Why the Michigan Chronicle Votes “No” on Proposal P

When residents of Detroit prepare to either vote early or in person during the Primary Election on Tuesday, August 3, their decision on Proposal P will be paramount to the future success of their city.

The Primary ballot has candidates for mayor, Detroit City Council and Detroit City Clerk as well as Proposal P which will determine whether or not the revised City Charter will be adopted.

Even though the mayoral race, among others, is heated, one of the more polarizing issues on the ballot that Detroiters will vote “yes” or “no” is on Proposal P.

The proposal is a revised Detroit city charter; if passed it would replace the current charter and will address resident-centered concerns with issues like broadband access, more in-depth municipal oversight, reparations, water affordability and more.

A “yes” vote would also mean that the city’s current charter would, in essence, now be a 145-page revised charter written by the Detroit Charter Revision Commission, per city documents.

A vote against the adoption of a revised city charter allows the city’s current charter to remain in place.

The nine-member Charter Revision Commission, elected in November 2018, started revision processes on August 7, 2018, with the passage of a ballot proposal to revise the 2012 charter, according to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRCM).

According to CRCM, a not-for-profit, nonpartisan public policy research organization, just over 14 percent of registered Detroit voters voted on this ballot question at the 2018 August primary.

In early June, the Michigan Supreme Court stopped a decision by lower courts to remove Proposal P from the August 3 primary ballot. On Wednesday, July 7, the state Supreme Court heard final arguments on whether revisions to the Detroit City Charter, Proposal P, will appear on the primary ballot.

As of press time, the Michigan Supreme Court ruling was yet to be handed down on if Proposal P would be approved for the August 3 primary.

As Proposal P’s fate hangs in the balance, residents should be clear that if the Michigan Supreme Court chooses to keep the charter’s proposal on the ballot, they will then be voting on the draft charter rejected by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer because of issues her office discovered in a review mandated by state law.

Whitmer rejected the proposed revised City of Detroit Charter in May and said the document needs a review by the Attorney General’s (AG) office, according to reports. The AG review showed the current city charter draft had numerous and extensive legal problems.

In Whitmer’s letter to the Charter Commission, she noted that some of the provisions in the revised charter would need the Detroit Financial Review Commission’s input. The financial review commission is the governing body able to oversee Detroit’s finances if the city faces another financial upheaval, and many Proposal P detractors believe that the charter amendments would cause the city to once again go into bankruptcy.

Detroit Charter Revision Commission Chair Carol Weaver said in a June statement that “Both Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel agree that the governor has absolutely no power to prevent a revised charter from being considered by Detroit voters.”

“This fact was made very clear in the Governor’s April 30, 2021, letter to the Commission,” she said in an earlier emailed statement to the Michigan Chronicle.

Those in support of the proposed charter amendment include The Detroit People’s Platform, an organization leading the “People’s Charter for a Better Detroit Prop P Campaign.” – for Proposal P also include Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield, Detroit Charter Revision Commissioner JoAnna Underwood, Detroit Charter Revision Commissioner Barbara Anne Wynder, City Clerk candidate Denzel McCampbell among others.

The multilayered proposal was developed with the intent to purposefully empower the voice of Detroit residents by meeting some of their crucial needs. From wanting to restructure the police and fire departments to developing a new task force on Reparations and African American Justice — it’s not lost on us the strategic work many commissioners put in.

Numerous Detroiters believe that the proposal paves the way to create sensible police reform, give residents additional basic rights. Supporters also feels that Proposal P levels the playing field when it comes to technology access and doing away with racial and socioeconomic health disparities, according to Ballotpedia.

Leading the charge on the other side of the aisle against Prop P are individuals and groups including Mayor Mike Duggan, Dennis Archer, former mayor of the City of Detroit, Whitmer, Nessel and Detroiters to Protect Our Future.

Archer and others have been quoted previously saying that the Commission’s recommendations would bankrupt the city. Per state law, the city must submit a balanced four-year plan to the Financial Review Commission (FRC) and request a waiver every year.

The Draft Revised Charter would cost $2 billion over four years by “imposing 65 provisions with new mandates that increase expenses or reduce revenues” per a city document. “There are no provisions that would reduce expenses or grow revenues. If the Draft Revised Charter is approved in August, the FY22-25 Four-Year Financial Plan will no longer be balanced,” Archer said previously.

Naysayers feel that the hefty additional costs needed should Prop P pass would not allow the city to keep its balanced budget.

The Michigan Chronicle believes that voting “NO” on Proposal P would greatly reduce the City of Detroit’s ultimate risk of being put under dire financial straits, which could cause a ripple effect of financial problems leaving Detroiters holding the bag.

Although we see why Proposal P has its supporters, we believe Proposal P misses the mark.

“Proposal P handcuffs leadership…[and] diminishes the authority of elected officials who have to make decisions,” President of the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association Mark Young said, according to Ballotpedia. This proposal would also create inefficiencies and added costs in the city.

Archer previously gave an alternative to the charter and requested corporations, foundations and CEOs to join forces and find solutions to the problems hoped to be solved through Proposal P.

“I know what it is like to have no running water,” he said of his younger days, adding that the commissioners worked with residents and businesses to try to find solutions, but these are costly ideas to implement.

On August 3, Detroit voters have an opportunity to make their voices heard and be an integral part of shaping what they want their city to look like and the Michigan Chronicle believes the best way forward is to vote NO on Proposal P.

In the August 3 election, the Michigan Chronicle strongly opposes Proposal P.





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