Letter: The problem of community distrust


Re: Scott Benson’s August 25 column “The way forward for community proposals”: Councilman Benson’s Proposal B ignores Detroiters’ distrust of elected officials. And given the city’s history with public money and private projects—corruption, incompetence, and broken promises—skepticism is warranted.

Proposal B’s minimal community input and reliance on mayoral appointees for oversight and enforcement should give voters pause.

Consider community representation, which under Proposal B takes the form of a nine-member Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAC) drawn from a pool nominated by residents of the proposed development area. Seven of the nine members are selected by the Planning Director and members of city council.

This minimal level of community engagement is only required for projects in excess of $75 million with more than $1 million in public support (Tier 1). The amount to require community engagement under Proposal A is $35 million. In Detroit, few projects approach $75 million.

Councilman Benson criticized Proposal A for allowing the community to enforce agreements. But enforcement by the community doesn’t equate to litigation “fraught with costs and time delays” anymore than enforcement by the city does.

Proposal A is not perfect; few laws are. But it addresses the problem of community distrust and empowers Detroiters in an area where our elected representatives have failed us.

Eric Williams, assistant law professor

Wayne State University