Stir It Up
Hard work in Detroit revising a charter, rethinking jobs
Published: October 26, 2011
That isn't so settled in Kenyatta's mind, for one. "What the charter calls for is the city to investigate," he says. "We haven't had an opinion by the attorney general. No opinion by a court. It could be done by the city, or a nonprofit established for redress or relief on the part of our citizens for a better insurance solution. I think that's one of the more progressive parts of the revised charter. ... It doesn't mandate that we own an insurance company. I don't know why anybody would be opposed to that."
It could be a bit of vote-bait. But high home and auto insurance rates are an albatross around the necks of city dwellers, effectively an added tax, and a big reason why some people won't live here. I don't know why it has to be in the charter, but again, it doesn't hurt.
The impetus for the charter revision was the Kwame Kilpatrick text-messaging scandal. City Council wasn't able to remove him from office and — specifically to address that issue — put the question of a new Charter Commission on the May 2009 special election ballot. Voters approved the proposal. In November 2009, voters approved a proposal to elect City Council by districts, which mandated a change in the charter. There are 144 changes in the proposed document, many grammatical, but there are also substantive and deep changes in the way we do things. You can find the revised charter at publius.org, which has commentary after every change explaining the differences with the past charter. The CFDF web site, cfdfuture.com, has links to the full current charter and the revised charter and its arguments for a "no" vote.
"I think that the citizens have to look at the charter from the perspective of whether or not it means better government for them, not if it benefits me as a councilperson or as a mayor," Kenyatta says. "Does it allow an individual to have a government and participate in government from a better position than now? I think that there are clearly some positive progressive steps forward. It is not 100 percent."
The November election will probably be a very low-turnout affair in Detroit. We're not voting for mayor or any key elected official, and there is little discussion about the election in the media. That makes it possible that a small but dedicated group could swing the election.
If it doesn't pass, we'll be voting on the City Charter again in February.
There is no such thing as a perfect document that's going to make everybody happy. Try to learn as much as you can about it and vote. We could be rolling sevens or setting ourselves up for a seven-year itch.
What is work?
Presently jobs, or the lack thereof, are the biggest issue dogging the run for next year's presidential election. Jobs were also central in the UAW's recent contract negotiations with the Detroit automakers. That is deservedly so, but a deeper discussion about the nature of work beyond something we do for money grew out of last year's United States Social Forum. That discussion is getting bigger with the Re-Imagining Work conference held at Detroit's Focus Hope Oct. 28-30.
"How do we do the kind of daily activity that grows our souls so that we don't have to make up for the indignities of our labor?" asks activist-philosopher Grace Boggs. That question is the starting point for activists from Detroit and elsewhere over the weekend.
"The spirit that informs this gathering is the sense that we're in a real paradigm shift economically, politically and spiritually," says writer (and former UAW spokesman) Frank Joyce, who will speak at the conference. "The event is one of hope and looking forward in contrast to a lot of what I personally think is people looking backward trying to re-create the way things used to be as opposed to the way things need to be and can be right now."—L.G.
Registration information is available at reimaginingwork.org.
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