Nearly 100,000 voters stepped up to support real community benefits
DETROIT – The grassroots community coalition Rise Together Detroit, managed to get almost 100,000 Detroiters to defend their right to negotiate community benefits when billionaires get massive public subsidies.
“We are emboldened knowing that more than 96,000 people said ‘yes’ to real community benefits and by the fact that we made community benefits part of the public conversation,” said Linda Campbell of Rise Together Detroit. “By definition, real community benefits means the community that is affected by a development project and that helps subsidize the developers has right to be at the table to negotiate a legal agreement for community benefits, a fair exchange.”
With few resources, the coalition relied on volunteers going door-to-door, social media and Election Day poll work to spread the message: “If we have to pay, we get a say. Vote yes on Proposal ‘A’.” There was no Proposal ‘B’ opposition ballot measure until the community gathered more than 5,000 signatures to an authentic community benefits measure on the ballot. It was then that Councilmember Scott Benson drafted an opposition proposal which required no vetting by Detroit voters. What Benson’s proposal did attract was corporate dark money.
“Our corporate opposition had deep pockets and used dark money to a fund signature challenges and expensive TV ads. But, we have deep and serious support in the community,” said Nicole Small of Rise Together Detroit. “Even though Prop A didn’t receive the majority votes to pass, our 46% share of the vote still represents a win. Our win was voter engagement and mobilization which is at the heart of the issue of community benefits. We look forward to working with Detroit City Council and our allies at UAW Region 1 and 1A and AFSCME Council 25 on supporting the needs of Detroiters and we will engage developers more determined to ensure that there is accountability and access.”
DEVELOPMENT IN DETROIT. WHO BENEFITS?
- For too long, the city has given our tax money and public resources to large developers who often harm our communities and leave us in worse condition than before they arrived. Marathon Oil is a great example
- For too long, corporate interest have superseded community interests and often displaced, disrupted, or caused harm to those existing communities. Marathon Oil is a great example of this.
- The old way of thinking got us the deal from Marathon, less than 25 jobs for Detroiters after a $175 million tax abatement.
- The old way of development allowed the Ilitch deal to happen before most people knew it was happening. The deal included public investment ($250 million dollars) and virtually free public land granted to the Ilitch family for the new hockey complex. (35 parcels of downtown land for $1 dollar )
- Now we hear that Dan Gilbert is demanding that the state provide similar public benefits to support his proposed downtown development with at least $500 million of public investment.
- In the meantime, 60% of our children 5 years or younger live in poverty; record numbers of Detroiters have lost their homes to foreclosure; and the real unemployment rate among Detroiters is unknown since so many have given up the hope of ever finding work.
NO MORE BUSINESS AS USUAL
- Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) puts community at the tablewith developers; if we invest in your project, you should invest in our communities – development should be a WIN-WIN for everyone. Thus our coalition name – Rise Together Detroit!
- CBAs can expand education, economic development, incentives for small business opportunities; affordable housing, and health and environmental protections for many Detroiters that are not presently benefiting from the new wave of investment in the city. CBAs bring us into a new way of thinking about the benefits of development.
- For more than two years, community groups worked with City Council in the hope that Council would pass a meaningful CBA ordinance that would ensure that Detroiters had a seat at the table when big developers got big public resources. Development projects of 15 million dollars or more and $300, 000 in public investment. Public investment can include resources like tax abatements; free land or land below market rates. If a developer does not accept public investment, there is no need for a community benefit agreement.
- The CBA Ordinance ballot initiative allows Detroiters to tell our local government that we deserve a seat at the table and want community benefit agreements with all large-scale developments that receive public investment.
- The CBA Ordinance engages residents in the decision-making process, and includes a legally binding contract that holds the developer accountable to the agreement negotiated between the developer and the community. City council has the power of review and approval of the agreement that is negotiated. Failure on the part of community and the developer to reach an agreement means the developer may seek a waiver from council. There is every incentive for community and the developer to work together in good faith and produce a worthwhile agreement.
COUNCIL CBA BALLOT COMPETES WITH COMMUNITY CBA BALLOT
- With the failure of city council to act on the proposed ordinance, In June, Rise Together Detroit, the city-wide CBA coalition representing over 100 community groups, collected over 5400 signatures of Detroit voters to get the Community Benefits Ordinance proposal on the November ballot therefore putting the question to Detroiters to decide.
- Detroit City Councilmember Scott Benson created an “Anti-Community” Benefits Ordinance proposal to compete with the community-led proposal. The Benson ballot proposal is said to be favored by the city administration.
- In July, Council voted 6-3 to move Scott Benson’s “Anti-Community” Benefit Ordinance toward the ballot in November to compete with the People’s Community Benefits Ordinance.
- We call Scott Benson’s Ordinance “Anti-Community” The purpose of a CBA is to hold large-scale developers legally accountable to the local residents. Benson’s proposal forbids legally binding contracts between the developer and community. It’s not a CBA if there is no legally binding contract between Community and the developers. Benson’s ballot proposal forbids a legally binding agreement. Community participation is reduced to the role of a Neighborhood Advisory Council only.
- Scott Benson’s “Anti-Community” Benefit Ordinance raises the total investment limit of new projects within the city. In the Citizens-led proposal, community establishes CBAs with developments over $15 million. This is a reasonable number based on the average of the most recent large scale development deals.
- Under Benson’s proposal, the project development level would be raised to $75 million dollars. Detroit has seen only ONE development exceed $75 million in the last decade. Under Benson’s proposal, CBAs will occur once every 10 years.
- Scott Benson’s “Anti-Community” Benefit Ordinance takes away the true community voice. City council and the Administration will hand-pick residents to represent the community to engage in the CBA negotiation process in six weeks.
- The community driven CBA relies on the skills and experience of a broad based community coalition to negotiate with the developers. The ordinance allows the developer and community to define the timeline for getting the negotiations done.
What comes next
In the next couple of weeks, both the Benson Anti Community benefit agreement and the community driven CBA proposal will go before the Detroit Election Commission.
The Election Commission will decide if one or both of the proposed CBA ballot ordinances is lawful and will appear on the November ballot.
Follow the Rise Together Detroit Campaign on our website at http://risetogetherdetroit.com
“If we have to pay, we get a say!”