Letter: Support the real community benefits ordinance

Detroit voters may recall an incident during Mayor Mike Duggan’s election in which someone who didn’t want Duggan elected wrote-in a name on the ballot that was very similar to Duggan’s.

It was a foolish and unethical ploy but, ironically, corporate interests have pushed the Duggan administration and a few City Council supporters to use the same tactic to keep a real community benefits ordinance from ever becoming law.

The Duggan administration has shaped and supported an ordinance that allows mega-corporations to use public money and resources for private profit with no legal agreements that Detroiters will get anything in return and no meaningful consultation with the community. This is in direct opposition to the Community Benefits Ordinance that more than 5,000 Detroit voters want to appear on the ballot in November.

The real community benefits ordinance from Rise Together Detroit will level the playing field between billionaire developers and the families whose tax dollars the billionaires want to use. Our slogan is: “If we have to pay, we get a say.” That means, for example, Little Caesars Pizza founder Mike Ilitch would not have gotten the billionaire’s discount to build his stadium: millions of dollars of land for one dollar and no written agreement for fair exchange for that and other massive public subsidies.

The very basis for the language of Rise Together Detroit’s proposal was hammered out over months with input from Detroit residents, the business community, City Council Members, and Detroit’s Legal Department. That particular proposal was stonewalled by members of Council’s Planning and Development Committee. After months of meetings with the Council’s Committee, some running over 8 hours, we decided to take the issue to Detroit voters. About 5,400 voters agreed to put the real community benefits ordinance on the ballot.

That brings us to where we are today. It appears there will be two ordinances on the ballot with the words “community benefits” on them. But one of them is fake just like the “Mike Dugeon” that was on the ballot a few years ago to confuse voters.

The fake ordinance has no enforcement provisions or legal framework. The real, grassroots community benefits ordinance from Rise Together Detroit sets up an open, transparent framework where developers and community members come to legally binding agreements for fair exchange when we give big subsidies to billionaires.

George Gaines, Detroit