July 28th, 2021
Proposal P for the People
Corporate powers have launched an all-out campaign against the proposed city charter revisions. Last week I got an email blitz from Rev. Horace Sheffield, III warning me that “Proposal P is an illusion, a delusion and a ball of confusion!” He argued that proposal P jeopardizes city services by creating dozens of mandates to increase city spending by millions every year.” The weakness in that argument seems clear.
The Detroit Free Press rejects the proposal as costly and bureaucratic. A coalition of business leaders and politicians is spearheading the anti-P campaign. Mayor Duggan and the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce are directing the attacks. The claims that the proposals would cost too much are based on exaggeration and misinformation. What they really mean is that politicians would be mandated to support young people, water affordability, access to broad band, affordable housing, and accessible transportation. Elected officials would have less money to spend on fancy police technologies.
These attacks are a continuation of the efforts to undermine the Charter Commission since its inception. Business forces and Mayor Duggan have consistently tried to control and undermine the Charter process. Writing in 2018, Steve Neavling explained how “Detroit voters weren’t fooled.” He documented how “A heavily funded and dishonest campaign funded by outside groups and Mayor Duggan’s political machine fell short Tuesday after the hand-picked candidates failed to gain majority control over a commission that will have authority to dramatically change how the city operates.” A strong grassroots campaign out voted the $160,000 effort to place control of the new commission in the hands of corporate elites.
Now the pro corporate group is continuing its disinformation, claiming that the proposed charter would bankrupt the city. That is why it is important to read the analysis of the charter by Michigan State University Professor Dale Belman who concluded:
“The City’s estimates of the costs of implementing the proposed revisions are excessive, probably by orders of magnitude. The sources of the overestimate are extreme interpretations of the requirements of the charter revisions and excessive cost estimates unsupported by a factual foundation or transparent computations.”
One example is that opponents claim that the Youth Employment Program would cost the city $260 million over four years. A more realistic assessment is that it would cost about $252,000 over 4 years, about or $63,000 annually. This hardly seems like excessive spending on our young people.
Another example is the proposal to establish a genuine water affordability plan based on income. The analysis offered by MSU notes that this could actually result in higher revenues for the city, “because the loss of revenues from individual rate payers is balanced by decline in the number of water bills that are unpaid.”
The proposed Charter Revisions are motivated by a desire to place the well- being of the people of Detroit at the center of our public choices. They capture the essence of the progressive struggles that have animated community life since the bankruptcy process.
Almost none of the people opposing P uttered a word against widespread water shut offs, inhuman conditions in the public schools, the gutting of public life, or the evictions of people from homes. They sat in comfortable silence while their fellow Detroiters suffered.
A vote for proposal P is for the people, for progress and for a better future.
“Humans have developed many frames, or mental models, through which the world can be understood and possibly changed—for better or worse. Economics, race, gender, psychological, religious, cultural, ecological, various iterations of “science,” and other tools of description, analysis and action have been developed and refined over long periods of time. Homo sapiens have a prolific capacity for abstraction.”
July 22nd, 2021
After the Rains
This week the strongest argument for voting Yes on Proposal P for the new city charter came with torrential rains. Much like the pandemic, this catastrophe revealed the lack of comprehensive thinking about how to live more consciously in just and sustainable ways.
For the second time in three weeks people throughout Detroit experienced massive flooding. Water swirled through houses, made streets impassible and compounded the misery of those still cleaning up from the last storm.
Much of the response to this latest storm has been predictable, with efforts to analyze system failures. But there seems to be little understanding of the interconnected effects of having allowed our city to develop in ways that did not prioritize caring for people and for the land and waters that sustain us.
The kind of thinking that brought us to this place is exactly the kind of thinking being challenged by the proposed new City Charter. In a recent article supporting the Charter, Peter Hammer, Director of the Damon Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University Law School, explained that the opposition to the new charter is rooted in fear of the new ideas and values contained in it.
He said: “This is the real reason behind the political and legal opposition to the Charter. Since the death of the Great Society, cities have languished in persistent policies of fiscal austerity, neoliberalism and empty promises of economic development fueled by tax abatements for already wealthy corporations. Existing policies are making the lives of real Detroiters worse, not better. We need new ideas, new policies and new approaches that put people and not property at the center of development. The new city charter does just that.
The new Detroit City Charter and the Detroiter’s Bill of Rights are an express rejection of the failed economic, social and political policies of the past. The Charter is a positive assertion of positive rights to meet the essential needs of the residents of Detroit. This is why it is perceived to be so dangerous.”
The emptiness of the current way of thinking can be seen in everything from the lack of political will to provide clean, safe drinking water to everyone, to the uncertainty and stress allowed to persist as thousands of families face eviction and loss of basic access to food and safety.
In a comprehensive analysis of the proposals for the new charter by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) we get a glimpse of the real and immediate changes the new charter would bring to us. In a July memorandum the CRC explored the approach to public health, noting how it is expanded to include concepts of public works, environmental justice, and care for the most vulnerable.
Starting with the health of Detroiters, the proposed charter would change the current Health and Sanitation Department to the Health Department providing that sanitation be addressed in Public Works and a new Office of Environmental Justice and Sustainability. The description of this new Health Department has been updated to elaborate and clarify its objectives and tasks, including:
- detailing what approach will be taken to address matters of an epidemic or pandemic
- assessing the level, quality, and access to healthy food options
- establishing an emergency mental health crisis response team
- providing public health services for homeless citizens
The enumerated powers of the amended Health Department are all extremely important and meritorious. They respond to current and past health-related issues that have disproportionately affected Detroiters in a manner unequal to the rest of the state.”
Whatever the limitation of the new charter, it is an opportunity to think in bold ways about how we live together. It affirms our capacity to care for one another and imagine a city committed to enhancing life, even in heavy rains.
Feedom Freedom Growers and Taproot Sanctuary Growing Community Care Through Gardening
LISTEN @ WDET
July 7th, 2021
The Future’s Been Here:
Community Screening and Feedback
Thursday, July 8th @ 6 PM
check out this new, never before seen work in progress and delight in the radical love shared by Detroiters. Share your thoughts on the film, and learn about Proposal P, the People’s Charter. Tickets are free, and any donations go to St. Peters to help with damage from the flood. Space is limited. Please wear a mask if you are not vaccinated 🙂
?Thinking for Ourselves
Sustainable Democratic Cities
As people gather to celebrate Independence Day, we face critical questions about the future of democracies. Over the last decade, with the rise of authoritarian governments and increasing repression, no one was shocked when President Biden announced in a Memorial Day speech that “democracy itself is in peril.”
For those of us living in cities, this question is especially urgent as we witness the failures of government to provide for our basic needs in a rapidly changing world. This past week, Detroiters experienced massive flooding, the combination of decades of neglect and lack of vision. The inability of governments to offer minimal, immediate support to people hit by these rising waters is obvious.
The floods in Detroit followed the news of a building collapse in Florida and intense heat and drought on the West Coast. All of these disasters, with their human and ecological toll, are directly related to our abuse of the earth and refusal to make responsible choices about how we are living.
In these circumstances, cities play a crucial role. Today, more than 55% of the world’s population, 4.2 billion people, live in cities. By mid-century, 7 of every 10 human beings will live in an urban area. A recent report by the World Bank noted that:
“Cities play an increasingly important role in tackling climate change, because their exposure to climate and disaster risk increases as they grow. Almost half a billion urban residents live in coastal areas, increasing their vulnerability to storm surges and sea level rise. In the 136 biggest coastal cities, there are 100 million people – or 20% of their population – and $4.7 trillion in assets exposed to coastal floods. Around 90% of urban expansion in developing countries is near hazard-prone areas and built through informal and unplanned settlements.”
In 2015, in recognition of the important role of cities in combating climate change and promoting justice, the UN adopted 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Goal 11 is to encourage “Sustainable cities and communities: make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” The goal expands to say, “We need to build modern, sustainable cities. For all of us to survive and prosper, we need new, intelligent urban planning that creates safe, affordable and resilient cities with green and culturally inspiring living conditions.”
Taking actions to reach this goal requires new methods of democratic decision making that engage all of us in thinking about the values, principles, and practices that we need to live more responsibly with care for one another and the Earth.
The UN recognized this link between political choices for sustainable development and improving public participation at all levels of government in Goal 16 which is Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. They say “Compassion and a strong moral compass is essential to every democratic society. Yet, persecution, injustice and abuse still runs rampant and is tearing at the very fabric of civilization. We must ensure that we have strong institutions, global standards of justice, and a commitment to peace everywhere.”
The UN established a specific goal to “ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision making at all levels.”
We, in Detroit have experienced just the opposite. Especially over the last decade, the vibrancy of local government has been under assault. We have lived with state imposed emergency management, stripping local government of all pretense of democracy. We have seen elected officials refuse to enact humane water, housing, and educational policies in spite of clear evidence of harm. We have watched our City Council consistently vote against the wishes of the majority of our people. They have supported every corporate demand and endorsed excessive spending on police who kill us rather than protect us. Our efforts to protest these polices are criminalized. All these efforts, supported by right wing state legislatures, have eroded the foundations of democracy. This is why it is critical for us to support efforts for responsiveness, transparency, and ecologically conscious decision making.
Over these next few years, as we rewrite our charter, consider new forms of governing, and move toward improving neighborhood life that is self-determining, we are establishing the frameworks for the new political relationships necessary to secure our future.
Our Flooded Cities
Baba Wayne Curtis
We have to take notice of a growing lackadaisical concern from this city’s political administrative body, both before and after the most recent flooding that has engulfed our neighborhoods.
Administrators lacked the political concern and will to pass preventative measures that would have stopped the flooding. Today there is little concern for passing and immediately implementing policies that would help secure materials for the rescue, and redevelop or replace the failing, centuries-old piping and water drainage infrastructure of our old black neighborhoods in particular, and other residential neighborhoods in general.
We are realizing the need to collectively organize a local-glocal politicized culture to heal and recreate as we resist the glocal corporate influence of the city’s political administrative body.
We are learning how American corporatocracy interferes with and influences world politics through the fear of consequences, enforced by a military-backed full spectrum of dominance, in order to stay politically and economically in control of the entire planet.
We are developing a definition of American glocalism and a political understanding of how they bamboozle us to allow them to take control of policy-making that affects everything down to our neighborhoods. We are understanding who’s who in this operation of political disinformation and how it is essential to develop a globalized cultural transformation to move us beyond American corporatocracy.
We have learned the threat that the growing consciousness of our interconnected displaced communities poses to the ideology and philosophy of neoliberal corporatocracy—which influences secretly with payoffs, guns, character assassinations, criminalization, and incarceration. These political realizations from our local-glocal interconnected communities leave us more and more in a state of dissatisfaction that is developing into a new revolutionary glocal philosophical and ideological process, organizing us to stand intercommunally connected, ready to intensify political cultural transformation locally and glocally.
In today’s new glocal political paradigm the corporatocratic political class realizes that it is essential to defend themselves against a quickly-growing, unwanted, and expendable population of displaced glocal communities. Although our communities do not fit the bill for high-tech waged work, the growing numbers of the displaced, with their growing local-glocal revolutionary consciousness, have the power to organize the whole world to save the biological existence of the planet, which will save all biological existence.
Meanwhile, American corporatocracy is developing new technologies of space travel that will allow the American military to respond from space, protecting the American home planet and helping to launch corporatocratist ventures into the cosmos to further expropriate. Whether American corporatocracy will be able to afford this space boneyard depends on the success of their war against the world’s revolutionary entities, biological and artificial.
There is a growing revolutionary conception that has developed inside of us, and that conception is from our hard-fought-for revolutionary glocalized consciousness, which grew to guide us as we liberated glocal community. And that is why corporate democracy has no consciousness of glocal political power that we are bound to respect.
With all the talk of the massive flooding on the lower east side, the obvious becomes obvious when you look at the attached map of the sewerage collection system, i.e. the large sewer interceptors that grid the region. This map was on the Great Lakes Water Authority website several years ago and has been replaced with a useless service area map with no details. So keep this map on your drive.
If gates could block every regional sewer that flows into Detroit (not an idea that I endorse), City residents would never have flooded basements as long as the sewers were clean. This map shows why. It’s important to understand this so that all parties in the system, those that benefit from the system, help solve the problems they create for some neighborhoods.
On the map, start with the squiggly line over the City of Warren, which is white because Warren is not part of the GLWA sewerage system. Follow that line down to Detroit where it crosses 8 Mile. That unmarked spot is the Northeast Water Treatment Plant property, just east of Van Dyke. On the back of that property is a sewer lift station that elevates all the sewer flow in that line and transfers it into the angled line just below 8 mile. That point is Van Dyke and Outer Drive. That line, commonly called the Van Dyke interceptor, then runs down to the lower east side and dumps into the Jefferson Interceptor, a 16 foot diameter tunnel that connects to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, the largest single site plant in the world. Note that where the Van Dyke interceptor meets the Jefferson interceptor there is another interceptor that collects sewer flow from Macomb County and the Pointes. The area where the confluence of these major lines meet is the lower east side.
Now return to the squiggly line in Warren again and go north. The east-west line is a collector that three interceptors feed into. All three serve populous areas, but note the one on the left inclines into Oakland County, goes through Rochester as far north as Oxford and fans out through northern Oakland County. All of the flow gathered in the mid and northern sections of both of these counties thus flows down past 8 mile into the lower east side. When you add rain water to these filled sewers, the smaller sewers on the lower east side cannot as easily dump into the big sewers, so they backfill basements and cannot drain streets. Hence the still Detroit-owned sewerage system has flow from Oxford, Rochester Hills and Macomb Township competing for space in the Van Dyke and Jefferson interceptors with residents of the lower east side, and those residents are losing.
Now do the same on the west side. You will see a web of lines from southern Oakland County, picking up Detroit sewer flow and heading to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, the black star on your map. Then note the lines from western Wayne County and Novi going through Dearborn and heading to the plant. Again these sewers are filled with sanitary flow and rainwater by the time they get into Dearborn and Detroit they cannot handle the local load.
Freeway flooding should not occur because those concrete bunkers at underpasses have pumps to put the rainwater into sewers.They obviously are not working. Nor were they working in 2014. The federal highway administration should hold state and local authorities accountable for flooded interstate expressways. The feds pay a drainage fee for rainfall on the interstates and should demand service for that fee.
The Solution: The Oakland-Macomb Interceptor Authority should build their own massive retention basins on Lake St. Clair at a point where they can take the load from northern Oakland and Macomb counties. These basins would take the full system load during moderate to heavy storm activity, with enough chemical treatment capacity to make safe discharges into Lake St. Clair when emergencies arise. Go straight east of the east-west interceptor until you reach the lake and that area could be such a site. Detroit would still take the southern portion of those counties for a number of reasons, but it would take a huge load off the lower east side and the Wastewater Treatment Plant, giving it more capacity to handle the west side flow. NOTE: This solution would put to rest Scott Benson’s suggestion at the City Council table Tuesday that maybe “flood zone” neighborhoods should be severed from City services so that the City is not burdened with the flooding problem any longer.
Alert: This Authority is upgrading the sewer line coming into Detroit with a big project at Van Dyke and Outer Drive. Very recently Mayor Duggan asked City Council to approve an easement a mile south of 8 mile on the Van Dyke Interceptor that would give the Oakland-Macomb Interceptor Authority the power, in perpetuity, to operate, maintain, alter or reconstruct the Van Dyke Interceptor functions ( see attachment). Weirdly, it was put before Council by the Planning and Development Department, with no reference to DWSD or GLWA, which would have their authority superseded. My limited research indicates that DWSD did not know about this. It is unlikely that the Authority would control this in any way other than their own self-interest, which may not be in the interest of the east side of Detroit or the lower east side. The City would only assess the Authority $1.00. The matter is now before a committee chaired by Benson.
How to Survive the End of the World
Sibling Miniseries #5: Makani and Robin
June 21st, 2021
The impulse to create a new, living democracy is strong in Detroit. As a movement city, people have long understood the power of organized action for change. We are the home of some of the most radically democratic efforts in the country, infusing our political life with principles of justice and compassion.
The best of these efforts was highlighted this week when the Detroit City Council passed a resolution to establish a process for a task force on reparations. The initiative for the resolution came from President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield who has fashioned the resolution to address both short and longer term recommendations. Sheffield said, “There’s a lot of systemic issues that African Americans face and this is a predominately Black city. I think it’s important that we acknowledge it and we at least begin to have conversations on how to address the issue of reparations.”
The scope of the resolution illustrates the expansive thinking by those leading this effort. It advocates for the city to look at a broad range of issues linked to the quality of life within our communities. It includes considerations of
- Right to water and sanitation
- Right to environmental health
- Right to safety
- Right to live free from discrimination, including people with disability, immigrants, LGBTQ, and others
- Right to recreation
- Right to access and mobility
- Right to housing
- Right to the fulfillment of basic needs
This is a welcome discussion at a critical moment. It is linked to the intensifying debate over Proposal P and the creation of a new charter. The proposed charter also has provisions for putting the question of reparations on the ballot.
These local initiatives, given new force by the movement for black lives, have a long history. Detroiters have given national leadership to the discussion of reparations. Queen Mother Audley Moore is considered the “mother” of the movement. Congressman John Conyers, Jr consistently championed the effort in Congress, and Rev. JoAnn Watson serves on the National African-American Reparations Commission as well as a leading force in the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N”COBRA).
In an analysis of Community reparations prepared by the Legislative and Policy Division last August, we find this comment:
Since at least the publication of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ June 2014 essay in The Atlantic magazine, the issue of reparations for African American exploitation and structural predation by white supremacist America has been the subject of extensive public debates. Coates surveys the historic structural policies of discrimination and exploitation against African Americans – not limited to enslavement, but extended effectively by regional Jim Crow segregation and disfranchisement under the terror system of lynch “law” in the south, as well as national policies like redlining through mortgage discrimination, de facto segregation, structural racial disparities in health, wealth and income, and today’s racial injustices continuing right up to the present moment after the murder of George Floyd, the Flint River scandal and water shut offs in Detroit.
We are on the verge of being able to create a city that demonstrates a much deeper understanding of our obligations to each other, of the kinds of structures of governance that will and protect life, and of policies that are designed to enhance the quality of our communities.
In response to these initiatives, corporate powers and their various voices are claiming we cannot do any of this, because, “It will cost too much.” Far too many people have already paid far too high a price for the kind of changes we need. We have some very clear choices ahead.
Who Is At Your Table?
This Current System
Baba Wayne Curtis
Capitalism is trying to have the last word. After all is said and done, capitalism—with its neoliberal tactics of privatization; dismantling the old smoke-stack working class that is of no more use to the present high-tech global corporatist; dismantling democracy; and dismantling the nation-state—seeks to establish a full political spectrum of glocalized dominance.
With that foreseeable political future we have no other choice but to continue developing our liberated spaces to exist on our own creativity and invention. At this moment we have no other choice but to embrace with love the planet Earth as a collective. We will become as Cuba with our caring, efficient healthcare systems, and our intercommunal safety without the abusive forces of American corporatist glocal militarism or policing.
All of this will become possible on a much larger level of glocalization because we will be able to rely on each other to not only exist in harmony, but we will develop a network of political power to determine our anti-anthropocentric glocal destinies and we won’t stand for anything else.
Hopefully our global cultural transformation will happen not because of an antagonistic confrontation between the world’s peace-loving people and this current brutal militaristic system of racial glocal capitalism.
Junteenth 2021, Oakland County
People across the US will be celebrating Juneteenth on June 19, 2021. This is the day that enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas became aware of their freedom and the end of slavery. Juneteenth Day is often called Freedom Day or Liberation Day.
In 2021, one year after the murder of George Floyd, metro-Detroiters are continuing the conversations, meetings, protests, and commitments to challenge racism locally and “uncovering” local histories across our nation. Many caring and concerned people know about the last 50 years of discrimination in Oakland County; Few have looked deep enough into the 100-year history that began in 1921 in South Oakland County. Some want to challenge the systemic racism, restrictive policies relative to housing, schools, work, and policing of historic Royal Oak Township (Township).
It is 100 years after the massacre of more than 300 people of African ancestry by white mobs in the Greenwood area called Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On June 1, 2021, President Biden of the United States attended the 100 anniversary and named it a massacre of racist violence. This white rage, Jim Crow violence, has reached the national media agenda (documentaries, articles, CNN, NY Times, PBS, National Geographic). Most Americans are just learning this history. A history that ldocuments more than 100 similar massacres and thousands of lynching’s by white rage during the 20th century. While some Americans want to deny this history, ignore the truth, growing numbers of people say this is our American story. James Baldwin called this “the lie”, while others name it “the story told by White America.”
It was 100 years ago when another form of violence was unleashed in metro Detroit. In 1921, historic Royal Oak Township Michigan, which was created by Governor Cass in 1819 based upon seizing the land and the historic genocide of indigenous people. The Township was divided into 10 villages and cities. Whether intentional or silent ignorance this dismantling, marginalization, and forced segregation of 36 sq. miles of the Township, is now a .55 sq. mile remnant, with 2500 residents with a median income of $25,000; In comparison, Pleasant Ridge has $125,000 median income and was one of the 10.Thee Township and Pleasant Ridge are the size in population and geography. Royal Oak which was extracted from the historic RoyaL Oak Township in 1921 has an income of more than $80,000. This systemic anti-black racism began with the birth of the white suburbs in 1921.
According to founding member of Friends of Royal Oak Township, Inc., Brigitte Hall of Royal Oak Township: “The Township, located in South Oakland County, once included the land now occupied by the cities of Ferndale, Royal Oak, Pleasant Ridge, Huntington Woods, Oak Park, Berkley, Madison Heights, Hazel Park, Clawson, and currently, Royal Oak Charter Township.”
A story built into the founding of these cities in the 20th century hides untold truths driven by public desire of white people to create “safe, prosperous, comfortable, stories and suburban cities.” Systemic racism began decades before the federal policies of WWII. Attempts to damn people of African Ancestry into underdevelopment, destroy their sense of belonging, pride, dignity, and community was systematically accomplished through restrictive covenant laws, school segregation, housing zoning restrictions, limited or no benefits to the GI Bill, and multiple forms of annexation destroying tax base. Never mind the fact, more than 95% of Federal money between 1937 and the 1960s was loaned for the creation of the white suburbs to white folks, i.e., Birwood Wall story south of 8 Mile. The spirit and relationships within Current Royal Oak Township have never been broken. Sometimes silenced but never broken.
In 2021 our region and nation are choosing to face our history, not simply point fingers, or name-call but assume responsibility for truth telling so we can move forward and stop “fooling ourselves.” We fool ourselves because of a value gap that has placed the economic security and benefits of white people above the lives, dignity, voices, and economics of people of African ancestry. The violence of these massacres – whether in Chicago, Tulsa, DC or North Carolina, or the Township is often an easy way for many of us, particularly white folks, to ignore the violence. All the violence was for the same purpose. That is to say: “white folks’ lives matter more than black folks’ lives.” We believe we need to go back to 1921.
This is our time to reclaim our story, history, voices, and dignity. If you want more than band-aids and short-term solutions, join with the Friends of Royal Oak Township and the Truth Towards Reconciliation: “The Vision, Journey & Voices of Royal Oak Charter Township” initiative. Putting Black Lives Matter signs on our lawns, creating historic murals indicating African ancestry families and churches have resided in our area for more than 150 years is not enough. To create a new future together, as James Baldwin has often said: “American will not know its name until it knows my name.” Oakland County will not know its name and story until it knows the story of the Township.
It is with this in mind that we are currently creating a documentary film, a new narrative of truth, creating and encouraging every school district in the nine surrounding cities to leave behind the “simple stories of omission and denial.” We are creating public spaces and historic markers uplifting a comprehensive, inclusive story that leads us to a future of reconciliation. While we cannot change our history, we can change our responsibility for the future. It starts with Truth-Telling.
For more information: www.forot.org