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New Detroit

There is a plan for Detroit and its outline is beginning to emerge. The executors are Gov. Rick Snyder and former Democratic candidate for governor and current state treasurer Andy Dillon.

The Republican legislature is on board. And since council and the mayor signed away much of their authority with the Consent Agreement, there are few stops. In upcoming years, look for Lansing to guide the resources and policy in Detroit. Detroit officials are left to react or work in tandem with the all-out assault on representation and self-determination.

In 2010, when word of shrinking the city first became public and the newly formed Detroit Works Project (DWP) held public forums, Mayor Dave Bing warned us: There will be “winners and losers.”

We see the strategy play out in HB 5688, or the Public Lighting bills. According to the Consent Agreement, city services — including public lighting, specifically — will be improved. As a result, a number of lighting authority plans are being floated in Lansing, Rep. Maureen Stapleton’s bill among them.

The bills essentially concentrate millions in tax dollars and bond money into an authority that will actually reduce the number of lights in Detroit. Following a Detroit Works Project plan (funded by a loose, unnamed association of foundations and nonprofits), it appears the authority will allocate light to what DWP has already identified as the most-stable neighborhoods.

Please note: There have been no public hearings, no City Council insight and little Detroit representation. Lansing and representatives who may have never even visited the city will determine public lighting in Detroit.

Unfortunately, like most plans for Detroit, the exact architects are unknown and this appears to be our future. Power and resources will increasingly be amassed in nonprofits, authorities and other quasi- or non-governmental entities or as directed by the state capitol. Funds will be managed outside the benefit of the Freedom of Information Act or other transparency protections available in government as we knew it.

Let’s assume the losers, many of which are our most vulnerable citizens, will lose even more. Detroit and state officials, as policy, will force relocation by starving citizens of resources.

Plans for Detroit come with the promise of improved services but it is not clear how or if that is possible or even, truly, part of the plan.

Downtown and midtown Detroit will be a nice place to live. However, the future of the neighborhoods, where the majority of Detroiters inhabit, is not looking good.

Call your state reps today. Begin to meet with them and get to know who they are. Learn about the representatives running in your new district, now that lines have been redrawn.

It is yet to be determined where this great public policy experiment — the new statewide school district, elimination of city departments, formation of authorities, revocation of elected officials’ power and further outsourcing and privatization — will leave the vast majority of city residents. We aren’t too optimistic that most, if any at all, will even have a say.

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