Proposal P: The Missed Opportunity

September 15, 2021

On August 3rd 2021, the proposed revisions to the City Charter (Proposal P) were defeated in a turnout of only 14.29% registered voters.  Reports from those canvassing in the final days leading up to the election reported that many voters were casting their vote in response to the “Vote No on Proposal P” campaign. Fueled by corporate backed and dark money resources, the opposition to Proposal P drove messages of fear delivered by so-called trusted messengers.  

The oppositional campaign labeled Proposal P as a “problem” and its potential passage as a threat to Detroit’s fiscal stability with individual harm to elderly pensioners. The return of emergency management and bankruptcy recalled the narrative and stigma of failed Black leadership from which many Detroiters have sought to distance themselves.   

Yet, few voters were able to articulate what was actually being put forth by Proposal P and the proposed Charter revisions.

Dubbed the People’s Charter, one of the primary goals of the City Charter revisions was to return city government to its’ original mission to exist as a service organization with the primary goal of meeting the needs of its residents. The proposed revisions were created and driven by a two (2) year grassroots and democratic movement intended to shift Detroit towards a more fair and racially just city. The vision is to rebuild the power of residents and embed progressive policies into our city’s charter.

The Promise of Proposal P

Proposal P would have included policies that support residents left behind by bad decisions made during Detroit’s so called turn-around and economic recovery.  The community under the leadership of the Charter Revision Commission put forth the following policies to be included in the revised Charter:

  • A water affordability plan 
  • A city Internet (broadband network) 
  • A Fair fare for bus riders
  • Provisions for truly affordable housing 
  • A stronger Community Benefit Agreement Ordinance 
  • A more accountable and transparent Board of Police Commissioners 
  • An Environmental Justice Office and Commission 
  • An Office of Disability Affairs
  • Support for people over assessed on their property taxes 
  • Protection of immigrant rights
  • Protection of Detroiters civil rights and privacy 
  • Protection of labor rights and responsible contracting

What is apparent is the extent to which the proposed revisions would address many of the racial inequities Detroiters face on a daily basis.  These existing and long standing inequalities are fueled by misplaced priorities and public investments that harm our quality of life and contribute to poor conditions in our neighborhoods. 

Cries from the opposition about the financial cost of proposed revisions were proven to be exaggerated under close and more objective examination. These claims of fiscal calamity ring hollow when judged alongside the millions of dollars of corporate taxes diverted annually from the city’s general treasury because of the massive tax abatements awarded by the city. Further, the narrative exposes how the opposition discounts the “cost” incurred by Detroiters who lack some of the most basic protections and amenities. Protections and amenities that are common in many cities across the nation. 

Elections do have consequences as the political class often reminds us. The reality however, is that the consequences are not shared equally, especially the negative ones.  Majority Black Detroit suffered a huge lost in the wake of the defeat of Proposal P.  How we as a community pivot from this setback will define the future for us and generations that follow.

DEMOCRACY in Majority Black Detroit is worth FIGHTING for!


Join us as we kick off our Pro-Democracy Campaign! Join us to learn more about why more that ever Detroiters must come together. Will have food, music and you can pick up educational material to share with your neighbors Items available on a first come first served basis and supplies are limited.


Detroiters have a right to a city government that puts the needs and priorities of it’s residents first. We demand a return to a deeper form of democracy in Detroit, a democracy where the people hold political power and elected representatives sit in service to the common good.