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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