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Dueling community benefits proposals on Nov. 8 ballot

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city’s Election Commission on Tuesday approved dueling ordinance proposals for the Nov. 8 ballot that seek certain protections for the community as part of large-scale development projects.

A community-driven community benefits agreement will be listed on the ballot as Proposal A, while a second community benefits plan approved by Detroit’s City Council will appear as Proposal B. If both pass, whichever proposal receives the most votes in November would be put into place.

Both proposals would require developers with major investments or who seek certain tax subsidies to provide community benefits, such as job opportunities or affordable housing.

But the ordinances differ on enforcement, levels of investment and city involvement.

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, who is a member of the Election Commission, said having two community benefits proposals on the ballot could create challenges for voters. Elections officials, she said, will do what they can to educate voters on the language of each measure through election newsletters and outreach.

“It could potentially be very confusing for the voter because it’s two community benefits agreements. Period,” said Winfrey, noting she’s not previously seen this type of dueling ballot initiatives. “Education will be key. The voter has to determine which of the two they prefer.”

The council plan requires developers to provide community benefits for projects worth at least $75 million or for those that would expand or renovate structures where a developer seeks city-owned land or tax breaks of at least $1 million.

The grassroots plan, led by Rise Together Detroit, calls for developers to provide community benefits if their projects have a public and/or private investment of more than $15 million or they're seeking a tax break from the city of at least $300,000.

The three-person Detroit Election Commission also includes Council President Brenda Jones, Detroit Corporation Counsel Melvin Butch Hollowell. The commission voted 3-0 Tuesday in favor of putting the community ordinance proposal before voters. Jones cast the sole no vote on the council benefits initiative.

The community-led plan mirrors an ordinance previously proposed by Jones, who spearheaded the overall effort years ago in hopes of guaranteeing a voice for the community with major development projects. Jones’ office previously said the council president was disappointed with the most recent council ordinance plan. During a July council meeting, she, Mary Sheffield and Raquel Castaneda-Lopez voted against having it added to the ballot.

A city voter could vote yes on both community benefits proposals, say no to both, or vote one up and the other down.

Separately, the elections commission also certified 64 candidates to run for the new Detroit Public Schools Community District.

The field of contenders, which includes former board members, parents and educators, will vie for seven seats and be elected districtwide for a term that begins in January.

The group that emerges from the election will choose a superintendent for the new Detroit school system created by the state Legislature as part of a $617 million package to rescue the debt-laden Detroit Public Schools.

The top two votegetters will serve six-year terms, the next three will serve four-year terms, and the remaining two will serve two-year terms. After the terms of the initial elected board, the new district school board members will be elected to four-year terms.

School board candidates

Rita McFadden Carpenter

Annie Carter

Keith Linnaeus Whitney

Tonya Renay Wells

Reverend D. Murray

Stephen Czapski

Renae A. Micou

Angelique Nicole Peterson-Mayberry

Andrew Jackson Jr.

Gwendolyn Britt

Kevin Turman

Elena Herrada

Tawanna Simpson

Deborah Hunter-Harvill

John Telford

Ronald Diebel

Markita Meeks

Christopher Pompey

Victor B. Gibson

Nicole Latrice Vaughn

Mary Kovari

Joann Jackson

Ryan Charles Mack

Wanda Redmond

Tamara Perrin

Charles M. Hale

Anthony Zander

Ben Washburn

Misha Stallworth

Ingrid Walton

Normal Galvan

Kathy Montgomery

Iris A. Taylor

Yolanda Y. Peoples

Miriam Keyes

Valerie Elaine Massey

Sonya Mays

LaMar Lemmons

Betty J. Alexander

Karen White

Kimberly R. Jones

Juvette Hawkins-Williams

Ida Carol Short

Aaron Renaldo Smith

Patricia Johnson Singleton

Herman L. Davis

Ryan Townsend

Theresa Mattison

Charmaine D. Johnson

Carol Pratt Farver

Phillip Caldwell II

Victor D. Robinson

Valencia Robin Grier

Leslie Andrews

Vonetta D. Clark

Ryan Clayton Williams

Georgia Lemmons

Penny Bailer

Phyllis Berry

Robert Earl Thomas

Mary Brenda T. Smith

Willetta Ann Ramey

Brandon Brice

Steven Miller