When Detroit, Michigan voters head to the polls for next Tuesday’s primary, they will decide on a referendum concerning a major proposed revision of the city charter, which would institute numerous left-wing programs and reforms.
The ballot item, known as “Proposal P,” provides for the creation of a new “Task Force on Reparations and African American Justice,” an “Office of Economic Justice and Consumer Empowerment,” a “Department of Environmental Justice and Sustainability” and an “Office of Immigrant Affairs,” among other new government offices.
Proposal P’s presence on the ballot this year had been uncertain until the Michigan Supreme Court determined Thursday that it will remain. At issue was whether the Detroit Charter Revision Commission, which drafted the proposal, can submit such an initiative without the governor’s approval. A Wayne County Circuit Court and a state Court of Appeals ruled that the commission may not but the state’s high court differed.
Elements of the initiative would entail an income-calibrated fare schedule for public transit, water-bill payment assistance, increased housing assistance, and progressive property-tax relief. Proposal P would also allow binding arbitration for all municipal labor negotiations and impose pro-union “responsible contracting” rules for public projects.
The proposal’s opponents, including even many Democrats like Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Mayor Mike Duggan, have warned it threatens to bankrupt the city. A fiscal impact analysis performed by the city’s chief financial officer that was published in April corroborates this concern.
“The Draft Revised Charter would cost $2 billion over 4 years by imposing 65 provisions with new mandates that increase expenses or reduce revenues,” the analysis stated. “There are no provisions that would reduce expenses or grow revenues.”
According to the document, the $2 billion projected quadrennial price tag would mean cutting all city services and major amenities including police, firefighters, and parks.
“We would be on the road to a second bankruptcy,” the analysis admonished. The city had previously gone bankrupt in 2013.
Also controversial are the proposal’s implications for criminal-justice policy. The charter revisions would constrain the city’s use of surveillance technology, permit the city council to participate in choosing the chief of police, and deprive police officers of “qualified immunity,” a doctrine protecting government officials from lawsuits.
Many current and former law-enforcement officials have publicly opposed Proposal P, including state Attorney General Dana Nessel (D), former city Police Chief Ike McKinnon, and Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association President Mark Young.
Supporters of the initiative include International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 58, Black Lives Matter Detroit, the liberal advocacy group Detroit Action, and City Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López (D-District 6).
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