Hey Hey, Detroit!
Documenters tackled an extra-heavy load of development and housing news last week. We watched as the Land Bank defended its Occupied Buy Back program, and we were in the room as the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority approved plans for the contentious North End Landing — a development we’ve followed for the last few years. We attended a meeting for the Denby/Whittier Neighborhood Framework Plan and dropped in on the Detroit Housing Commission.
We still managed to stick to our city council and policing beats, and we even attended a successful Detroit Board of Ethics meeting. (“Successful,” meaning the board was able to conduct a meeting.)
Meanwhile, big things are happening in Highland Park, as the city attempts to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Check out this Documenter’s Twitter thread for everything that happened at last night’s meeting.
What agencies or meetings do you think we’re missing? Hit reply or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or get trained to become a Documenter and attend some meetings yourself! You never know what you’ll find out, and what it might lead to.
“Nope… This Detroit Board of Police Commissioners Will NOT Meet in PRIVATE!!!!!….That is All..”
—BOPC Chair Bryan Ferguson responding by email to questions from Detroit Documenters, backing off his own recent call for the board to meet in private
Development, Ethics, Policing
Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) CEO Tammy Daniels once again defended the Land Bank’s Occupied Buy Back program, which has recently come under fire from City Councilmember Mary Waters.
At last week’s DLBA Board of Directors meeting, Daniels said the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and City Council are investigating the program. She pledged to work with them and be as open and transparent as possible but said to halt the program would hurt the people it is designed to help. Daniels said about 100 people are on track to complete the program and get their deeds in June.
Daniels touted that to date, the program has helped 1,100 people — once considered squatters — become homeowners. To be eligible, the occupant must prove one of multiple possible connections to the property from before it was transferred to the Land Bank. Occupants then have to attend counseling and workshops about homeownership for one year before obtaining the deed.
4/25/2023 Detroit Land Bank Authority, Board of Directors
Documented by Mackenzie Blackwell and Roshaun Harris.
The Detroit Board of Ethics is working on some changes. Last year, a working group was established to look into reforming the ethics ordinance, which doesn’t prohibit public officials from hiring their own relatives. Members of the public will be invited to participate in ordinance revision conversations during a May 16 conference at the Butzel Family Center on the eastside. We’ll provide an update in this newsletter when the conference schedule becomes available.
As the board welcomed new members Carron Pinkins and Urrond Williams, the group will also say goodbye to member Mario Morrow Sr. who will leave at the end of May. The board will consider a new meeting time to accommodate members’ schedules. The new date will be announced at the next board meeting scheduled for May 17.
4/27/2023 Detroit Board of Ethics, Special Meeting
Documented by Meghan Rutigliano and Minnah Arshad.
Board of Police Commissioners Chair Bryan Ferguson once again questioned how the board could meet privately. “How do we have a meeting amongst ourselves so we can hash out some of these problems? So we don’t bring it to this table in front of the public and get mad, and try to make decisions right away?”
Ferguson said commissioners should address issues with him in the stairwell rather than bring them into the boardroom. And he repeated the false claim that the board can meet privately anytime it wants as long as it does not vote or make decisions.
Following the March 23 meeting where Ferguson first brought up this idea, we asked Corporation Counsel Conrad Mallett about it. “All meetings of public bodies with decision making authority where there is a quorum present have to be open to the public and properly noticed,” Mallett said.
So after hearing Ferguson repeat the call Thursday to meet privately, we emailed him and shared Mallett’s statement. Ferguson replied that the board will not meet in private.
Later in the meeting, Ferguson said he was dissolving the Policy Committee and that moving forward, the board will post new policies and pending changes online. The goal is to bring the public into the decision-making process by giving them access and allowing time for review and comment before voting. Eleven new policies or changes currently await the board’s vote.
4/27/2023 Board of Police Commissioners
Documented by Amber Umscheid.
(4/25) Detroit City Council, Formal Session: Stellantis provides an update on air quality monitoring; Council to continue a discussion on developing gun-free zones in Detroit.
(4/25) Detroit Planning and Development Department, Denby/Whittier Framework Plan: Planning study to begin in fall 2023 introduced; it will emphasize revitalization and streetscaping along Kelly Road and Whittier Street.
(4/26) Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, Board of Directors: Board approves North End Landing Brownfield Plan; market-rate housing planned for Joe Louis Arena apartment tower.
(4/27) Detroit Housing Commission, Board of Commissioners: Public comment open until May 30 for a proposal to convert 308 public housing units in Gardenview Estates to the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program.
Question of the Week
Last week, the City Council failed to pass a resolution that would prohibit guns in some parts of downtown Detroit, which led us to wonder…
Can Detroit designate gun-free zones?
Due to recent shootings downtown, City Councilmember Mary Waters introduced a resolution to establish gun-free zones at the riverfront, Greektown, Hart Plaza, Spirit Plaza and Campus Martius. However, the resolution was not passed. It was reworded and postponed due to a Michigan state law that prohibits cities from establishing their own gun-free zones.
The state already lists a number of areas where guns are forbidden, including schools, stadiums and hospitals, but local municipalities are not allowed to impose further restrictions on gun possession. Councilmembers changed the resolution’s language to instead urge Michigan lawmakers to amend the state law to allow cities to implement their own gun-free zones.
The amended resolution is scheduled to come before the council today.
New satellite locations for the Office of Ombudsman
The Office of the Ombudsman was created to help residents and businesses when city services aren’t being rendered or there is a lack of follow-through. If you ever find yourself at your wit’s end over any inadequate services provided by the city, you can file that complaint with the office.
So shoutout to Ombudsman Bruce Simpson and staff for making their office more accessible with new pop-up locations around the city. They will host these satellite offices through July.
Upcoming training and events
In-Person Orientation + Covering Your Local Government
May 10, 5-7:30 p.m.
Join us next week for free food and civic opportunity. We’ll show you how to monitor local government for the public good and how to get paid to take notes at public meetings. At the end of the training, you will be eligible to take paid assignments as a Detroit Documenter. Register today.
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Are you a community-builder with strong project management and communication skills? City Bureau is searching for its next Documenters Network Coordinator to grow and cultivate relationships with engaged community members. This position is remote. Applications close May 14. Read the job description and apply to join the team!
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