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 Detroit’s information systems are outdated and due for a massive overhaul.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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