PEOPLE’S PLAN VS. ORR’S
Groups present People’s Plan
By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen
A coalition of 38 Detroit organizations joined by citizens, retirees and activists presented a “People’s Plan for Restructuring toward a Sustainable Detroit” at a press conference Feb. 24. The plan envisions financial security and quality community life with details on how to get there.
“Detroit’s rebirth will be the result of the people’s unrelenting demand for democratic self-governance, equal access to and management of the natural and economic resources of the city,” the plan states.
As the coalition distributed copies of the People’s Plan, spokespersons hammered Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s plan.
“Their plan is inhumane, inequitable, unfair,” said Rev. Charles Williams, president of Michigan Chapter of National Action Network. “We are resisting the emergency manager’s plan and promoting our own plan.”
Williams said legal objections will be filed against Orr’s plan. Meanwhile, work on the people’s plan continues.
Prepared by Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management (D-REM), the people’s plan is a working document that “will change and grow as our community responds to the political and social conditions of Detroit,” states version one of the plan. “We want community groups, block clubs and just people to take this and begin to discuss it,” said D-REM member Shea Howell.
To begin that process, the coalition has planned a community meeting for March 2, at Central United Methodist on Woodward at Adams, at 3 p.m., for all those interested to come together to begin strategizing ways to implement the People’s Plan and stop the Orr plan.
Detroiters have the moral authority to plan for their city, according to Monica Lewis Patrick, “We have paved the way, stayed and weathered the storms.”
Saying “retirees are being scapegoated,” retiree Cecily McClellan reminded listeners that former Mayor Dave Bing had privatized the health department. McClellan said she was one of hundreds forced to take early retirement after that decision.
Three hundred of those jobs are now down in Wyandotte, she said, while Detroit retirees are facing the loss of up to a third of their pensions. Their health care is already gone, reduced to $125 a month stipend.
Julie Hurwitz, National Lawyers Guild, said the auto industry must be held accountable for its role in the destruction of the city, the lack of mass transit and suburban sprawl.
She said Orr and his former employer, law firm Jones Day who will reap most of the $95 million in city funds being spent on the bankruptcy, have used valuable public resources to block community efforts in the court to restore democracy in the city.
“They are ripping the constitution right out from under us,” she said, “putting roadblocks in the courts.”
She said the Emergency Manager law and the bankruptcy violate basic First Amendment rights, the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection and the Thirteenth Amendment ban on slavery since what Snyder and Orr are doing “invokes vestiges of slavery.”
The People’s Plan lists these steps to financial security:
– Laws to require automatic payroll deduction and mandatory withholding for all people working in the 22 cities with local income tax.
– State must restore fully funded revenue sharing to all cities and act as a partner in urban development.
– Hiring of an effective, efficient federal grants management officer to take advantage of existing federal programs.
– Establish a reliable system to collect property taxes.
– Commitment by businesses in the city to hire local people and use local goods and services.
– Bank of America, UBS and any other Wall Street firms must terminate toxic interest rate swaps without penalties to the city or further payment. These banks should repay $250 million to the city they collected based on illegal interest rate swaps and the $500 million to DWSD.
-All vacant properties owned by banks should be assessed an annual $1000 annual fee.
– Budget concerns must emphasize eliminating the budget shortfall of $198 million rather than continually targeting the questionable figures relied on by the EM to justify his actions based on inflated long term debt.
– Hold harmless the pensioners with no cuts at all and medical benefits restored.
To improve community life the People’s Plan says the city council must enact legislation to:
– Support urban homesteading, enabling people to legally move into abandoned structures and restore them. Using existing nuisance abatement laws would benefit Detroiters far more than “throwing massive resources into blight removal, without adequate plans for community-based economic redevelopment.”
– Restore the dollar-a-lot program.
– Establish rent control.
– Establish land trusts as equitable development alternatives for citizens.
– Introduce place-based education for all ages coming together to revitalize the city.
– Adopt community-based and transit-oriented economic development policies.
– Increase quality and quantity of bus service.
– Stop and roll back privatization of essential government services that enrich corporate cronies without improving performance.
The plan provides steps to restore democracy and self-government:
– Fulfill charter requirements to establish Citizens Advisory Councils.
– Return Detroit Public Schools and the seized EAA buildings to control of the democratically-elected school board.
– Guarantee transparent, public and open decision-making.
– Require enforceable Community Benefit Agreements that are accountable to those most affected by corporate economic development.
– Establish participatory budgeting within communities, neighborhoods and block clubs.
– Establish a public interest bank to secure finances.
– Subject tax-free philanthropic special interests to democratic control and community accountability.
The plan’s provisions for the development and welfare of city youth:
– Restore art, music and the full range of creative and recreational activities within our schools.
– Open 24-hour recreation centers for youth.
– Enact legislation providing free access to Belle Isle for city residents under 25.
– Ensure per pupil funding for Detroit students equal to that of the wealthier school districts.
The plan also provides an analysis of the city’s current financial crisis, discusses the “crucial questions of debt and effective representation. The plan arrives at the “Conclusion: Detroit Lives!”
Those interested in reading the People’s Plan can find a link at www.michigancitizen.com.