Here’s what we learned in public meetings last week.
Some Detroit Public Library (DPL) commissioners weren’t sure if they have a library card as DPL launched a new initiative to sign up 40,000 Detroiters for library cards. The campaign kicked off in September and will end in April during National Library Week.
During the Board of Police Commissioners’ meeting, we heard Deputy Police Chief Franklin Hayes commit to working with community advocates to provide better service for survivors of domestic violence.
The Wayne County Commission met last Thursday and dedicated almost an hour to member statements in support of ending a cycle of violence and bloodshed in the Middle East. All commissioners expressed feelings of sadness, and several condemned the Biden administration’s response as inciting violence rather than invoking peace.
To that end, Outlier staff penned a statement addressing how we intend to report on the crisis in the Middle East. While Detroit Documenters focus on what we hear in city and regional public meetings, we too “are hoping for peace, and we want the same for people around the world as we want for Detroit: liberated communities with healthy civic infrastructure rooted in participation and self-determination.”
Next week, we will launch our second annual Documenters on the Bus. We’ll be riding city buses to witness firsthand what’s working and what’s not. This year, we also want to document the state of paratransit and are looking for a few individuals to let a Documenter ride along. If you or someone you know uses Detroit’s paratransit services and would be willing to team up with a Detroit Documenter, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If we want to break the cycle of violence that costs so many innocent lives, we must create the conditions for peace to prevail.”
—Sam Baydoun, the Wayne County Commission’s vice chair pro tem, calling for the U.S. to demand a cease-fire from Israel and Hamas
DTC responds to Documenters’ call for greater transparency and accessibility
Last week, we highlighted some questions we had about the Detroit Transportation Corp. (DTC), the agency in charge of The People Mover and the city’s transit police. The agency has made it difficult to attend meetings and access information.
Some staff at the agency were paying attention, and by the end of the week, we were on a Zoom call with DTC’s general manager, who admitted they could do better.
City and Regional News
The Detroit City Council delayed making a decision on an almost $14 million contract to build an athletic air dome in Chandler Park. District 4 Councilmember Latisha Johnson said an inflatable air dome is not what the neighborhood needs. All the councilmembers who commented were in support of a brick-and-mortar recreation center in District 4. Detroit Construction and Demolition Department Director LaJuan Counts said the structure is intended to be permanent. The matter was postponed for one week.
Councilmembers approved a $350,000 contract increase for graffiti removal. Detroit Procurement Specialist Jennie Kae Whitfield said removing 10,000 graffiti tags from both public and private buildings depleted the original funds. The contract will allow the project to continue through the end of the contract term in May 2025. Councilmember Angela Whitfield Calloway said running out of money one year into a three-year contract and not recovering the cost of removal from private property owners was wasteful.
10/17/2023 Detroit City Council, Formal Session
Documented by Afua Osei-Bonsu and Amelia Benavides-Colón
At the Wayne County Commission meeting, some discussion arose after Commissioner Glenn S. Anderson asked for a breakdown of how much each city was receiving to fund lead poisoning prevention.
The Michigan Children’s Health Insurance Program awarded an additional $215,000 to the County Health Fund for lead hazard control. Abdul El-Sayed, director of Wayne County’s Health, Human & Veterans Services, said he would get a report to the commissioners on where that money was going. Exposure to lead can come from consuming particles of lead in plumbing and lead-based paints.
The commission also reappointed Marvin W. Beatty, a member of the Wayne County Airport Authority Board of Directors, to his second term after his first year in office ended with the airport receiving accolades.
10/19/2023 Wayne County Commission, Full Commission
Documented by Amelia Benavides-Colón and Damien Benson
After the roof caved in on the west side of the building, the beloved Belle Isle Boat House drew Detroiters to participate in Thursday’s Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee meeting. Eager to assuage growing concerns throughout the city about an impending “tear-down” of this historic building (home to the rowing club since the 1800s), committee members assured residents that many possible outcomes would be explored, and that accommodations would be made to keep the rowing club operational.
During the public comments, Detroiters and rowers from across the Great Lakes voiced their strong desire to ensure that the rowing tradition be preserved on Belle Isle, and that demolition be avoided. They said the connection to history and tradition is part of what makes the park so special.
10/19/2023 Michigan Belle Isle Advisory Committee
Documented by Meghan Rutigliano and Paul Enns
More City and Regional News
Politics, Library, Finance, Policing
10/16/2023 Highland Park City Council: DTE Energy is installing 40 miles of new natural gas lines, and inspectors need to access residential meters. Water debt negotiations with the Great Lakes Water Authority continue.
Documented by Colleen Cirocco and Paige Rollins
10/17/2023 Detroit Public Library, Detroit Library Commission: Commissioners will discuss their evaluations of library Executive Director Jo Anne Mondowney in a closed session on Nov. 20. and vote on the position in a public meeting on Nov. 21.
Documented by Amber Umscheid and Eric McCormick
10/18/2023 Detroit General Retirement System, Board of Trustees: Board agrees to sell Life Assurance Fund for $1.3 million. Annual premiums are $850,000 and rising, with no guarantee of when the investment would pay out.
Documented by A J Johnson and Perry Sylvester
10/19/23 Detroit Board of Police Commissioners: The board sends the issue of two employees suspended in March to the Personnel & Training Committee for resolution.
Documented by Bridget Scallen and Tewonia Alamu
For more on the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, check out the latest BOPC Watch.
Shoutout to A J Johnson and Bridget Scallen on the MCOLES explanation tweet. Everything about this tweet is just what we love to see: Documenters following and supporting other Documenters, and Documenters helping to make sense of all the acronyms and jargon that might make some public information hard to understand. Way to go!
You don’t have to be on assignment with Documenters to report information. Live-tweeting is a skill you should share! So, shoutout to Claire for live-tweeting last week’s DDOT Virtual Community Meeting for Transportation Riders United, as she often does.
Are you a note-taking Documenter ready to try live-tweeting? Contact us at email@example.com to schedule your one-on-one training.
Upcoming training and events
Outlier is Hiring a Civic Life Reporter
Applications are due by Friday, Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. EST
The civic life reporter will work closely with Detroit Documenters, using the notes to help keep Detroiters informed about the issues and events impacting the community, city and county. Applications are due Friday. Learn more about the job position and how to apply.
Sustainable Urban Design Summit
Thursday, Nov. 9, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Newlab Detroit hosts a full day of sessions, followed by cocktails and an after-party at 5:30 p.m. Check out the sponsors, speakers and schedule, and register for free.
Detroit Documenters Orientation
Wednesday, Nov. 15, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
In this one-hour workshop, we will introduce you to the Detroit Documenters community. Find out how we help build the public record by paying people to attend local government meetings and take notes. This training is required for Documenters to be eligible for paid assignments. Immediately after the orientation, we will host a Covering Your Local Government training on the same Zoom link. This is the final orientation of the year. Don’t miss out, register now!
Covering Your Local Government
Wednesday, Nov. 15, 6:30-7:30 p.m
Earn your Public Meetings badge! In this one-hour training, we will explore local government in Detroit and how to monitor it for the public good. You’ll learn the basics of notetaking and open meetings law. We strongly recommend this training, as public meetings are our most common assignment offering. Register separately for this meeting, which will start right after the orientation.
Editor’s Office Hour
Friday, Nov. 17, 12-1 p.m.
Join WXYZ Channel 7 digital executive producer Max White on our regular Office Hours Zoom link. Use this time to get Feedback on your notes, learn about Max’s work at WXYZ, or just hang out. Register now.
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!
This week’s newsletter was written by Lynelle Herndon, Noah Kincade, Amber Umscheid, Amelia Benavides-Colón, Bridget Scallen and Meghan Rutigliano.