Thursday, June 11, 2009

Our Response to Criticism of Charter Revision Process is to be Careful Whom Detroit Elects to the Charter Revision Commission and as City Clerk!

The Michigan Citizen recently ran an article entitled "Charter Election Illegal?" in which the author, Diane Bukowski, and a Detroit resident, Joyce Moore, question whether or not the process by which the Charter Commission was placed on the ballot complies with the Michigan Home Rule City Act and the relevant Detroit City Charter provisions. Ms. Moore, who happens to be running for the office of Detroit City Clerk against incumbent Janice Winfrey and Michael Stephen Ri'chard (a fact that should have been reported by the Citizen in the interests of good journalism and full disclosure) accuses the City Council and the Clerk of "overruling the Charter." She and other unnamed "vocal community leaders" claim that Charter section 9-403 says that the only time the question of a Charter Revision may be put to the voters is a gubernatorial election year, and as a result, that the May 5 ballot question, Proposal C, is invalid. This conclusion is just plain not correct and relies on a completely incorrect reading of both the Charter and the state law. Ms. Bukowski & Ms. Moore both fail to understand statutory interpretation. The sentence from the Charter section 9-403 that describes when a question of when the Charter shall be revised and that is quoted in the Citizen article ends with "and may be submitted as other times as provided by law." This is the very language on which the Detroit City Council correctly relied, in addition to the complementary provisions of Section 118 of the Home Rule City Act, in passing the resolution to place the question of Charter Revision on the May 5 Special Election ballot.

Ms. Moore and her supporters claim that the Charter provision in 9-403 and the words "...unless otherwise provided by a charter..." in Section 18 of the Home Rule City Act conflict. If they did, Ms. Moore's claim that the Charter provisions would allow Detroit to vote on a charter revision at the 2010 gubernatorial primary would be totally incorrect, if her reading of the statues were correct, that would mean that the City of Detroit could not create a new Charter Revision Commission until 2018, or every 4th gubernatorial primary thereafter. This reading of the Michigan Law and the Charter is very badly confused. The only possible logical reading of the inclusion in the Charter of the words "and may be submitted at other times as provided by law" is that the Charter clearly permits other legal means of instituting a Charter Revision process and therefore, since the Council followed the requirements of Section 118 of the Michigan Home Rule City Act in placing Proposal C on the ballot, the Current Charter Reform Process is not illegal and the arguments of Ms. Moore and Ms. Bukowski fail on this point.

This fact should be very important to Detroit voters because Ms. Moore was a member of the Charter Revision Commission in 1996, and 13 years later, she is still not reading the Charter correctly. She is also running for City Clerk, and above all things, it is the job of the City Clerk to be able to read and comply with the Charter. Is Ms. Moore really against Charter Reform, or is it possible that she stirred up this controversy to get some traction against the incumbent Clerk? We can never know for sure.

Let this little incident be an advisory to Detroit voters, PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT THE PEOPLE WHOM YOU ELECT TO THE CHARTER REVISION COMMISSION HAVE THE SKILLS & ABILITIES NEEDED TO CORRECTLY READ THE CHARTER & RELATED STATE LAWS. And while you are at it, make sure that your choice for City Clerk knows how to read the Charter, too. Competence is a beautiful thing in an elected official, let's make sure we get more of that in Detroit soon!

Tonya Myers Phillips is Running for the Charter Commission


Tonya Phillips, Esq. is an attorney with a passion for using her legal talent to improve her community. She is a small business owner, founding Vision Legal Services P.L.L.C. in 2004 to represent small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and individuals. Ms. Phillips provides legal services to a number of institutions including ShoreBank Enterprises, the Detroit Association of Black Organizations, and the Detroit Entrepreneurship Institute. Ms. Phillips regularly sits on small business and community panels to share her expertise with the community.

Ms. Phillips has experience working with municipal law and the Charter in particular. She worked with the Detroit City Council and its Special Counsel William Goodman to analyze and interpret the Council's removal and forfeiture powers under the Detroit City Charter. Ms. Phillips also worked with a the Guild Law Center and the Detroit City Council to strengthen the investigatory and enforcement provisions of the Detroit Living Wage Ordinance which mandates workers be paid a "living wage" for the services on high-value city contracts.

Tonya Phillips was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Ms. Phillips attended Detroit Public Schools and graduated with honors from Renaissance High School. Ms. Phillips received her bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of Michigan. She also went on to attend and receive her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. Ms. Phillips was honored with the Distinguished Young Lawyer Award in 2006 from the Wolverine Bar Association.

Ms. Phillips currently serves as the Secretary of the Wolverine Bar Association, and sits on the Board of Directors for Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, the Village Gardeners, and People Actively Taking Chance to Help Educate Society (P.A.T.C.H.E.S), and is a member of the Detroit Branch NAACP.

Contact: 313-779-9357

Monday, May 11, 2009

On Tuesday May 12th nominating petitions for candidates for the Charter Revision Commission must be turned in and the tough work of campaigning for the office will begin. Detroiters should think long and hard about whom they want sitting at the table: representing them, listening to their testimony and then debating and documenting the finer points of city government structure. Charter Commissioners should be legal and policy experts who can rationally evaluate government structures. The last time Detroit had a Charter Revision Commission, from 1994-1997, Commissioners were paid $75 per meeting for up to 100 meetings over the course of 3 years. That is a maximum of $7500 for three years of meetings, not counting many more hours reading, researching and preparing for each of those meetings. Its not glamorous or well-paying work, but it is very important work that can create permanent and positive change for Detroit, if it is done well. The Charter is the document that creates the structure of our local government. When creating a government, people make the most fundamental decisions, how much power should they grant to the government to act on their behalf and what are the limits and protections against abuses of that power? Detroit's current style of government is known as a "strong mayor" system with an at-large city council. Over the next six months, we hope that you will use this blog to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Detroit's current system and to get to know the candidates who are running to serve Detroit on the Charter Revision Commission.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cara Blount, Candidate for Charter Revision Commission

Candidate for
Detroit Charter Commission

Cara Blount joined the Detroit Police Department in 1977 and worked patrol in the Thirteenth (Woodward) Precinct until her promotion to sergeant in 1986. She then worked at the Eighth (Grand River) Precinct, Mini Station Section, Detroit Metropolitan Police Academy and the Personnel Bureau. In 1994, she was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and assigned to the Fifth (Jefferson) Precinct.

In 1995, she became commanding officer of the Tactical Operations Section (Tac Ops) where she maintained responsibility for all major city events. During her four years at Tac Ops, she was instrumental in the success of the Grand Prix, Thunderfest Boat Races, Thanksgiving Day Parades and the Red Wings Victory Parades. She was responsible for logistical planning and implementation for the visits of President William Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Mrs. Gore, the Armenian Pope, Michael Jackson, and Winnie Mandela. She was also instrumental in the successful planning and logistics for the funerals of former Mayor Coleman A. Young and Father William Cunningham. In July, 1998, Lieutenant Blount was appointed to the rank of Inspector.

In 1999, she was appointed Commander of the Twelfth Precinct, with responsibility for all patrol, investigative, community relations and personnel functions.

On July 21, 2002, Commander Blount was appointed Deputy Chief in charge of the Western Operations Bureau, an area with a population of more than 500,000 citizens and more than 1200 sworn and civilian employees. She remained in charge of Westside patrol operations until July, 2003 when she was appointed as the Detroit Police Department’s first Compliance Coordinator in charge of the Civil Rights Integrity Bureau. In that capacity, she was the liaison between the City of Detroit, the Detroit Police Department, a court-ordered monitor and the United States Department of Justice.

In January, 2004, she became commanding officer of the Central Services Bureau, with oversight of all major investigative units including Homicide, Sex Crimes, Gang Squad, Armed Robbery, Narcotics and Vice. She retired from the Detroit Police Department in March, 2005.

Cara earned her B.A. in Sociology from the University of Detroit in 1974 and an M.S. in Criminal Justice at Wayne State University in 1999. She was also an adjunct instructor at Wayne County Community College in 1991—1996 and Wayne State University, 2000 –2003.

She and her husband Michael, a retired Detroit Police sergeant, have lived in Detroit all their lives. They have four children and five grandchildren.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kicker Cards Available For Pickup NOW!!!

Please help us get out the word!!! Kicker Card Pick Up Locations: WESTSIDE: Eric's I've Been Framed Shop is located in Detroit, MI , at 16527 Livernois Ave, between McNichols and Puritan.: Store hours are Tuesday through Friday 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturdays noon to 6:00 p.m.

DOWNTOWN: the Inside Detroit Welcome Center, 1253 Woodward, Detroit, MI 48226. They are in the ground floor of the Lofts of Merchant's Row. Hours: 11-6 Monday-Saturday.

Detroit News Editorial Says Vote Yes on Proposal C.

The Detroit News editorial board has taken a bold step in support of reform and has called for voters to VOTE YES ON PROPOSAL C. The News points out that a Charter Revision Commission allows voters to participate in the reform process from beginning to end, first by passing Proposal C, next by electing Charter Commissioners who believe in stronger ethical standards, more accountability and creating more opportunities for citizens to have an equal standing before their government, by participating in public hearings that the Commissioners will hold once they are elected and then finally by voting again on the new Charter that the Commissioners will prepare. Council by Districts is just one of many reforms that can result from a Charter Revision Commission, so to start the process, Detroiters need to VOTE YES ON PROPOSAL C. Read more here: Editorial: Fix the Charter

Kicker Cards Available For Pickup NOW!!!

May 5 is Fast approaching, help us to get out the word about Proposal C by distributing our kicker cards, you can pick them up at the following locations:

WESTSIDE: Eric's I've Been Framed Shop is located in Detroit, MI , at 16527 Livernois Ave, between McNichols and Puritan.: Store hours are Tuesday through Friday 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturdays noon to 6:00 p.m.

DOWNTOWN: the Inside Detroit Welcome Center, 1253 Woodward, Detroit, MI 48226. They are in the ground floor of the Lofts of Merchant's Row. Hours: 11-6 Monday-Saturday.

If these places and times don't work, send us an email at and we'll make some other arrangments to get cards into your hands. Thanks for helping reform Detroit!