Hey Hey, Detroit,
Detroiters are concerned about fair wages. At the Detroit Revenue Estimating Conference, Documenters learned that the average wage rate for jobs in Detroit is much higher than average wage rate for residents of Detroit. While the school board approved labor contracts with a 6% raise for teachers, members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union are on their fifth day of a strike against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. The potential economic impact of the strike was also estimated at the conference.
Another hot topic in the city is the Land Value Tax Plan recently proposed by Mayor Mike Duggan. When the administration had questions it couldn’t answer about how the tax would affect urban farmers, it responded by hiring longtime urban agriculture advocate Tepfirah Rushdan as the city’s first director of urban agriculture.
During last week’s Formal Session, Councilmember Mary Waters said a vote on the Land Value Tax Plan will be one of the most important decisions she makes. Councilmembers also approved several revisions to the city housing code; a $47.6 million federal grant for disaster recovery from the June 2021 floods; and more. Read about it in Malachi’s City Council Notebook.
A few frequent public commenters made it onto the City Council’s formal agenda with a petition to address the council as presenters. But councilmembers want residents to know that they can only advocate for the people, and it’s the administration’s duty to enforce laws.
“The bar to come in to speak to Council outside of public comment should be set high.”
—Detroit City Council President Pro Tem James Tate, commenting on individual petitions to formally address the council
A Civic Explainer
Legislative vs. executive branches
In their quest to interview all nine members of Detroit City Council, Detroit Documenters have learned that several councilmembers want residents to understand one thing: The council has limited powers.
“We can advocate all day long, but it’s really the Mayor’s Office — the administration — that has the power to implement,” Councilmember Scott Benson said.
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State law requires the city to hold conferences to approve new revenue estimates in September and February of each fiscal year. Documenters attended the Sept. 11 conference where experts from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer presented the economic outlook over the next four years.
Economists painted a fairly positive picture and said employment has recovered from the high unemployment rates of the pandemic.
Wages were broken into two categories: Detroit Payroll Employment and Detroit Resident Employment. The growth rate of each was similar, but the difference in annual average wages was stark — evidence that many high-paying Detroit jobs go to people living outside the city limits.
A giant unknown is how the UAW strike will affect everything. Predictions were based on a six-week strike — the length of the last strike in 2019 — and job losses would vary across the Big Three automakers. Total job losses including spillovers — associated jobs lost from other employers — would be roughly 19,000 at Stellantis, 7,000 at Ford, and 4,000 at General Motors.
9/11/2023 Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Detroit Revenue Estimating Conference
Documented by Jen David and Perry Sylvester
Last week, three frequent public commenters made their way onto the Detroit City Council’s meeting agenda with requests to address the council. Councilmember Gabriela Santiago-Romero said she thinks individuals should have some sort of expertise or qualification to address the council in that manner, and Council President Mary Sheffield agreed. However, Sheffield explained, the residents’ requests were received prior to a proposal for a rule change and must be decided that day.
In Line Item 20.1, Malik Shelton requested to officially address the council regarding the “unlawful activities related to HUD Section 108 Loans” that he’s brought before the council weekly for at least the better part of the year. Shelton’s request was approved, 6-3, and sent to the Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee.
LaDonna Harris’ request to address the council about obtaining a vendor and business license was approved 5-4 and sent to the Public Health and Safety Standing Committee.
But when Ramone Jackson requested to address the council about the I-375 development project, councilmembers agreed it was inappropriate to hear from the resident before hearing from the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the line item failed.
9/12/2023 Detroit City Council, Formal Session
Documented by Amelia Benavides-Colón and Afua Osei-Bonsu
More City and Regional News
Education, Health, Utilities, Policing
9/12/2023 Detroit Public Schools Community District, Regular Board Meeting: Public commenters complain of lack of bilingual education and English-only text notices to parents.
Documented by Ashley Williams and Chandler Vaughan
9/13/2023 Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network, Board of Directors Program Compliance Committee: DWIHN’s non-emergency call center had 12,000 more calls this year; committee applying for $2 million federal grant for suicide prevention programs.
Documented by Clarissa Williams and Sandi Nelson
9/13/2023 Great Lakes Water Authority, Board of Directors Workshop: Board discusses the high costs of deferred maintenance and the need to replace aging infrastructure.
Documented by Bridget Scallen, Christiana Beckley and Tiffany Pilson
9/14/2023 Detroit Board of Police Commissioners: Chief Investigator Jerome Warfield pleas for commissioners’ help on misconduct cases; Chair QuanTez Pressley calls misconduct reports “absolutely necessary.”
Documented by Gabriel Gamlin and Meghan Rutigliano
For more on the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, check out the latest BOPC Watch.
Try, try again for health placards at restaurants
City Councilmember Scott Benson and the Dining with Confidence Coalition are recruiting restaurants for a pilot program that will gather data to support the idea of a health compliance placard system. A resolution to implement a mandatory placard system failed in City Council last November.
Upcoming training and events
Editor’s Office Hour
Wednesday, Sept. 20, 10-11 a.m.
Join Detroit Free Press reporter Nushrat Rahman on our regular Office Hours Zoom link. Use this time to get feedback on your notes, learn about Nushrat’s work at the Free Press, pitch ideas or just hang out. Register now.
Introduction to FOIA Requests
Tuesday, Sept. 26, 6-7 p.m.
Join us to learn more about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and how you can exercise your right to seek public information by issuing FOIA requests. This workshop will be led by Detroit attorney Ralph Simpson, who specializes in FOIA and Open Meetings Act counseling and litigation.
Documenters Network-wide Virtual Community of Practice
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 6-7:30 p.m. Eastern time
All Documenters from any location are welcome, regardless of whether you’ve attended a training or taken any assignments. Come as you are, and connect with Documenters in other cities!
Tuesdays, 2-4 p.m.
Drop in to ask questions, pitch ideas, discuss assignments or just hang out. You can even get personalized training on topics like live-tweeting or improving your notes. Visit us in the office or join our office hours on Zoom!