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Detroit's Proposal P: What proponents and opponents are saying ahead of the election

Posted at 2:05 PM, Jul 28, 2021

(WXYZ) — In less than a week, Detroit voters will decide on Proposal P, a revised city charter.

A research organization calls the revisions “an unprecedented break with former charters in its scope and breadth of changes.”

The city charter is like a constitution. It's the document that outlines how a city will govern. In 2018 , voters backed a proposal to revise Detroit’s constitution.

On Tuesday, Detroiters will decide whether to adopt the changes developed by the Charter Revision Commission, and if passed, it could significantly alter the way Detroit operates and the way Detroiters get by.

Related:

One of the key changes is the power dynamic between the mayor and city council, Detroit’s executive and legislative branches.

Prop P would shift that dynamic in favor of the council, giving it a voice in certain mayoral department head appointments via confirmation authority, including chief of police.

Labeled the “People's Charter," Prop P also addresses recent societal concerns, including policing by:

  • Creating a public database of police officer misconduct and excessive force
  • Removing qualified immunity provisions from officer evaluations
  • Requiring the police force to reflect the city’s demographics
  • Establishing a 7 person, citizen elected board of commissioners - 1 for each district
  • And giving unrestricted access to all unedited body cam, vehicle and other police footage

The revised charter seeks to address quality-of-life concerns for Detroiters, free sidewalk maintenance, free public broadband internet, and changes to particular billing practices, like tying water rates to household income, for example (3% of monthly income), and creating assistance funds.

Courtesy Citizens Research Council of Michigan

New changes for city employees would include a requirement to live within 20 miles of the city, and they’d have a holiday for all elections held within Detroit.
Those in favor of Prop P point to transparency as the reason voters should support it.

"There's been a lot of talk for quite some time about there being a conflict of interest with the clerk counting the votes and actually running that election so we’ll have an election commission. Three persons who will be elected city wide so we can increase the transparency with our elections and with government," said Nicole Small, a proponent of Prop P.

Those opposed say it’s too pricey and convoluted.

"The concern is who’s in charge. A two-headed monster is unstable. We have a strong mayor form of government. If you want to change the form of governance, put that in the charter," said Rev. Horace Sheffield, who is against Prop P. "To take a little of this a little of that and have nothing that resembles anything ... you won’t know who is responsible for what."

Former Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel said the charter revision will create challenges, chaos and confusion.

"The challenges will come in part from the complexity of the changes that are being proposed in terms of the operation of city government, I think there'll be chaos because it's not going to be clear who's really got what responsibilities where, and I think confusion is really going to be a critical issue in terms of the roles of the mayor, the council and ... some newly appointed boards, elected boards that are going to have powers that used to be exercised more specifically by the mayor and the council," said Cockrel on a recent edition of Spotlight.

Read the full charter with commentary below:

Charter Revision with Comme... by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit