Tuesday, May 11 is the deadline to decide whether Detroit voters will have a say in changing the city’s governing structure on August 3. The Detroit Charter Revision Commission was approved by voters in 2018 to recommend changes to the city’s charter for the benefit of residents.
“It is what’s right for us as a city, and this is what justice really looks like.” — Detroit City Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López
The proposed charter changes have been met with criticisms from Mayor Duggan and Gov. Whitmer, who claim that the costs of said changes would financially damage the city. However, advocates for the charter revision say these concerns are not founded on facts.
Listen: What revising the Detroit City Charter would do for residents.
Richard Mack is an attorney and member of the Detroit Charter Revision Commission. He says the revision has significant support within the Detroit community, “In 2018, Detroiters voted to form this commission…we have had a historic level of involvement. People throughout this community … have been excited about putting forward a number of proposals.” Mack says the proposed changes would benefit Detroit residents, and even if they may be costly, “We think it’s well worth that to make sure people stay in this city.”
Mack says concerns raised by government officials over the charter revisions can be easily addressed, “I viewed them not as this need for major overhaul, but for clarification … the concerns were not significant enough to where it is not possible to address those concerns.” He says in terms of cost analysis, it’s too early to criticize the revision. “You can’t cost out what hasn’t been created … It’s a false budgetary assumption… when the ideas haven’t even been created yet.”
Raquel Castañeda-López is a member of the Detroit City Council representing the 6th District. She says revising the charter is a matter of fundamental human rights, “My work began on this with a racial and social justice coalition who have been working on this for decades. This is about protecting Detroiters’… access to clean air and water … access to mobility … it’s really about protecting Detroiters basic human rights.” Castañeda-López says the recommended changes to the city charter will promote justice for Detroit residents, “One of the reasons I chose to work with the community on the charter is because we believe that people’s human rights should be embedded in the charter. It’s not a question about power and legislative body, it’s a question of how do we want to govern ourselves.”
Castañeda-López says the criticisms aimed at the charter revision are irrelevant, “It is what’s right for us as a city, and this is what justice really looks like.” She says the city charter needs to reflect the ideas of citizens following it, “This is a document in which we should embed our principles, our values … and then our government should be structured that way.”
Editor’s Note: City officials did not accept WDET’s request to participate in this conversation.