Hey Hey, Detroit!
We’re back in your inboxes with the skinny on the last few weeks in local government news. We were disappointed that, after a Memorial Day break where we were excited to swim at Belle Isle beach, it’s now closed due to high levels of E. coli. (And by “closed,” we mean five small signs that went unnoticed by many beachgoers.)
SMART, the regional bus transit provider, has returned to meeting exclusively in person. If you want to comment but can’t be there, you can email comments to email@example.com to be read aloud at the meeting and watch an intermittent live stream to keep up to date. During May’s meeting, we heard several complaints that SMART’s board failed to read the comments as promised.
Upset about that, or something else? Maybe take a look at the notes from Councilmember Gabriela Santiago-Romero’s Organizing 101 workshop on community organizing. Attendees learned how to make change in their communities as part of a series of workshops aimed to help Detroiters build power. Some of the top advocacy groups in the area shared what they’ve learned organizing people power.
We did cover the Board of Police Commissioners’ meeting, but feel free to read the summary in Streetlight Detroit! You can also follow the links to the full reporting further down in this newsletter.
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“If you find a good fight, get in it. And stay in it.”
—Monica Lewis-Patrick, president and CEO of We the People of Detroit, who attributed the saying to Coleman A. Young
Detroit’s Board of Ethics struggles to conduct meetings due to vacancies
For about two weeks in April, the city’s Board of Ethics had all seven of its seats filled. Now, it is down to only four members. The volunteer board, responsible for training city employees and investigating complaints, has struggled with vacancies since 2018, and has canceled five monthly meetings this year because of this.
Sports arena workers and union representatives spoke in favor of establishing an Industry Standards Board, which would help to guarantee paid time off and health benefits for workers. The Industry Standards Board would be activated through the Industry Standards Ordinance approved by Detroit City Council in November 2021.
Council President Mary Sheffield said the board would be made up of government officials, employers and employees working together to set basic health, wage and safety standards.
“Workers across various industries including fast food workers, health care, long-term care facilities and beyond all now have the opportunity to publicly organize and demand a voice want the job in a stronger say in the conditions of their workplace,” she said.
A motion to walk-on an amended version of the resolution was approved. The first step for the Industry Standards Board is to appoint individuals to serve on it.
5/23/2023 Detroit City Council, Formal Session
Documented by Kayleigh Lickliter and Sonja Stuckey
In its speedy 24-minute meeting, the Detroit Land Bank Authority’s Board of Directors approved 11 resolutions, including land sales to two Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund grant recipients. The fund was established to rebuild intergenerational land ownership and provide food sovereignty for Black Detroit farmers. Each year, it awards grants for land acquisition.
Takunia Collins, founder of Willow Run Acres in Ypsilanti, plans to clear debris from five adjacent lots on Detroit’s westside in preparation for urban farming and compost. The Land Bank agreed to sell Collins the property — nearly 23,000 square feet — for about $2,800 after a 50% Black Farmer Land Fund discount.
On Detroit’s eastside, KP Endeavors LLC will plant native flowers and perennials and grow produce on five consecutive lots on Lakeview Street south of Mack Avenue. The purchase price was about $2,800 after the discount.
For more information on both of these sales, including deal sheets, locations, project summaries and purchase and development agreements, check out the Land Bank’s board meeting packet beginning on Page 63.
5/23/2023 Detroit Land Bank Authority, Board of Directors
Documented by Margaret Belton and Perry Sylvester
More City News
Politics, Development, Transportation, Education, Policing
5/24/2023 Building Power Training Series, Organizing 101
Documented by Anna Harris and Marianna Alva-Wies
Activists give advice about building collective power and organizing in Detroit.
5/25/2023 Detroit Property Assessment Board of Review
Documented by Maria Fortner and Meghan Rutigliano
Real estate broker Marcus Twyman joins the board, and three committees present reports on approved property tax exemptions.
5/25/2023 SMART Board of Directors
Documented by Alex Klaus and Jessi Kwek
The transit authority is $12.3 million under budget for the year so far, is discontinuing one bus route, and is considering expanding or reducing service on several others.
6/2/2023 Detroit Public Schools Community District, Finance Committee Meeting
Documented by Matt Schonert and Meghan Rutigliano
Committee approves all contracts and other agenda items, including the proposed budget for fiscal year 2024.
5/25/2023 Detroit Board of Police Commissioners
Documented by Ashley Williams and Paul Enns
Board hears from the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and continues debating the specification report on license plate recognition technology even though commissioners already approved it.
6/1/2023 Detroit Board of Police Commissioners
Documented by Amelia Benavides-Colón
Chief Investigator Jerome Warfield reveals citizen complaints are up 18% year-over year, and discusses his office’s accomplishments in the last month.
Featured Documenter of the Month
Radio host, DJ, farmers market clown and dog walker Yvonne Szymczak talks about what attracted her to becoming a Documenter. She looks forward to exercising her creativity in assignments, connecting with the community and collaborating with colleagues. Learn more about Yvonne, our Featured Documenter of the Month.
Upcoming training and events
- Paid assignments
- Free trainings and events
- The Documenters Network forum
- Exclusive opportunities from Outlier Media and local media partners
Tuesday, June 20, 6 p.m.
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.