Michigan's Presidential Primary is HERE!

On Tuesday, March 8th, Michigan voters go to the polls to choose a presidential candidate for November's elections. You know the drill- get out and vote, and let your voice be heard! It's our right, but it's also our privilege. Practice it! What are you #ReadyFor?

Need to know if you're registered and where your polling location is? Want to review your ballot? Visit: Michigan Voter Information

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The 2014 Declare Detroit Slate

Declare Detroit, led by a Steering Team of engaged residents and backed by 17,000+ supporters, is committed to supporting and electing progressive leaders who will be accountable to helping move Detroit forward.

Today we announce a 2014 Primary election slate of 15 endorsements for this years State House, State Senate and Wayne County Executive offices.

Declare Detroit is backing candidates with strong records of community leadership and proven abilities to find solutions instead of pointing fingers when it comes to making Detroit stronger, more inclusive and equitable for all.

2014 Slate

Please support these candidates by contributing to our Political Action Committee (PAC). Since 2013, over $12,000 has been contributed to these promising future leaders committed to moving Detroit forward, guided by the principles of the Detroit Declaration. 

Please help us expand our impact by contributing today.

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Council Write Up May 26th

Council Write UP


May 26th 

Summary: It was a relatively uneventful session of formal council. The meeting was mostly marked by the standard series of appropriations and contract approvals along with some larger discussions about staff cuts and the consent agreement.


Council Atmosphere

 It must be noted that the Detroit City Council these days works in an atmosphere of general conviviality and camaraderie. There is no lack of seriousness, but jokes fly around the table, genuine laughter is not out of place, and some true friendships seem to exist between our elected representatives.


Appropriations/Contract Approvals

Council discussed appropriations and approvals from a variety of committees mentioning police helicopters, blighted land transfers for revitalization projects, and the usual sequence of parade and concert licensing approvals with recommendations from the police department.

 District System/ Member Reports

 Member reports were, as usual, enlightening. It is interesting and heartening to see the fruits of the district system borne out in the wave of community meetings that is beginning to take place over the city. Andre Spivey conducted a community meeting in District 4, Scott Benson had one in District 3, Member Castaneda Lopez and Tate continue their regularly scheduled meetings and Member Leland and Member Sheffield have had small-scale meet and greets in restaurants and businesses in their districts. The district system is allowing residents greater access to government and city services. It is also serving as an organizing framework for pre-existing community organizations to coalesce around common goals and focus on a specific governmental access point for their concerns.


IV. Checks and Balances/ Staffing Issues

An important issue was brought to the fore this Tuesday regarding council staffing. Council’s budget at present is very low and there seems to be a problem with retaining top-flight talent to staff council offices. According to several of the council members present there is an unfortunate flow of talent away from council into the Executive branch of government. Saunteel Jenkins again made her pitch that the strength of the legislative branch must be preserved if it is to remain a check on the executive. If city council is under-resourced and understaffed it cannot hope to provide and adequate check on the Mayor and those under him. 

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Council Meeting May 13th

Hey all! This week we are going to be working with a slightly new format for our city council reports. We want folks to be able digest a short-take of what is going on in our government, while still being able to go in-depth in a topic they are interested in. We also are going to present some issue based posts on various ongoing pieces of council business, so that folks can get a background on an issue.



Summary: The main focus of council this week was the presentation of the budget from the Emergency Managers Office and the Mayor. The budget reflects the plan of adjustment and the current state of negotiations around the bankruptcy. Council was also focused on how it can influence the proccedings in Lansing about the fate of the city going forward.


 Mayor Mike Duggan and CFO John Hill and the Budget


Mayor Mike Duggan was at council to present the budget. He began with the obligatory bewailing of emergency management, letting council know that he was really looking forward to next year, when he could present his own budget unrestricted by bankruptcy.

He then outlined what his two major additions to the emergency manager’s budget had been. The first of which is the Department of Neighborhoods, Mayor Duggan’s widely publicized program to meet blight head on in communities. The second are the “lean teams,” groups that are making systems and departments within city government more efficient.

Mayor Duggan then turned it over to John Hill, Detroit’s CFO, to explain the budget step by step. The big picture is that the general fund budget for the coming several years is around 930 billion dollars with the overall budget being closer to 2.5 billion, with exit financing from bankruptcy.

The budget break down was conducted at a generalized level, but the basic takeaways are that the city is going to escape from the crushing weight of pension obligations, in most cases by simply slashing funds. Many pensioners will see there health care more than halved. A turn towards privatization will also help the city save money. The plan is still to ramp up city services in the coming years, with surges in Fire and Police planned.

The slightly uncomfortable thing about the whole proceeding was that the presentation was, in a sense, empty. Council can pass whatever budget it wants, but the final power rests squarely in the Emergency manager’s hands. It is a hard reminder that some of the city’s most central democratic processes are at the moment empty.

John Hill was gracious and thoughtful in his presentation, taking the time to point out individuals who have put in real work on the process. It is certainly a difficult time to be making a budget in the city of Detroit

Public Comment

Public comment went on as usual. There were , as usual, several acerbic and whip-smart comments from union leaders about the injustice of pensions being taken away. The voice of the pensioners has been represented exceptionally well in the public comment session of council, but it is hard to see how impactful those voices will be, given the fact that council will have only be able to make a symbolic vote on the plan of adjustment. We also were treated to several theories about the recent church fire on Woodward. One of which involved the mafia and storage unit in Kansas.

Appropriations and Approval

It was a standard session of approval of city contracts. We had some discussion about the length of 25 year lease to the airport, an approval of traffic equipment payments, and several tax credit approvals for brownfield redevelopment.

Lansing Discussion

The council finished the session off with a broad ranging discussion on what they could do to influence the proceedings in Lansing. With the decisions being made having such a direct impact on the city and its future, it seemed difficult to imagine that city officials would not be consulted and have their voices heard. Member Jenkins and Castaneda-Lopez proposed a "council field trip" to Lansing that would allow city council members the opportunity to comment in the hearings. 



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Council Meeting May 6th

Your Declare Detroit fellow had an engagement at 9 and was a touch late, so we missed the first part of the session. As such it was a rather short session and a pretty uneventful one. UPD



  1. PUBLIC COMMENT- There was a slightly smaller contingent of commenters than last week imploring the council to vote no if they were given an opportunity to, on the paln of adjustment. But they were armed with same arguments and the same visible anger at the injustice. Pensioner after pensioner expressed their outrage at the promises being broken and in essence told the council that they had no choice, but to fight tooth and nail against the plan. A nice positive from the public comment was that a citizen through some unsolicited love on Scott Benson’s “Employment Extravagranza” noting that it was a great success.
  2. EXPENIDTURES, CONTRACTS, AND LICENSES- The city council deliberated over several expenditures, approving a wide variety of contracts from everything from lighting consulting, to polling election services. 
  3. BELLE ISLE UPDATE- Brenda Jones gave the council an update on the Belle Isle situation. There was a certainly a cooling down after the outrage of last Tuesday’s session. Member Jones pledged that she would continue to work with state officials on rectifying the situation.
  4. MEMBER REPORTS- Member Castaneda-Lopez gave a heartfelt comment on the senseless violence that overshadowed the joy of the Cinco de Mayo parade. She explained the situation and joined in mourning the young man’s life. 
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Council Session April 29th

  1. DETROIT EMPLOYMENT SOLUTIONS COPORATION- Detroit Employment Growth Solutions presented in the formal session last Tuesday. The testimony was informative and compelling. The main message of the presentation was the DESC was far better off as an independent non-for-profit than it had been under the umbrella of city government. The “placement numbers” i.e. the amount of people that DESC helped place into part-time or full time positions were close to 9,000, up from 1,500-2,000 just a couple years ago. It was, in some ways an ,“I told you so moment” for DESC, and many of the councilors who had opposed the move of the DESC out of city auspices stepped up and admitted that they had been in the wrong. DESC has accomplished this turn around by cutting overhead costs, opening itself to private funding, and building a more accessible network of service centers out in neighborhoods where people can actually reach them. There are still areas where DESC admitted it can do better. Its youth efforts, while successful, are hamstrung by a decline in funding. DESC also noted that it struggles to reach youth who are already out of the system, in the streets and on the corners, and bring them back into the work force.
  2. PUBLIC COMMENT/THE PLAN OF ADJUSTMENT – One of the incredibly impressive and at times incredibly frustrating times in your standard Tuesday, City Council meeting is public comment. For those who don’t know, a designated portion of each council meeting is set aside for public comment as a forum for anyone, literally any citizen, to come and express their views to council. People sometimes use the platform to petition council about a personal problem, a house on my block is abandoned, my application has not been approved yet etc. sometimes folks use it to give expertise or opinions on a particular topic that the council will be discussing, and a certain select group use it as a personal platform on which to promote their own work or give their two cents on a wide range of matters. It is a fantastic example of direct democracy and access. Anyone can have their voice heard, anyone can have for a moment, a seat at the table. There have been times in the several months that I have been following council closely in which public comment does really influence decisionmaking and discussion. On the other hand the entirety of our very busy city council  sits down every week and listens to a couple of the same people give their opinions on everything from the bankruptcy to blight, to the state of our schools,  in long sometimes suspicious,  sometimes accusatory 2 minute long speeches. In my mind, this is a worthwhile price to pay for the truly remarkable fact that anyone can address council on a given Tuesday. But if I was a busy city councilor, who had to sit through these verbal assaults week after week, I might feel differently. This week, public comment was being used as it was intended, as a forum for the people to speak. In what was obviously a planned effort, person after person got up to testify to council to vote no on the plan of adjustment. Now, it is unclear whether council will be voting on the plan of adjustment or not, so it is unclear how useful the asks for them reject it were. But it was an impressive display of direct action nonetheless.  Having council conceptually understand that his plan will hurt pensioners is one thing, being asked from the bottom of your heart to resist the plan by a 67 year old lady who is caring for her sick husband with medical insurance that might be taken away is quite another.
  3. SPECIAL ASSESMENT DISTRICT – The next order of business was passing an ordinance proposed by Councilman James Tate for a special assessment zone for the citizens of Grandmont-Rosedale. The concept of a special assessment zone is that the citizens of a certain area or neighborhood have a special tax levied on the property owners in the districtthat then goes to pay for services in the neighborhood. There are several such business zones in Detroit, in which property and business owners pay into a fund  that in turns pays for increased security, trash collection, etc., but this is the first such residential zone. Tate has had it in the works for a very long time, first pushing for it back in 2012. The ordinance will allow citizens of Grandmont-Rosedale to ensure that their neighborhood remains relatively stable and that services such as mosquito clearing, snow pick up, and community policing are well funded and carried out properly.
  4. BELLE ISLE POLICING- The big story of last council came as the session was winding down, when Council president Brenda Jones asked the City Clerk to recount a story that  she had told her earlier. It was certainly an unusual request, and the room perked up a bit. The Clerk recounted the story of her being pulled over for going some 4-5 miles over the speed limit. She said that the state officer who pulled her over, told her that they were trying to keep the “riff-raff” off the island. Brenda Jones then disclosed that Mayor Duggan had been pulled over for speeding on the island. Other council members were quick to jump in, pointing out that they had received complaints from constituents about draconian policing on the island, with officers stopping folks for minor infractions and then running their licenses and arresting them. The number “500 arrests” was thrown around, which set off a maelstrom of comments, anger, and analysis from council. The specter of a worst-case scenario for state control seemed very real on Tuesday morning at the table. Councilmember Jenkins was as heated as I have ever seen her in her anger at the state officers and their tactics. She brought up the dangers and capacity for overreach when you have state police “driving from 1-2 hours away” coming into the city and bringing their own biases and lack of comfort with the local population to bear on Detroit residents. She was heartfelt and passionate when she said that we needed officers on Belle Isle who know, “not every man in a hoodie is a criminal.” It was interesting how different council members dived in and gave their commentary on the situation, refracting the issue through their own personal viewpoints. Member Castaneda-Lopez sought to place the Belle Isle issues into a larger narrative of profiling and prejudice citing immigrants in Southwest and sexism. Member Cushingberry was also heated and placed the Belle Isle issue into one that was not merely to do with state control or state police, but police in general saying the Detroit police department was practically an “occupying army.”   Member Tate was reasoned and cautious. He said that he was very disturbed by the reports, but wanted to see the numbers before he got to the level of outrage, (the 500 number does seem to have been high. State Police are reporting much closer to 200). The state police crack down is ominous to say the least, even it is not quite as bad as it was being treated in council. The notion that any Detroiter would feel scared to go into the great public park in their own city for fear of harassment by the police is unconscienable. Member Jones announced that she was meeting with State Officials to help address the issue sometime later this week. We can only hope that the meeting is productive and that we can work towards a Belle Isle that is safe and inviting for all.
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Council Write Up April 1st

Council Write Up



This Tuesday at the Coleman Young Municipal Center was quite a doozy of a council session. We had votes, a show-stopping musical number, drama, and a last second debate about the future of a school facility.  Your Declare Detroit Fellow was there to cover it all.


 1. SPIRIT OF DETROIT – There were several spirit of Detroit awards given out last Tuesday. One to a man who had hopped into a turned over car and rescued a passenger. He told the council and audience that he was no hero because, “that’s just what Detroiters do. That’s just what we do.” For his remarkable courage and charming humility the assembled gathering gave him a standing ovation. But as impressive and memorable as that man was the real star of the Tuesday’s council was a middle school choir, grades 3-8, who gave a remarkable rendition of the Pharell Williams hit “Happy.

2. INFORMATION SYSTEMS- Next up was a presentation by Beth Niblock, the head of Detroit Information Systems (computers, data storage, etc.). Detroit’s information systems are outdated and due for a massive overhaul. She reported that she is working on a new way of storing information off the mainframe, most likely in a cloud-based system. Member Cushingberry raised some questions about the security of the cloud, to which Ms. Niblock responded, “if it’s good enough for the CIA, it’s good enough for us.” Ms. Niblock also laid out a plan for revamping the connectivity of the city’s fleet of PCs and Computers including improving the ability to troubleshoot remotely. Ms. Niblock was down-to-earth and knowledgeable. It seems as though Detroit technology is in good hands.

3. WAYNE COUNTY TREASURY- We had an in depth and pretty dire update from the deputy Wayne County treasurer about the state of foreclosures in our city. The problem, as we all know, is massive. The Wayne County Treasurer wanted to used the public forum of council, both to update council members on the situation and to inform the public on some of the steps the treasury is taking to try and address  the problem and mitigate its effects. The treasury is offering back tax relief, delaying seizures, and help to residents who are under-water.

4. SCHOOL BOARD VS. FIRE DEPARTMENT AND MAYOR- There was an 11th hour drama that played out in the council last Tuesday to do with the potential use of the Benjamin O. Davis High School Building at the Detroit air port. The high school, which was affiliated with the airport and allowed its students to get hands on flight training, was moved out of the building last year. The site itself is currently vacant and the fire department wants to consolidate its training operations and house them there. The fire department is desperate for a training facility and the old Ben O. Davis facility would fit the bill exactly. The head of the school board (which is under emergency management) arrived at council to give a speech in opposition to the fire department’s plan. The speech was passionate, but at times wandered a little. Council President Jones had to be firm in demanding that the speech stayed on topic. The main appeal was that the school board had not approved the plan and had been cut out of the process by their emergency manager. The head of the school board was asking the council to strike down the request and to stand in solidarity against emergency management. A representative from the airport and from the fire department than spoke advocating for the plan. They reiterated that they had not been in favor of Benjamin O. Davis facility closing, but now that it was closed, and showed no signs of being reopened, it needed to be utilized before it became blighted. The fire department pointed out that they would drastically increase their ability to train Detroiters to become firemen if they could convert the facility to a training center. The council seemed receptive and in favor of the fire department’s proposal. But given the impassioned objection from the school board, they wanted more time to “do their research.

5.COMMUNITY ADVISORY COUNCILS- The community advisory council ordinance is now in effect! Hurray! The council voted 7-2 to approve the Community Advisory Council ordinance setting up the guidelines of how these councils are to be constructed. Cushingberry and Tate voted against the ordinance. Cushingberry has seemed a little cool to the idea of community advisory council’s throughout the process. His major comment has been that there is no need for overlapping entities like the CDCs and the CACs and he wants to see more streamlined, efficient government, not just more government. Tate, who has been one of the staunchest advocates for the CACs, voted against this ordinance with comment. He wanted to point out that with the way the ordinance was constructed, council could still essentially exercise direct appointments for the Senior and Youth issues members, something Tate had been fighting against for a long time. The issue is in the notion that the “community and the CAC” can submit names to council for consideration for the Senior and Youth issues members. The addition of community input was suggested by Member Sheffield, in an attempt to make sure that everyone could be heard, but it does open the back door to council members hand-picking a candidate, asking them to nominate themselves, and then appointing them. Other council members noticed this, but the general consensus was if a council member really wanted to be bad faith about it, they were going to do that anyway. Tate made sure to point out that it was for only this reason that he was voting against the ordinance and that in general it was exciting that CACs were off and running.

6. APPOINTMENTS- Votes were taken for Neighborhood Advisory Council, Brownfield Development, and Historic Designation Board appointments. 

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Council Write Up March 25th 2014


Council Write Up March 25th 2014


 TRIBUTE TO GEORGE JACKSON- The council honored George Jackson, longtime head of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, at the formal session today. The council room was completely full with citizens, city staff members, and others all crammed in to pay their respects to Mr, Jackson. After Mr. Jackson finished his remarks he received a standing ovation. Mr. Jackson announced his retirement last week. He will continue in his capacity on the boards of Eastern Market and Detroit Future City.




The big question of the day, as it has been for several weeks, was Community Advisory Councils. This session was the final round of month long process to craft a CAC ordinance. The biggest point of debate over the past several weeks had been the process by which the senior issues and youth member of council would be selected.There were two main schools of thought.

On one side Member Leland and Member Benson argued for direct appointment by council. The rationale was that the framers of the charter intended the CACs to have close relationships with district councilors. By allowing district councilors to have a role in the composition of the councils, you promoted a close bond between the district councilor and the CAC.

On the other side of the issue, you had Member James Tate and Raquel Castaneda-Lopez. Both members argued that the autonomy of the CAC would be subverted, if councilors were allowed to make direct appointments. Member Tate and Castaneda-Lopez were tenacious and vocal in their dissent from what at times over the past month was a majority of councilors who seemed to support direct appointment.

Last Thursday, in committee, Member Benson and Member Leland outvoted Member Sheffield in referring a version of the ordinance that would mandate direct appointment by council to the formal session on Tuesday. They did so knowing that amendments giving the CAC a role in the selection process could, and almost certainly would, be proposed.

An interesting piece of information that came out of committee on Thursday was the CAC could not in and of itself make appointments. This scuttled the most community-based of the proposed ordinance that would have had the CACs make appointments completely autonomously.

As we came into the formal session today there were two basic proposals 1) The district councilor picks both the senior issues and youth member 2) The CAC submits a list of three names for each potential seat and the council appoints from that list. The discussion for the first several minutes centered around those two proposals. Then, Member Sheffield chimed in with her own suggestion. She thought that the community should have input, but that having all of the communities input rest in the hands of the CAC was not that much better than having it all rest in the hands of the councilor. She wanted an open nominating process, whereby any member of the community could submit a nomination for the senior issues or youth member of council. This was met with a mixed response and some concerns about the feasibility of large numbers of nominations flooding in.  But eventually councilors latched on to this even more community based process. Some details as to how many nominations could come in etc. were not fleshed out and Member Tate raised concerns that having individuals nominate folks, especially if the CAC did not screen them before the names went to council, could be used as a back door way for councilor to do a direct nomination (Hey John Smith nominate yourself send your resume to my office and I’ll approve you!).  But everyone else seemed comfortable with it. Before the vote, Benson and Leland, to their credit, acknowledged that they could see the benefits of more direct community participation and ended up voting for a version that includes it. The ordinance that is currently being polished and finished up by the Law Department provides for the CACs and community to nominate individuals through the Clerk’s office between January 1st and January 31st of 2015 that the council will then appoint from. There is also a provision stating that no CAC member can hold any other governmental office other than precinct delegate or CDC member or be Council Staff if they wish to run for the CAC.




Council approved several contracts, for snow plowing equipment, for a debris clearing truck etc. etc. Council also approved several requests for public concerts.




We had several briefs from councilors. Member Castaneda-Lopez reported that she had attended an international conference on combating racism and intolerance all the way in Brussels. Member Tate reported on his continued excellent efforts to organize folks in his community, noting that 81 people showed up to his latest District meeting. Member Leland and Member Sheffield both promoted meet-ups that they were hosting in their respective districts and Member Benson spread the word about a job fair he was helping out with it. 

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Council Write Up March 18th 2014

Council Write Up March 18th 2014


Council honored two groups at today’s meeting with Spirit of Detroit Awards.


The first award, bestowed by Saunteel Jenkins, went to a young woman who started Community Stroke Consultants. The group, dedicated to raising stroke awareness in the African-American community, was founded after the young woman suffered from an unexpected stroke in her thirties.

The second award, bestowed by Member Scott Benson, was to a neighborhood watch group that helped to save a boy run over by a car.



The next portion of the meeting was a report from the City of Detroit’s lobbying group in Lansing. The presentation was given by a sharply-dressed lobbyist named Kenneth Cole, who began his remarks by assuring Council president Jones that he bore no relationship to that other Kenneth Cole.

He then want on to a crisp, 10-minute long presentation about his firms lobbying efforts on behalf of Detroit. He began the presentation by trying to outline the current political landscape in Lansing. He first noted the overwhelming Republican control at all levels of state government. He also noted the decline of direct representatives from Detroit in our state legislature. Since 1990 Detroit’s representation in state legislature has decline precipitously due both to population loss and some clever redistricting.

Mr. Cole explained that while it was a difficult environment to work in, progress was being made.  Cole highlighted House Bill 4593, sponsored by Rashida Talib, that cracks down on scrappers. Cole also highlighted initiatives around insurance and efforts to creat stringent back ground checks for city-auction buyers.

Cole also highlighted the state-level revenue-sharing arrangements currently in place. Revenue sharing in Michigan is when the state shares the revenue earned by its sales tax to various entities programs etc. Historically, Detroit has gotten a large chunk of money from the state this way to pay for fire services, EMS, etc. In the early 2000s it usually amounted to around 1 billion dollars. But over recent years, that chunk has shrunk smaller and smaller.

            This year competing state proposals would share with Detroit either around 225 Million or 275 Million of the sales tax revenue. As Cole pointed out, this is way down from the peak years, and is perhaps the most important state-issue for the city of Detroit.

            Mr. Coles’ presentation should remind us that as active and engaged citizens of Detroit, we have an obligation to pay attention to our representation at the state level. What happens in Lansing impacts Detroit directly. 






The next portion of the session was dedicated to introducing the Neighborhood Police Officer program to council. Around 50 police officers actually came down to council (which was held in the auditorium so they fit) in order to “introduce” themselves to the council.  The program is part of Chief Craig’s push to “institutionalize community policing.”

The community officers will be assigned to bit-size geographic areas around the city, allowing them to build intimate knowledge of neighborhood geography, residents, and criminal activity. The officers will be equipped with tablets and smart phones allowing them to keep abreast of developments and to communicate effectively. This technology is provided through funding from the Skillman foundation.

Precinct by precinct the officers stood up and introduced themselves. It was a long process, but it was an impressive display of the depth of commitment our chief is bringing to this policy.




The council also engaged in a short, but wide-ranging discussion about the state of neighborhood parks in the city. The discussion was prompted by Member Leland raising the funding issues he was having for pools in his district. This prompted a rumination by several council members about what this summer was going to look like for neighborhood public parks in Detroit, given that Bell Isle will be under State Control.

The council members agreed that we could expect to see increased usage in our parks, as many residents might stay away from Belle Isle to do confusion about the new agreement. Council members proposed looking into possible funding increases for security and clean up at neighborhood parks.



Community Advisory Councils were squarely back in the spotlightas two proposed versions of a CAC ordinance were on the table.One called for Council to directly appoint the Senior issues and youth member of the new CACs, the other called for Council to appoint the Senior issues and youth member of the new CACs from two lists of three candidates provided by the 5 elected CAC members.

There was no draft ordinance that provided for the CACs themselves to select the youth and Senior members. Several councilors and a host of community groups have supported the more autonomous selection process, with council having no role whatsoever in appointing these members.

A very lively debate was held on the subject. Member Leland posited that council members needed to have some appointments because it gave them clout. Member Benson argued that the CACs were designed to have close relationships with their council members and that council should have a role in the way they are constituted. Member Jenkins said that she was on the fence, but leaned towards autonomy. Member Castaneda-Lopez (absent from Tuesday’s meeting) and Member Tate are firmly set that the CACs should have no council influence or interference. The issue is being deferred until next week. A huge shout out should be given to Aaron Goodman of CDAD for repeatedly giving public comment and positively impacting the discussions around CACs.






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Dispatches from Council March 4 2014

Council Write Up March 4th 2014



(Note: The first 15 minutes of this session were not covered, as your Declare Detroit correspondent was having transportation trouble.)




The first portion of the meeting was taken up by a detailed presentation from the Wayne County prosecutor Kim Worthy. Worthy was illuminating for the council unaddressed ineffiencies in our methods of meting out justice, particularly in regards to the relationship between the two sides of our criminal justice apparatus, prosecutors and the police.

First off, there was a discussion of rape crimes, particularly in terms of the appallingly inefficient way rape-kits (forensic evidence gathered after a rape) are handled and processed. There are massive back-logs of unprocessed rape-kits in our system, allowing for likely-repeat rapists to walk free.  Worthy also mentioned the lack of training in the police department  about how to deal with sexual assault and rape victims. Worthy also reminded council of her push to revise some laws around the statute of limitations and how it applies to rape and sexual assault.

Next, Worthy discussed the issue of warrants. Worthy estimated that there were tens of warrants from the prosecutors office currently outstanding for murder, grand theft auto, and robbery that the police had not acted on. She warned that miscommunication around warrants and the delays on follow up for some warrants overtime resulted in hundreds of criminals walking free and continuing to terrorize citizens and their neighborhoods. Worthy speculated that if efficiency in the relationship between prosecutor’s office and police departments could be improved, we would see a seriously different picture of crime in our city.

            Finally, Worthy discussed the ways in which budget cuts have decimated staff and in turn capacity at the prosecutors office. Staff has been cut almost in half, leading to delays in prosecution and in some cases a flat inability to collect the necessary evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a suspect is guilty.

            The presentation was unusually long, but council members were engrossed and given the crime situation in our city it seemed to everyone like a good use of time.



            The council approved several parade requests and permit requests, including jazz festivals, the St. Patrick’s Day parade and others. It also approved several electrical contracts and authorized land sales. The council also scheduled several closed sessions to deal with various legal matters.




            Two separate council discussions centered around water and natural gas in the city. The first was the extension of a 2011 decision contract to provide natural gas to the city. The second was a discussion around the continued construction on a water main. There was an interesting discussion on this topic as Saunteel Jenkins, exhibiting her exceptional diligence and preparedness, questioned DWSD about the cost of the main, noting that it was costing almost double per foot than the previous installations of line. DWSD answered by saying there was no mistake, or any other reason for the price hike other than a change in the price of materials, which have increased drastically over that time.  




The most important motion and discussion of the day was over the creation of the downtown business improvement district. The BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT ZONE (BIZ for short) would use a tax levied on downtown property owners to beautify and keep safe downtown streets. The downtown improvement district seems from all accounts to be a very worthwhile idea. Declare Detroit’s own Amber and Francis were there in support of the BIZ and the council passed it without much debate. The ball is now in the property owners’ court. They must vote to accept the BIZ over the coming weeks. 



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