Hey Hey, Detroit!

Documenters dropped in on two meetings last week designed to solicit feedback from residents about development. One used one of the most creative approaches we’ve seen to connect Detroiters to the community benefits process. These meetings are crucial to decisions that will affect Detroiters for decades. Some residents expressed doubt that the planners were listening. 

We also attended the third meeting in the “Building Power Training Series” designed by District 6 Councilmember Gabriela Santiago-Romero. Billed as “Unions 101,” this meeting introduced attendees to union organizing just in time for Labor Day.

With the end of summer approaching, we’re heading into Detroit’s parks to share space and fellowship with each other while the weather is beautiful. You don’t have to be a Documenter to join us. Come spend a day working remotely in the great outdoors, or join us for some live jazz by the riverside. We love getting to know our readers and community members, so let’s meet up! Be sure to read to the bottom of this newsletter for upcoming Documenters events you can take part in. 

“This was a terrific meeting to attend … enough to restore some hope for humanity in a jaded Boomer geezer like me.”

Documenter Perry Sylvester, after covering the Joe Louis Greenway Vacant Land Community Summit

The Scoop

The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners has paid 2 staffers $55K since March because of ‘highly unusual’ paid leave

The Board of Police Commissioners (BOPC) has spent more than $55,000 in taxpayer dollars on compensation for two employees placed on leave amid multiple criminal and administrative investigations.

It’s “highly unusual” for appointed positions to be placed on paid leave, said Denise Starr, the city’s human resources director. She said she believes Melanie White and Lawrence Akbar are the first BOPC staffers to be placed on paid leave.

City News

Development and Community benefits


Last week, representatives from the Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environment Department; the City Planning Commission; the Detroit Land Bank Authority; Keep Growing Detroit; the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund; Detroit Future City; and other organizations gathered to discuss options and priorities for vacant land adjacent to the Joe Louis Greenway with community members. 

The vacant land planning study will be completed in phases. This meeting seemed to be moving from Phase 1 (describing existing conditions) into Phase 2 (exploring design alternatives). During breakout sessions, participants interacted with planners. One exercise allowed them to choose a vacant lot on the map and describe their vision for that space. There will be 6 community engagement meetings, starting with a citywide meeting on Sept. 26, then meetings on individual sections of the greenway, with the final meeting on Oct. 26. Phase 3 draft recommendations are planned for the end of this year, and Phase 4, the final draft, should be complete by summer 2024. 

The presenters shared opportunities to develop land-based projects, including affordable housing, gardens and greenspace. They also provided guidance on applications, purchasing, permitting and zoning.

8/15/2023 Detroit Planning and Development Department, Joe Louis Greenway Neighborhood Planning Study – Vacant Land Community Summit
Documented by Deandrea White and Perry Sylvester

community benefits

Documenters have attended a number of community meetings hosted by the city’s Planning and Development Department, and city planners usually present a few development options in a slide show for attendees to vote on their favorite. But last week’s Greater Warren / Conner Community Meeting, aimed at gathering input on how to best spend $800,000 from Stellantis’ community benefits agreement, was far more participatory. Planners handed attendees a “passport” at the door and invited them to travel around the room to stations set up with tables and displays. Attendees provided their input using stickers to vote and sticky notes to leave comments.

The Participatory Budgeting station was the first, followed by Commercial & Economic Development; Parks and Open Space; Neighborhood Stabilization; Mobility and Streets; Sustainability & Climate Resiliency; and Neighborhood Opportunities.

As attendees left, their passports with names and check marks for stations they visited were collected and used to raffle off prizes to participants who completed their “travels” by casting their votes and offering suggestions for the development of their neighborhood.

8/16/2023 Detroit Planning and Development Department Greater Warren/Conner Community Meeting
Documented by Amy Senese, Chandler Vaughan and Tewonia Alamu

More City and Regional News

Utilities, Labor, Transportation, Policing


8/16/2023 Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Board of Water Commissioners: Water shut-offs planned for high-income earners not making payments; sinkhole at Jefferson and Campbell to be addressed.
Documented by Bridget Scallen and Shawntay Lewis


8/16/2023 Building Power Training Series – Unions 101: Local union leaders share information on what to do about workplace discrimination, worker rights, and the benefits and drawbacks of joining a union. 
Documented by Anna Harris, Christiana Beckley and Robert Dewar


8/17/2023 Regional Transit Authority, Board of Directors: RTA board of directors held a public hearing on the draft FY 2024 budget, updates presented on Regional Transit Master Plan.
Documented by Roshaun Harris and Sonja Stuckey


8/17/2023 Detroit Board of Police Commissioners: BOPC’s Goals, Services and Metrics Workbook presented; two officers criminally charged were suspended without pay.
Documented by Ashley Williams and Lacy Dawson

Get Involved

Upcoming training and events

Documenters Work from the Park
Wednesday, Aug. 30, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Grab your laptop or notebook, and join us as we work remotely from the great outdoors at Robert C. Valade Park! Free Wi-Fi and coffee. Stick around for happy hour with our media partners starting at 5 p.m. at Bob’s Barge (cash bar)!

Detroit Documenters Community of Practice
Wednesday, Aug. 30, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
During our Work from the Park day, Detroit Documenters will gather for a meeting to collaborate on upcoming projects and events. Register for this workshop

Documenters Family & Friends Meetup at Jazz in the Parks
Friday, Sept. 15, 5-8 p.m.
A few Documenters thought it would be fun to meet up at Jazz in the Parks at Riverside Park, and we thought so too! Grab a blanket or chair, look for the yellow Documenters swag and meet us there. Bring a friend! 

Apply for the Wayne County Commission Youth Council
Deadline: Sept. 15 at 5 p.m.

Applications are open for the 2023-24 Wayne County Commission Youth Council. As many as 30 Wayne County students in grades 10-12 can be selected to serve on the council for the upcoming school year. The council meets once a month. Read more about the position and how to apply

Lynelle (she/her) likes working with Documenters because she thinks it’s important for us to share our news and our voices with our neighbors and networks. Her favorite spaces in Detroit are the urban gardens that promote peace, hope, health and healing.

Noah (he/him) believes people benefit their communities when they create civic media and commit acts of journalism. He enjoys being anywhere with live music or tacos.

Malak (she/her) believes in local journalism that provides people with verified and comprehensive information. Her favorite places to unwind and pick up a new read are at Detroit’s bookstores and libraries.