The Detroit Charter Revision Commission missed its deadline to submit the final version of the document it had spent the last three years drafting in time for the August primary, according to City Clerk Janice Winfrey. The announcement comes as the city’s election commission prepares to approve the municipal primary ballot on Thursday.
According to a letter authored by Winfrey, the Detroit Charter Revision Commission successfully submitted a ballot question proposing the new charter on May 6.
But the charter itself was not included.
The revision commission finalized the document during a meeting on Tuesday. The group made a series of amendments to address legal concerns raised by the Michigan Attorney General’s office. As of Wednesday, Winfrey had not seen the final language of the charter, which she says needed to be submitted before May 11.
“I have no idea what they’re doing,” said Mayor Mike Duggan during a press conference on Wednesday. “I’ll leave it to the lawyers to sort out, but it appears to me they’ve missed the deadline to make any changes.”
Proposed Charter Revision Faces Opposition from Local, State Leaders
The Duggan administration has made several declarations opposing the charter revision effort. The Office of the Chief Financial Office projects the sweeping changes to Detroit’s governance, including new measures on water affordability, public broadband and reparations, would cost the city $2 billion over four years.
Commissioners have rejected the mayor’s fiscal analysis, believing it to be a scare tactic to dissuade voters from approving progressive policies.
“The mayor is abusing his power,” said Charter Revision Commission Vice-Chair Nicole Small. “This is a clear violation of the separation of state between the Council and the mayor, and now the mayor has influenced Lansing.”
Following Duggan’s disapproval, Governor Gretchen Whitmer rejected a draft of the charter, citing “substantial and extensive legal deficiencies” amid financial concerns.
“Moreover, the Revised Charter includes several provisions that will require close study by the Detroit Financial Review Commission (FRC). If the proposed revisions cause a financial crisis, the FRC could then revoke the City of Detroit’s and the Detroit Public School Community District’s waiver, requiring the FRC to regain full oversight over the city’s and school district’s finances. A financial crisis could have adverse consequences for residents, businesses, and persons who receive a pension from the city,” Whitmer wrote.
Proceeding Without the Governor’s Approval
Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia urged Detroit City Council to stop funding the commission and a potential education campaign following Whitmer’s letter.
“There is no way for a commission proposed revision of a charter to reach the ballot without the governor’s approval,” Garcia said.
Garcia’s legal opinion is at odds with the State of Michigan’s official position. A proposed charter does not require the governor’s approval, according to a letter sent by the state Attorney General’s office to the Charter Revision Commission.
“The text of Section 22 does not include a requirement for the Governor’s approval of a proposed charter as a prerequisite for a charter commission to submit it for approval by the city’s voters. And I have not found such a requirement elsewhere in the HRCA or in any other statute or case thus far in my research,” wrote George Elworth, Assistant Attorney General.
Other city officials have sided with the charter revision effort as the Duggan administration has worked to undermine the initiative.
“We need to make sure that what we say here is truthful and accurate and not based on political whims or political beliefs because that is misleading to the public,” said Detroit City Councilmember Raquel Castaneda-Lopez.
As the Detroit Charter Revision Commission worked to finalize the document on Tuesday, they approved a resolution to take the matter to court if the charter was omitted from the August primary ballot.