Hey Hey, Detroit!

Detroit is preparing to update its Master Plan of Policies. The plan is the city’s long-range strategy and vision used to guide development, investment in infrastructure, and strategy for neighborhoods across the city. Documenters have witnessed the master plan matter. Remember last year when residents and city planners argued with developers over a proposed asphalt plant on the westside? The city’s zoning rules would have allowed it, but the master plan didn’t include heavy industrial use for the neighborhood. Residents and city planners prevailed

The city describes the master plan as “designed to change in response to new information and changing circumstances,” and yet Detroit has changed a lot since it was last comprehensively reviewed and updated in 2008. 

Documenters attended a meeting last week that kicked off the revamp when Detroit Planning and Development Department (PDD) staff members proposed the process, which will cost nearly $1 million. Deputy Director of Planning and Development Dara O’Byrne said the community engagement part of the process has yet to begin. That didn’t stop Detroiters from speaking out, with some residents saying pockets of the city have been left out. 

Detroit City Council will consider PDD’s contract recommendations and choose a contractor to draft the new master plan. Stay tuned for updates as Documenters follow the whole process. For questions and feedback, email DetroitMasterPlan@DetroitMI.gov.

Heads up that we’ll be off next Monday in honor of Indigenous Peoples Day. There will be no newsletter next week.

We also want to wish Outlier reporter Malak Silmi the best as she moves on from our newsroom. Malak has been an amazing part of the Documenters community for the last few years. We’ll miss her, but we’re keeping her close. (Once a part of the Outlier Collective, always a part of the Outlier Collective!)

“What real decision-making power will residents have in this master plan update?”

—Yolanda Jackson, public policy manager at Community Development Advocates of Detroit, during a Detroit Planning and Development Department meeting


Detroit’s Lifeline Plan is now funded through 2025

Detroit’s water affordability plan will be able to continue to serve Detroiters for an additional year and a half after finding new funding. 

When the city launched the Lifeline Plan last August, it only had enough money to operate the program for a year and a half. The program is now funded through the end of 2025, said Bryan Peckinpaugh, spokesperson for the Detroit Water and Sewage Department.

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City and Regional News

Politics, Development, Housing


The Detroit Police Department (DPD) uses license plate recognition (LPR) technology that collects license plate numbers and location data. DPD says the technology helps them apprehend persons suspected of car theft or persons suspected of using a vehicle in an alleged crime. 

Most of the public comments in support of expanded use of LPR wanted the technology to be used to reduce reckless driving, speeding, drifting and doughnuts, saying they endanger public safety in their neighborhood. Councilmember Gabriela Santiago-Romero clarified after several such comments that “license plate (recognition) will not be used for traffic enforcement.” 

Public commenters skeptical or in opposition of the proposed LPR expansion cited an absence of data on effectiveness and worries about privacy and data-sharing with law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The council voted to approve DPD’s expanded use of LPR. Santiago-Romero and Councilmember Latisha Johnson were the only members voting no.

9/26/2023 Detroit City Council, Formal Session
Documented by Bridget Scallen and Gina McPherson


The Detroit Land Bank Authority Board of Directors approved a resolution to limit the application window to 60 days for those wishing to purchase vacant land, to encourage prospective buyers to finish applications more quickly.

Incomplete applications pile up and create extra work for the agency. By limiting the window to apply to 60 days, the land bank is hoping for a higher rate of successful applications.

The land bank will provide more public education around the steps required to apply and receive approval for property purchases.

9/26/2023 Detroit Land Bank Authority, Board of Directors
Documented by Janelle James and Meghan Rutigliano


Closed session took up most of the time during a Detroit Housing Commissioners meeting filled with audio and visual technical difficulties. Shortly after returning from closed session and discovering the audio problems, commissioners sacrificed the video to fix the sound

Documenters heard commissioners approve a memorandum of understanding and ground lease option with Novi-based Ginosko Development Company to immediately begin the first phase of redevelopment planned for The Villages at Parkside. 

Phase 1 does not include repairs on any of the existing structures (Page 15 of the board packet), but on two vacant parcels of land on the corner of Conner Street and Frankfort Street designated to be Village 1. 

Ginosko will be the developer for the full Parkside redevelopment project. DHC plans to enter into a master development agreement with the company within the next year.

9/28/2023 Detroit Housing Commission, Board of Commissioners
Documented by Amelia Benavides-Colón and Sonja Stuckey

You’re invited to Outlier Media’s Coffee Thursday! Come hang out with us at In Harmony Café on Oct. 12. The first 20 guests will receive a free brewed coffee or tea of their choice. Stop by and chat with us from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Register now on Eventbrite. We hope to see you there!

More City and Regional News

Development, Tourism, Transportation, Policing


9/27/2023 Detroit Planning and Development Department, Updates to the City of Detroit’s Master Plan: For the first time in 15 years, the city’s master plan will be comprehensively reviewed and updated. The initial proposal will head to City Council next for consideration.
Documented by Ashley Williams and Colleen Cirocco


9/28/2023 Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority, Board of Directors: Following a two-hour closed session, the board approved a Huntington Place expansion and appointed a new CEO without stating their name. When we later asked who they appointed, we were told the omission was in fact intentional. The authority will be releasing the name soon.
Documented by Amber Umscheid and Sandi Nelson


9/28/2023 SMART, Board of Directors: Residents of Wayne, Oakland and Livingston counties praised the SMART board for service expansions and added bus stops.
Documented by Bridget Scallen and Corey Rowe


9/28/2023 Detroit Board of Police Commissioners: BOPC keeps Melanie White suspended with full pay; payroll audit finds ghost staffer, unauthorized raises and bogus overtime.
Documented by Elyas Khan and Heather Alder

For more on the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, check out the latest BOPC Watch.

Documenter Spotlight

Meet Eric Walton, this month’s Featured Documenter

Young Black man with wide frame black glasses, tan corduroy jacket and red plaid shirt with an unbuttoned collar gazes at the camera from the gray-toned driver seat of a car, sunlight streaming through the windows.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Eric Walton

When Eric Walton’s wife was diagnosed with kidney disease, he changed careers to become a youth program specialist at the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan, where he promotes nutrition classes and other healthy eating programs. He relates his work at the foundation to his work at Documenters because “it’s all about community and spreading awareness.” 

Eric has five children, works full time and even sits on the Harper Woods Public Library Board of Trustees.. Read more to learn how he maintains balance and what keeps him engaged with Documenters.

Get Involved

Upcoming training and events

Documenters Network-wide Virtual Community of Practice
Tomorrow! Wednesday, Oct. 4, 6-7:30 p.m. Eastern time
All Documenters from any city in the network are welcome, regardless of whether you’ve attended a training or taken any assignments. Come as you are, and connect with Documenters in other places!

Disability and Racial Justice Solidarity Workshop for Media & Journalism Professionals
Wednesday, Oct. 11, 4:30-7:30 p.m.
The Love Building, 4731 Grand River Ave.
Thanks to Documenter Bridget Scallen for sharing information about this workshop. Presented by Detroit Disability Power, the workshop promises to help you build your capacity to report on people with disabilities in a way that doesn’t further an ableist status quo, including interview skills and where to look for stories. The $40 ticket price includes dinner and drinks. Get details and purchase tickets

Detroit Documenters Orientation
Wednesday, Nov. 15, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
In this final orientation of the year, we will introduce you to the Detroit Documenters community. Find out how we help build the public record by paying people to attend local government meetings and take notes. This workshop is required for Documenters to be eligible for paid assignments. The orientation will be immediately followed by the Covering Your Local Government training on the same Zoom link. Save the date and 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 meeting law. We strongly recommend this training, as public meetings are our most common assignment offering. Register separately for this meeting, which will directly follow the orientation.
Office Hours
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!

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.