Hey Hey, Detroit!

Documenters notes contain more than just meeting minutes. We observe discussions, decisions, cadence, tone and meeting accessibility. This week we have some public bodies to celebrate and others to, shall we say, encourage to do better.

In the past, we’ve balked at how the Board of Water Commissioners schedules all its committee meetings back-to-back without scheduling enough time for each, requiring it to recess the first meeting in order to convene the next meeting on time, only to recess that meeting and reconvene the first. Meetings were scheduled as little as 15 minutes apart, but consistently ended up lasting an hour. This has made it hard for public commenters to know when to show up and makes following a meeting confusing. Last week’s series of committee meetings, however, ran smoothly. With enough time allotted for each meeting, most ended up adjourning with time to spare

Virtual participants at the Highland Park City Council meeting, on the other hand, experienced poor audio issues for the first hour and a half. Participants might have then missed the council agreeing to pay $1 million of the $24 million the city owes to the Great Lakes Water Authority for unpaid water bills as part of an interim agreement.

Reparations Task Force meetings will be moving to a webinar format, much to the relief of public commenters who complained during last week’s City Council Formal Session about the previous meeting being mismanaged and Zoom bombed. Documenters who covered the meeting reported the same grievance, saying the distractions made it hard to concentrate. 

We’ve moved most of our reporting on the Board of Police Commissioners to Streetlight Detroit, our new collaborative newsletter on justice and public safety. We would be remiss not to point out that last week, commissioners elected Commissioners QuanTez Pressley and Jim Holley as the new board chair and vice chair, respectively, starting in July.

“The same people keep coming here, week after week, day after day. What have you done for ‘em?”

—Public commenter Robert Carmack, imploring the Detroit City Council to be more responsive

City News

Politics, Utilities


Participants at the Reparations Task Force meeting expressed concern about lack of notification since the task force does not yet have a website or email distribution list. It seems the meeting notice was primarily shared word-of-mouth through email, and participants were asked to continue spreading the word to their networks. In April, the council approved a $350,000 budget for meeting facilities and technical assistance, which should include creating a website. 

Reparations Task Force meetings are held on the first Saturday of the month from 2 to 4 p.m. in various locations around the city. The next meeting is on July 1 at the WCCCD Eastern Campus, at I-94 and Conner Street. Tell your neighbor.

6/3/2023 Detroit City Council, Reparations Task Force
Documented by Colleen Cirocco and Sonja Stuckey

Several public commenters spent last week’s Formal Session berating councilmembers for a variety of things, including poor bus service, low pay for bus drivers, businesses operating without a license and the council being generally unresponsive to frequent pleas for assistance and information. Several public commenters called for Council President Mary Sheffield and Councilmember Scott Benson to resign.

The council went on to set a public hearing on a resolution to reduce the spacing requirements between marijuana vendors from 1,000 feet to 750 feet, “primarily to slightly increase the amount of available property citywide.” The public hearing is set for Thursday, June 29 at 10 a.m. 

City Council also approved $19 million in contracts for sidewalk repair. Be sure to check out this week’s edition of Malachi Barrett’s City Council Notebook for more on these decisions, and of course you can dig into the details in the Documenters notes linked below.

6/6/2023 Detroit City Council, Formal Session
Documented by Elyas Khan and Roshaun Harris


More than 50,000 Detroit water customers who are not enrolled in a payment assistance plan have not paid their bills in over 60 days. These customers represent 21% of Detroit’s active residential accounts. The city is ramping up outreach efforts to affected customers by sending postcards and visiting them to provide information on available programs to help with bills.

Meanwhile, almost 19,000 households are enrolled in Detroit’s Lifeline Plan, which makes bills more affordable, with more than 1,300 applications waiting to be approved. About 18% of enrolled households are still behind on their bills. The city has sent postcards to remind them to pay or to call the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency at 313-386-9727 for additional assistance.

6/7/2023 DWSD Board of Water Commissioners, June committee meetings
Documented by Meghan Rutigliano and William Verhoef

More City and Regional News

Politics, Housing, Transportation, Policing


6/5/2023 Highland Park City Council 
Highland Park agrees to pay $1 million of $24 million owed to the Great Lakes Water Authority.
Documented by Amber Umscheid and chandler vaughan


6/5/2023 Detroit Continuum of Care, Board of Directors 
Board seeks more funding for new projects. Coordinated Assessment Model’s leadership is transferring to the Homeless Action Network of Detroit; the board hears details on the transition.
Documented by Amelia Benavides-Colón and Yvonne Szymczak 

6/7/2023 Housing and Revitalization Department, 2023 Draft Annual Action Plan Meeting 
The department presented its annual plan to prioritize home rehabilitation and other community development.
Documented by Anna Harris and Tasha Lord


6/7/2023 Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Transportation Action Safety Committee
SEMCOG plans to secure grants to obtain a system that detects traffic crashes in real time, developed by the University of Michigan. 
Documented by Perry Sylvester and Sandi Nelson


6/8/2023 Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, Evening Community Meeting 
Commissioners QuanTez Pressley and Jim Holley elected as new chair and vice chair, respectively.
Documented by Gabriel Gamlin and Pamela Taylor

Question of the Week

In last month’s Building Power Training Series meeting on community organizing, Renard Monczunski from Detroit People’s Platform claimed Detroit is the first and only city with a community benefits ordinance, which led us to ask…

Is Detroit really the first and only city with a community benefits ordinance?

Detroit became the first city in the country to mandate community involvement on large development projects in 2017 when its community benefits ordinance went into effect. There have been similar laws passed in cities across the country.

There’s no central place where these kinds of ordinances are cataloged, but we’ve found at least three other cities where this ordinance exists or is in the process of becoming law. In southeast Michigan, Ypsilanti adopted a community benefits ordinance in 2018. Elsewhere, Philadelphia, PA adopted an ordinance in 2019, and Sacramento, CA has drafted a community benefits ordinance that was heard by its city council last month, but has yet to make it law. Plenty of other cities use a community benefits agreement process on certain developments, but have not mandated they be used for all projects of a certain type or size.

Get Involved

Upcoming training and events

LittleSis Training
Tuesday, June 20, 6 p.m. EST
A handful of Detroit Documenters are thinking about mapping power relationships in local government using LittleSis, a free way to track networks of influence among politicians and businesses. Register for a free Zoom training to learn how to use the database and other tools.

Documenters Network-wide Community of Practice
Wednesday, June 28, 6 p.m. EST
At this DCoP, you’ll get to hear directly from experienced Documenters on their tips and tricks to note-taking. All Documenters are welcome, regardless if you’ve taken an assignment or a training. Official agenda coming soon. Register now

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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.

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.