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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