elections, there could be a national infrastructure bill that could have the potential for light rail,” Duggan said, and wants Detroit to be “ready if the opportunity presents itself, whether it’s on Jefferson (Avenue), whether it’s on Michigan (Avenue), we’re looking at a lot of different choices.”

Ogelsby: “I’ve dealt with a lot of capital projects. I’ve started them from the ground up,” Oglesby said. “I believe in creativity. But more importantly, I think, one thing that’s happening here that we really have to focus in on is the safety of the rider and the safety of the operators. So when we come in it’s not just going to be all innovation, it’s going to be getting the base solid.”

Community: “Some activists have spoken for the need for DDOT to ramp up service so essential workers aren’t forced onto overcrowded buses. Calls have also been made, including by Detroit City Council, for a low-income fair pilot program. DDOT said in an April memo to council that it did not recommend it. DDOT has a reduced-fare program for seniors, those with disabilities, students and Medicare recipients, it said, and said the city could not afford the pressure that would cause on the its general fund.”


Please note: The Eviction Stay has now been extended to June 11, 2020 by Governor Whitmer.

In consideration of the devastating health and economic impact of COVID-19 virus pandemic many housing advocates and activists are calling for a MORATORIUM on rent payments including late penalties and fees. Some advocates are even calling for RENT CANCELLATION during the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to a STAY on EVICTIONS.  (Moratorium is a suspension or an authorized delay or period of time during which the law authorizes a delay in payment or some other legal obligation. This type of moratorium is most often invoked during times of distress such as war, natural disaster or emergencies)

We want to make sure Detroit renters are clear on the current policy that exist in regard to rent payments and evictions. The STAY on EVICTIONS issued under Michigan Governor Whitmer’s current Emergency Order extends the STAY on EVICTIONS thru May 28, 2020.  This also applies to 36th District Court.

The STAY on EVICTIONS does not mean you do not have to pay your rent. RENT CANCELLATION or RENT FORGIVENESS is not the same as a STAY on EVICTIONS.  

Nowhere in the Governor’s recent Emergency Order or the 36th District court order does it say or suggest that you do not have to pay your rent or that you are not expected to pay your rent during the COVID-19 emergency.

At Detroit People’s Platform we have joined with national partners in advocating for proposals to cancel the debt of rent and utilities arrears as a result of the tremendous economic hardship many of our individuals and families are facing. However, that advocacy does not at this time influence the nature of the Governor Whitmer’s Emergency Order in Michigan or the 36th District Court policy on evictions here in Detroit.

Details of Governor Whitmer’s Order and the 36th District Court Order from The Supreme Court as it relates to rent payments include the following:

  • The current extension on Stay on Evictions that also includes pending court evictions is 5-28-20. After which non-payment of rent action can be filed by landlord or property owner.
  • Michigan’s current RENT MORATORIUM applies also to cases that were filed and evictions put forth before the Governor’s executive order.
    • If you had an eviction case in process prior to the STAY on EVICTIONS, deadlines for filing complaints & additional paperwork is suspended and the delay will not be held against you. Contact the court for further guidance. Some courts will have e-filing &/or mailing available.
  • exception is that if any tenant or mobile homeowner poses substantial risk to another person or property they can be evicted.
  • After 5-28-2020 landlord are expected to take the same measures required for a legal eviction process.