This past week, several community meetings included visits from members of the Charter Commission. Several reports by Hood Research members at the September 10th, monthly meeting included occurrences of visits by commission members at several community meetings.
On Thursday, September 8th, Janice Mitchell Ford, the chair of the Charter Commission, visited the Barton McFarlane Neighborhood Association meeting. She described the charter in her words. At one point when question on specifics, she became combative and sought to bully a neighborhood resident to stop all questions and merely accept her rendition of the proposed legal document. However, another attendee of that meeting stated that he felt that there was an effort to “Hide the fine print”.
Similar reports were made from those who attended the Democratic 13th and 14th district monthly meetings. Charter commission member John Johnson attended the 14th district meeting. He passed out the attached handout.
It was reported that he only had about ten copies with him, leaving many without a copy. As reported, “How can we vote on something without being able to read it.” The Charter commission has relied almost exclusively on their website. The website as well as other commission expenses, are being paid for with city tax dollars. The city has a population where few have an at home Internet connection. Internet use is available to city residents at public libraries. There is usually a long waiting list and just recently the library commission announced six branch closings.
The commission has been spending money since taking office. Instead of using city property they have leased an office and staff. The commission published a draft charter and then changed the entire document when the local media complained about the then proposed arrangement of council districts. The commission changed the charter again after the Governor rejected the original submission. The commission is reported to have asked for more money to continue work beyond the vote in November. If the charter is passed, then no further work would be needed. However there is speculation that the money requested is really to assist in campaigning for the charter. In this city any money spent would be best spent on providing the community with actual copies of the proposed charter and then providing help in understanding the legal terms and implications. At the federal level, the Congressional Budget Office ranks and rates proposed legislation to determine its cost. There has not been any effort to do this with this proposal even as some commissioners seek to profess that the charter will save the city money.
This past Saturday at the 13th congressional district meeting, more than 10 copies of the handout was provided. Enough that some were brought and shared at the Hood Research meeting. However the delivery of charter related information was not improved. The impression given by those who attended, was that the charter is being sold on highlights without allowing any in depth discussion or dissection of the charter. There is a clear uncomfortableness, as reported, by the commission to examine the proposed charter in depth before November. By then Detroit will be voting on whether or not to adopt the charter. Hood Research suggests a no vote. If you don’t know vote no. If there are admirable changes that can be made, they can still be made. They do not have to be rushed into existence nor do we have to adopt a new charter on faith.