Detroiters to cast their votes on reparations proposal this Tuesday

Posted at 5:50 PM, Oct 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 17:50:51-04

(WXYZ) — Election Day is nearly upon us and in the City of Detroit, voters Tuesday will once again have a decision to make on reparations, after a failed city charter revision proposal back in August.

This time, it's Proposal R, a question of whether the City of Detroit should create a reparations task force.

But another proposal on Tuesday’s ballot loosely connected to Prop R is seemingly causing more controversy than the reparations vote itself.

“A lot of eyes are being opened about the discriminatory affects of just policing against Black people with respect to George Floyd. Aubrey, whose going to trial, that case is going to trial now. That case is highlighting the continued deluge of problems that African Americans have in the fabric of America," said attorney Todd Perkins of The People's Voice.

That deluge could begin being addressed in the City of Detroit under Proposal R on Tuesday’s ballot.

It reads: “should the Detroit City Council establish a reparations task force to make recommendations for housing and economic development programs that address historical discrimination against the Black community in Detroit?”

Perkins is a Prop R proponent.

When asked if this is about looking at how to correct past wrongs or current inequities or both, Perkins responded, "I think both. Why would we want to… if we don’t correct the past and move it into the current, then that’s… I think that’s still something that’s broken."

The language of Prop R leaves many questions of how reparations could be addressed if it passes.

There’s no timeline for the task force’s creation or recommendations, no guidance of what form reparations could take or if any action would be limited to only those who are descendants of slaves.

"Prop R is a study. Prop R doesn’t require implementation of the actual reparations fund. It doesn’t require the implementation of actual reparations commission. So yes, it can exist without s, but at the same time, if voters are going to ever want to do this… if the city doesn’t do it, and voters, why wouldn’t they want to empower themselves to have that restriction lifted?" said Perkins.

Perkins' social welfare organization The People’s Voice is behind the push for a different proposal, Prop S, conceived as a backstop on reparations if city council doesn’t act diligently or at all.

It would remove language in the city charter that bars voters from appropriating city funds via ballot initiatives.

"City government will still be required to do the implementation. They’re still going to do that. It's just that the citizens are telling them this is what we want right now. Not should, but shall," said Perkins. "There’s a difference between should and shall and being compelled to do something because the voters have spoken through the casting of their ballots. So that’s essentially what it is."

Detroit Deputy Mayor Conrad Mallet says officially the Duggan administration supports Prop R, and is not taking a position on Prop S, however…

“I can certainly speak from my point of view, and I can tell you that I find Proposal S to be extremely problematic," said Mallet.

Mallet argues some problems could arise when voters prioritize a single issue, potentially without a full understanding of city budget and lacking a new revenue stream, all while the city is still fiscally fragile post-bankruptcy.

"So, a group of persons come together, we want to spend 50 million dollars on a new park ... if that 50 million dollar park initiative passes, there will be services that city council, who is in charge of setting the budget, will have to cut in order to pay for what the voter initiated budget requirement demands,” said Mallet.

Some Prop S supporters say it simply ensures action on reparations after Prop R.

"Proposal S is a direct form of democracy that allows for voters to move towards having reparations … sooner than later," said Perkins. "Proposal S is the energy from a voters perspective that forces its way to causing it to happen, if they don’t see it happening, they can create their own ordinance."