Though Detroiters weren’t included in last Tuesday’s elections, we’re following a few key races and issues that affect the city.
Following two state representatives being elected mayor in the cities of Warren and Westland, the Michigan House of Representatives will now have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans — with Dems losing their two-seat majority. Both representatives won their respective races by comfortable margins. It is up to the governor to call for a special election to fill their seats. Until then, any legislation expected to receive a party-line vote may face a stalemate. Michigan’s House and Senate both voted on Thursday to adjourn until January.
Mayor Mike Duggan’s Land Value Tax Plan, which affects all Detroiters, failed to move forward in the House. The plan aims to increase taxes on most vacant parcels and lower taxes on homes and buildings. If approved by the state and Detroit’s City Council, the issue would ultimately go before Detroit voters. With state legislators out for the year, the plan will have to wait until January to face a vote in Lansing.
And though it wasn’t on anyone’s ballots, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) heard residents’ voices the old fashioned way — as they loudly opposed its proposed redesign of I-375. Billed by MDOT as the “I-375 Reconnecting Communities Project,” Detroiters have for months said real reparations would be the only way to reconnect with communities destroyed when the department razed the Black Bottom neighborhood to build the freeway in the 1950s. MDOT announced Friday it is taking a pause to “modify its approach.”
“MDOT has never respected the African American community other than to allow them to hold signs for stop and go.”
—Marvin Beatty, speaking against the I-375 project
City and Regional News
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission held a hearing last week on housing discrimination, the first in a series to solicit public feedback. And though we — and the commission — expected a packed auditorium at King High School, few people showed up to talk about their experiences of discrimination in buying, renting or obtaining financing to purchase a home.
Those who spoke mentioned difficulties they encountered as Section 8 recipients, unreasonable income requirements when seeking rental housing and discriminatory increases in homeowners association fees after purchasing a condominium. Several speakers told stories of real estate agents asking them to remove photos of Black family members before listing their home or having it appraised. One said they received a higher second appraisal after doing so.
Steve Tomkowiak, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit, emphasized the need to focus on homeownership rather than low-income rentals, saying it creates long-term stability for families. “What we’re doing is not working,” he said, explaining that despite the Fair Housing Act passing in 1968, the disparity between white and Black homeowners has increased. Tomkowiak discussed the difficulty returning citizens face in the rental market and how homelessness increases the rate of recidivism. And he said there has not been a single successful administrative hearing or court case challenging appraisal discrimination.
The next hearing on Feb. 7 will take place virtually, open to all Michigan residents.
11/8/2023 Michigan Civil Rights Commission, Hearing on Housing Discrimination
Documented by Amy Senese, Christiana Beckley and Perry Sylvester
Detroit City Council’s Immigration Task Force met on Thursday for its final quarterly meeting of the year to begin coordinating community engagement for its strategic plan. The task force has brought in outside consultant Nourel-Hoda Eidy of Global Detroit to lead community research and engagement. Starting next week, community organizations will be identified for each of the target populations — speakers of Arabic, Spanish, French, Bengali, Pashto or Dari and English — to facilitate the spread of surveys to be used to create focus groups next year. Residents will be compensated $10 for filling out the anonymous survey or participating in a focus group.
Task force members have supported — and continue to support — various legislation before the state House. The Newcomer Rental Subsidy program kicked off last month, providing up to a year of rental assistance based on immigration status and household size. Meanwhile, two language access bills headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer require the state to provide written and oral translation services to non-English speakers. And a collection of bills known as Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and Economy) are waiting for a hearing in committee. They would allow Michigan residents to obtain a driver’s license regardless of U.S. citizenship or immigration status.
11/9/2023 Detroit City Council, Immigration Task Force
Documented by Amelia Benavides-Colón and B W
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More City and Regional News
11/7/2023 Detroit City Council, Formal Session: Public commenters urge City Council to call for a cease-fire in Gaza and criticize a lack of reparations in MDOT’s I-375 plan.
Documented by Alex Klaus and Laura Kennedy
11/9/2023 Detroit Board of Police Commissioners: The board’s Office of Chief Investigator has 1,323 open cases of complaints against police officers; 873 are more than 90 days old.
Documented by Anna Harris and Lauren Ridenour
For more on the Board of Police Commissioners, check out the latest BOPC Watch.
To continued reporting by Documenters
Few things make us happier than seeing a familiar Documenter’s name in a byline. Recent reporting by Amelia Benavides-Colón for El Central brought us up-to-date on the city’s efforts to provide IDs to undocumented residents. Alex Klaus detailed the history of Devil’s Night in one of Outlier’s most read stories of the month. And Kayleigh Lickliter made the Freep’s front page with a story she wrote for BridgeDetroit about Bobby Ferguson and canceled city contracts.
If you’re interested in reporting or journalism in general, Documenters is a wonderful place to get started. It’s also a fun civic side-hustle that pays you to keep an eye on your local officials. Whatever interests you most, come join us in this work.
Register now for our last orientation of the year! ⬇️
Upcoming training and events
Join Outlier & The Collective on Dec. 7 for free drinks and light refreshments at Spot Lite! We’ll be celebrating a year of growth and community building from 5:30-8 p.m. Bring a friend! Sign up on Eventbrite!
Detroit Documenters Orientation
Tomorrow! Wednesday, Nov. 15, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Get your own civic side-hustle! Detroit Documenters pay people to attend local government meetings and take notes. Attend this one-hour training to become eligible for paid assignments. Immediately after the orientation, we will host a Covering Your Local Government workshop 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. Documenters can use this time to get feedback on notes, learn about Max’s work at WXYZ or just hang out. Register now.
Tuesdays, 2-4 p.m.
Documenters, 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!
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This edition of the Detroit Documenters newsletter was written by Noah Kincade, Alex Klaus and Amelia Benavides-Colón.