Detroit city councilors call  for a 'people's agenda'  
Editor's note: The following description of recent events in Detroit was  
submitted by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO).
Statement from  the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization

Detroit Mayor Kwame  Kilpatrick gave his "State of the City"' speech March 
22. He was met with a  protest by the organized sector of the city employees and 
other organizations,  such as the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. Some 
City Council members  boycotted the speech. The mayor's speech was no more 
than a political speech for  reelection. He attacked the City Council members who 
have fought against layoffs  of city employees and cutbacks in transportation 
and other badly needed  services. He has supported an increase in the cost of 
water, which has resulted  in some 40,000 Detroit residents having their 
water cut off between July 1,  2001, and June 30, 2002. The neighborhoods are dark 
because of the lack of city  lighting, and Detroit lighting workers have 
complained that all they need is  equipment to light the city up. Mayor Kilpatrick 
wants to privatize the Lighting  Department. He has supported Detroit Water 
and Sewage Dept. Director Victor  Mercado in outsourcing different jobs of the 
Water Dept., which has resulted in  a great number of layoffs of city 
employees. The mayor has not built any low  income homes in the city, just homes 
starting at some $190,000 for one bedroom.  Homelessness is on the increase, but 
the City of Detroit is not trying to  eliminate the problem by providing 
affordable homes.

We are proud of the  City Council members who boycotted the mayor's address. 
They have said "it is  not business as usual." Excerpts from their press 
release are reprinted  below.

We have decided to run our own candidate to help those council  members who 
have been fighting in our interest, i.e. the working class. That  candidate is 
the grassroots candidate, Maureen Taylor of Detroit, who is  president of the 
MWRO. Maureen has been one of the people in the forefront of  the fight for 
water. The MWRO, with a few other organizations, has submitted a  "waterization" 
plan to the Detroit Water and Sewage Dept. The department has  been studying 
the plan for the last 2 1/2 months. Maureen Taylor can help the  City Council 
to balance the budget in a more humane way.

A  Legislative Response to the Mayor's ŒState of the City'  Address

From a Press Release By Detroit City Council President  Maryann Mahaffey and 
Council Members Sharon McPhail, Barbara Rose-Collins and  JoAnn Watson.

We join with the mayor in working together to heal  our city's spiritŠ.But 
the time has come for us to join hands and pledge  cooperation and collaboration 
with all the people. We join with the mayor, City  Council colleagues, city 
workers, union brothers and sisters, and tax paying  residents in a pledge to 
put forth a people's plan for the City of  DetroitŠ.

The voters have made crystal clear they want safe streets,  lighted 
neighborhoods, bus service that works, quality education and  jobsŠ.

We agree with the mayor that the present state of the city can be  partially 
attributed to forces outside of our control. At the federal level,  precious 
resources are being used to fund a protracted, disastrous and costly  war and 
to provide tax loopholes for the top 1 percent of the wealthy few,  instead of 
funding people's programs in the cities where they live.

At  the state level, it is estimated that closing the tax loopholes for 
wealthy  businesses would guarantee a state surplus. Cuts in revenue sharing and 
income  tax rates have surely hurt Detroit's ability to provide for the  peopleŠ.

Mr. Mayor, we are calling for a People's Agenda. We want to see  a vision and 
plan for a budget that meets the people's needs.

We believe  a budget can be balanced that protects the quality of life for 
all Detroiters  without draconian cuts in services and health care. We believe 
our government  can do more with less and still not balance the budget on the 
backs of our city  workers and low income tax paying familiesŠ.

We are calling for a budget  that prioritizes using our preciously scarce 
resources to turn streetlights back  on in our neighborhoods,Šsubsidizing low 
income housing, and fixing up  neighborhood recreation centers.

We want to see the plan for  strengthening the ability of our city workers to 
obtain the equipment and tools  they need in order to keep all of our buses 
running on time, so that people can  get to and from their jobs and medical 

We want a budget  that calls for spending our resources on prioritizing city 
services for the  people, not on providing money for friends on contracts that 
outsource city  jobs, with little to no management oversight on quality and 
spending. It is time  to treat our city workers as our partners instead of 
simply "costs" that need to  be controlled.

Too many people in our city have incomes at or below the  federal poverty 
level. We want a plan and vision to prioritize our city budget  to meet their 
needs. We are calling for the immediate implementation of a water  affordability 
plan, as has already been proposed, that would guarantee that no  child and no 
senior ever has to live without enjoying their basic right to  water.

We want an affordable housing strategy and plan that prioritizes  selling 
city owned land to nonprofits based on value for value, which will  guarantee 
long term affordability for low income families. We want a housing  plan that is 
not developer driven, but driven by people's needs for quality,  affordable 
housing so that the people who have already invested in our city stay  in our 
great city.

The Detroit City Council has worked with the mayor and  approved the city's 
conceptual plans for Fox Creek. But we join with the entire  East Side 
community in calling for a commitment to building 20 percent low  income housing in 
each sector, not just market rate housing.

We are  calling for a Detroit Land Bank that is governed by Detroit citizens, 
Detroit  taxpayers and Detroit registered voters that ensures city owned land 
will be  accessible to Detroiters and used to provide affordable housing, not 
displace  anyone.

We are calling for a real plan to reduce crime. We are calling  for the mayor 
to give us the real facts about crime in this city, and to have a  realistic 
plan for reducing the intolerable rates of homicide, drug use, drug  related 
crimes and violent crime that plague our neighborhoods. Do we need to be  
funding a Homeland Security Department instead of using those funds to  strengthen 
the ability of our own police department to handle our security and  safety 

We are calling for creative approaches to making sure our  children receive 
quality education services. Our city resources should target  recreation 
centers and after school programs, where our city's future can  receive the support 
and help they need to ensure that they reach their highest  potential to 
excel. We should not be focusing on devoting time and energy for  charter schools, 
but on strengthening our neighborhood public schools where the  people live. 
At the same time that we develop family fun centers, we need to  make sure that 
our neighborhood recreation centers are open and fully available  to the 
children that live near them - for free.

We applaud plans to  provide for sorely needed property tax relief. But, we 
need to develop real  plans, right now, to provide relief for homeowners 
threatened with foreclosures  and evictions. We need to double our efforts to 
provide resources and assistance  to people to file for hardship exemptions. We are 
calling upon the mayor to  support our proposed ordinance to prevent 
foreclosures and for an anti-predatory  lending ordinance - now!

We are calling for the mayor's support on  legislation to more aggressively 
link tax abatements granted to businesses with  providing jobs and job training 
for Detroiters.

We want real stuff - not  fluff - for the majority of our city's residents. 
We are calling upon the mayor  to join us, right here, right now, in developing 
a realistic budget that meets  people's needs for affordable housing, access 
to health care, working  streetlights, fully funded bus transportation and 
recreation centers, and jobs  for Detroiters.

This article originated in the  People's Tribune (Online Edition), Vol. 31 
No. 9 / October, 2004; P.O. Box 3524,  Chicago, IL 60654, _http://www.lrna.org_ 
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