Lawsuits target revised Detroit charter; Prop P backers call out Duggan 'voter suppression'

May 22, 2021, 12:39 PM

From left: charter commissioners Joanna Underwood and Barbara Wynder,  activist Brenda Hill, and commission vice chair Nicole Small. (Photo: Violet Ikonomova)

Backers of Detroit's proposed charter will have to overcome yet another hurdle as they seek voter approval for the revised guiding document.

The plan to provide a number of costly benefits to poorer residents has already been met with mayoral and gubernatorial opposition amid concerns its provisions violate state law or could plunge the city back into bankruptcy. Now a pair of lawsuits filed this week question whether it can even appear on the August ballot, despite approval from the city clerk and council president.

The lawsuits were filed on behalf of four Detroiters — some of whom have ties to the mayor and corporate community — by two of the city's high-price firms, according to The Detroit News.

Charter Revision Commission Chairwoman Carol Weaver issued a statement Thursday calling the lawsuits "attempts by Mayor Duggan and his circle to prevent Detroiters from having a say and voting on the revised charter that so many residents and community groups have been involved in crafting."

"The Mayor has gone to great lengths to suppress the vote of Detroiters and keep citizens from voting on their Charter," Weaver contends. "The Charter Commission is currently exploring our options to ensure that the revised charter appears on the Aug. 3rd ballot."

In response to Weaver's claims, John Roach, a spokesman for Duggan, said: "It's the governor's fault, it's the mayor's fault, it's the attorney general's fault. Every time the Charter Commission runs into problems with their own ineptitude, all they can ever do is blame somebody else."

It's the latest twist in an effort that began in 2018, when voters approved reopening the city's charter by a small margin, even though it was last updated in 2012 with those changes not yet fully realized due to a period of emergency management.

Last month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer "rejected" the draft document after the state attorney general's office and Detroit's number-crunchers found problems. The proposal can for now still appear on the ballot despite Whitmer's objections, and questions of legality can be addressed in advance via amendments (another was submitted last week, according to the News) or after it's approved.

It's not the job of the charter commission to fund its proposal. That falls to council and the mayor, who are in charge of the city's budget.

The revision is for now slated to appear on the ballot as Prop P.

Read more:  The Detroit News

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