Hey Hey, Detroit!
The City Council Reparations Task Force held its first meeting last week. Detroiters gathered to discuss ways to rectify historical economic injustices to Black residents. The Executive Committee Co-Chair Lauren Hood noted the task force is not a legislative body, and therefore not required to adhere to the Open Meetings Act. However, the task force said it would adhere anyway.
Meanwhile, City Council has faced technical difficulties with the equipment in the Erma L. Henderson Auditorium, creating complications for virtual broadcasts. Last April, audiovisual problems were identified as the reason the council wasn’t using the audtorium in the first place. Instead, they were meeting in the Committee of the Whole Room and the public demanded they return to the larger, more accommodating space.
Members of the public also challenged the council on Open Meetings Act violations, while Documenters questioned the City Clerk’s Office about access to the videos attached to agendas. We got answers for all of it, with the City Council essentially saying they’re operating within the law and working hard to provide access for everyone.
And you might notice the newsletter looks a little different today — we’re trying out a new tool that should make it easier to read on your phone and find things in our archives. We’re still testing, so please let us know if you have any issues or feedback!
“Generations of harm requires generations of redress.”
—Lauren Hood, co-chair of the Reparations Task Force Executive Committee
Detroit’s Reparations Task Force meets for the first time
The city’s new Reparations Task Force met for their first public meeting on Thursday. It was created after Detroit residents voted to create it more than a year ago to address historical discrimination against Detroit’s Black residents.
The 13-member task force and other Detroit residents discussed the overtaxation of local homeowners, slavery and the destruction of the Black Bottom neighborhood. Suggestions for reparations from public participants included free tuition at local universities, free cars from local automakers and support for mental health, in addition to monetary compensation for Detroiters.
Lauren Hood, co-chair of the task force’s Executive Committee, said she hopes to create a paradigm shift in local policies affecting Black communities, rather than a one-time payout as reparations.
Council President Mary Sheffield dropped in at the beginning of the meeting to share that the council approved a $350,000 budget to support the task force. It discussed hosting its meetings at venues across the city to be accessible to more residents.
The task force expects to report its findings and recommendations of housing and economic programs to the City Council by October 2024.
The next meeting will be at 4 p.m. April 28 in District 2. The task force said more information will be posted on Sheffield’s official page.
4/13/2023 Detroit City Council, Reparations Task Force
Documented by A J Johnson and Stefany Washington.
Development, Politics, Policing
The Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (DBRA) held a public hearing last week on the Brownfield Plan for the North End Landing. This follows several years of public engagement on the project to surround Delores Bennett Park.
The development team — led by Avanath Capital Management LLC — is asking for $7.6 million from the DBRA. The project — expected to cost $43.4 million — plans to use 25 parcels in the North End for 11 new buildings, including 177 units of rental housing and eight for-sale townhouses.
In past meetings, neighbors said the development lacked greenspace, community investment and opportunities for home ownership. Many expressed concerns over the increased population density and resulting effects on parking.
To address these, the developers have increased greenspace from 5% to 30%, added $100,000 in funding for North End small businesses and are offering $3,000 homeowner exterior rehabs. They also removed 17 apartments from the plan and increased the amount of senior housing. The eight for-sale townhouses were added to provide options for home ownership. Parking will be provided in the rear of the units.
4/10/2023 Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, Public Hearing, North End Landing
Documented by Ashley Williams and Gregg Smith.
City Council’s Formal Session agenda noted that due to technical difficulties, virtual participation would not be available and public comment would be limited to in-person participants. However, virtual attendees were still able to and did make public comment.
One public commenter complained that a developer was able to speak for an extended period during public comment at the last Formal Session. Council President Mary Sheffield said anyone can call in advance to request more time for public comment. She said the developer asked for more time to address the public regarding complaints about displacement at a senior home.
Later, Nancy Parker with the Detroit Justice Center said the council violated the Open Meetings Act because she didn’t receive notice about the Special Session on the budget scheduled for Monday, April 10 at 3 p.m., and that the meeting didn’t start until more than an hour after that. David Whitaker, director of the Legislative Policy Division, said the meeting had been “properly noticed” the prior Thursday. A meeting notice was sent to email subscribers on April 6; however, the city’s public meeting calendar wasn’t updated with information on the special session until hours before the meeting was scheduled to begin on April 10. In response to Parker’s assertion that the meeting was delayed, Sheffield said the council had technical difficulties, so it gaveled in and went into recess.
4/11/2023 Detroit City Council, Formal Session
Documented by Mackenzie Blackwell and Meghan Rutigliano.
The Board of Police Commissioners met for its monthly community meeting last week in the 11th Precinct, which lies within the city’s District 3. Councilmember Scott Benson, who represents the district, also joined the meeting.
Cmdr. Jacqueline Pritchett gave a brief presentation about the precinct. She said she grew up in the precinct and was transferred there in January 2022.
Commissioners then voted to send offer letters to five investigators recommended by the Personnel & Training Committee. In a 4-3 vote, they also approved a second offer letter to the Rev. Jerome Warfield for the position of chief investigator, at a salary of $111,000 backdated to March 13. This is after the board voted to rescind its original offer to Warfield without explanation on March 2.
4/13/2023 Board of Police Commissioners, Community Meeting
Documented by Dan Ignacio.
Detroit City Council, Special Session on Budget (4/10): The council’s closing resolution includes almost $17.5 million in changes to the budget.
Great Lakes Water Authority, Operations and Resources Committee (4/12): Costs are rising for water treatment chemicals; construction challenges delay 17,000 linear feet of a 48-inch water main replacement.
To going the extra mile
Shoutout to Documenter Roshaun Harris for the video interviews he records at public meetings. We love the format, short and to the point: Tell us who you are and why you are here.
When last week’s City Council Special Session was delayed due to technical issues, Roshaun made the best of his time and began speaking with others in attendance. It’s such a valuable addition to meeting documentation and a great reason to go in person if you can safely do so. Even county commissioners and department directors like talking to Roshaun. It’s a great reminder that we’re all working together to make Detroit a better place.
In February, we shouted out the city’s new video feature on City Council agendas. This feature lets people click on an agenda item and have a video of the meeting jump to the exact spot when that item was discussed.
However, we have since noticed that not all agendas include a video, so we reached out to the City Clerk’s Office to find out why. The spokesperson told us their office has faced challenges due to limited staffing and are actively working with the Media Services Department to include videos in more agendas.
“By next week, all agendas should have an embedded video within, and we will be back on our regular City Council schedule,” the spokesperson said.
Upcoming training and events
BridgeDetroit Youth Public Safety Townhall
Tonight! Tuesday, April 18, 6-8 p.m. at Chroma, 2937 E. Grand Blvd.
Reporters at BridgeDetroit want to hear from young people on their perspectives on public safety. Tickets are free — reserve a spot.
Wednesday, May 10, 5-7:30 p.m.
Join us at TechTown for an in-person orientation with two, one-hour trainings. In the first hour, we will introduce you to the Documenters network and show you how to apply for paid public meeting assignments. In the second hour, we will learn more about local government and how to monitor it for the public good. Pizza will be served!
Documenters who have not received their Public Meetings Badge are encouraged to attend — but space is limited, so register now.
Just for Documenters
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!