The District Detroit Fails Detroiters, Passes Council

April 8, 2023

The District Detroit Fails Detroiters, Passes Council

As the dust settles from the final City Council vote on the Ilitch/Ross District Detroit tax incentive package, we reflect on exactly what transpired.  Council President Sheffield stood as the lone ‘No’ vote to the Deal. Detroiters gave the council all the cover they needed to demand more by showing up week after week in a variety of forums voicing both skepticism and opposition.  Detroit People’s Platform (DPP) and Equitable Detroit, the citywide CBA coalition, acknowledges the commitment of Detroiters to economic justice and residents showed up in this fight. Because of the strength and volume of our collective voices we were able to shift power in the process and push decision makers in ways they have not been moved before.

For the first time Detroit City Council “opened up” a Community Benefits Agreement and made changes. In the past this has not been a part of the interpretation of the Community Benefits Ordinance. Now residents know that changes CAN be made.  As a result, council President Pro Tem Tate secured $3.5 Million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, a benefit the Developers and the Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) had excluded in spite of repeated calls for consideration by the community at large.  In addition to her “NO” vote, Council President Sheffield pushed back on the developers and made unprecedented request like the 2% fee for events that could move resources toward community. We believe that this is a solid demand worthy of consideration in future CBA negotiations.

Yet, questions remain about the process.  When citing their reason for the vote Councilmember Waters and Councilmember Johnson cited a number of “benefits” they each had negotiated in return for their “YES” vote everything ranging from enhanced funding for senior home improvements to the promise of a 100 unit townhome affordable housing development. Many of us are left to speculate about specifically the details of these side bar agreements, the funding source for the agreements and the enforceability of such agreements. And the essential question remains, why were these agreements not submitted as part of a comprehensive response from Council for inclusion in the CBA?  Why the fragmented response from individual Council members?  Some Council members admitted their benefit request had not been considered as with Councilmember Whitfield Calloway who in spite of it cast a YES vote.

In addition, the utter failure of the Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) is demonstrated by the NAC’s positioning the District Detroit CBA as the biggest (in terms of dollar investment) and model for future NAC negotiations in terms of scope of benefits and impact on the broader Detroit community. Under closer scrutiny both assertions proved to be untrue.  The

Finally, the District Detroit deal and accompanying CBA process illustrates how the CBA ordinance has been weaponized against the best interest of Detroiters and has worked to undermine the democratic and economic justice intent brought forth by the community in the CBA 2016 ballot campaign. The one hopeful declaration from several City Council members following the disappointing vote was that the CBA process is not working and their commitment to change it.  Detroit People’s Platform (DPP) and the Equitable Detroit citywide CBA coalition invite Detroiters to organize with us and hold the City Council accountable to WIN bigger and better deals for Detroiters!