Boggs Center Living For Change News Letter – July 10th – July 17th

Living for Change News
July 10th – July 17th
Thinking for OurselvesCompromised Confusion
Shea Howell

shea The battle over a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for Detroit is intensifying.  Within a few hours after the Department of Elections ruled the CBA could go forward as a ballot question in November, City Councilman Scott Benson jumped in to try yet another desperate strategy to confuse voters and block meaningful legislation. He said he is offering a compromise.

People have been fighting for a CBA strategy for nearly a decade. The purpose of a CBA is to ensure that when public money is used to support private development, communities receive some direct benefit. The ordinance gives community residents a say in how developments impact their neighborhoods and their daily lives. As City Council President Brenda Jones wrote in a recent letter to the Detroit Free Press supporting CBA’s,

“We need to raise our standards of what we deserve when we invest our land or tax dollars. We deserve better than trinkets that don’t hold up after the development is complete.”

The ordinance requires developers who receive at least $300,000 in public subsidies for projects of $15 million or more to meet with community members and agree upon the benefits for the community in exchange for public dollars.

While jobs for both construction and operations are a key concerns, communities are also concerned about quality of life issues. Neighbors want to ensure support for local businesses, consideration for environmental impacts, and support for neighborhood activities. Rashida Talib of the Sugar Law Center has supported the idea since she was a state legislator. Nearly a decade ago she heard from residents of the Delray area where major expansion of the new international bridge was unfolding. They worry that the increased truck traffic would further damage their already stressed neighborhood.

She said, “Every time I think about a community benefits agreement for the bridge specifically, I think about it being a model bridge that is going to have an air quality program or a volunteer program to get trucks retrofitted. One of the things I heard residents ask is, “Rashida, for the money that they’re getting for the land, could they get bus covers?” Those are the kinds of basic needs that a community who is going to have large transportation pressures are thinking about.”

The idea of a CBA makes sense.  Yet, it is opposed by the Mayor, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. There was even an effort by the State Legislature to outlaw such ordinances. In large part this effort was stopped because of the strong support for CBA’s given by the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, representing thousands of local neighborhood business. These are the kinds of businesses a CBA would most directly help stay in the city.

Fears fostered by the corporate elite that CBA’s would drive out development are not true.  We already have voluntary CBA’s working across the city. Neighbors in Brightmoor negotiated with Meijer for jobs and other community benefits when the new store came to Northwest Detroit. The West Grand Boulevard Collaborative struggled for years to engage Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) in negotiations over a massive warehouse construction. Whole Foods negotiated hiring goals, vendors and small minority business recruitment.

This spring, Idea City negotiated a CBA with artists and activists for their international project here. They said the experience was so valuable to them, they will use the process in all other cities around the globe where they create exhibits.

Community Benefits help everyone think more fully and consciously about the relationship between businesses and the communities that support them. An ordinance provides a tool to give these conversations legal standing and provide for ongoing accountability.

Councilman Benson’s compromise does none of this. It is a weak effort to confuse voters and reduce thoughtful discussion to essentially one public meeting.

If the councilman does not withdraw his so called compromise, he can be sure it will be rejected by voters who are tired of efforts to block every democratically developed step toward a more equitable city.


Challenge to ballot initiative signatures denied by Detroit Department of Elections.

On July 7, 2016 Rise Together Detroit received word from the Department of Elections. After a review by their office, the challenge to the Community Benefit ballot initiative  signatures has been denied. The petition certification STANDS! This means enough signatures have been gathered and certified to move the Community Benefits Ordinance forward toward placement on the November ballot.

This has been a tremendous effort and an important act of citizen-led democracy on display. The CBA Coalition partners want to thank the members who have supported and made this all-volunteer grassroots effort possible. Detroiters from every corner of the city have stepped up to help move the CBA Ordinance to a vote by the people.

Please visit for more information and updates on the efforts to gain a Community Benefits Ordinance for all Detroiters.
Recent Timeline:

On July 5, 2016 Detroit City Council members heard public comments about the Community Benefits Ordinance. Though the Community Benefit Ordinance was not on the agenda of the meeting, many came out to speak in support of the ordinance due to a challenge to the ballot initiative petition signatures. Videos below.

On Monday June 27, 2016, the City of Detroit Department of Elections certified the Community benefits Agreement Coalition had collected enough signatures to place the long-sought Community Benefits Ordinance on the ballot in November. As required by law, a letter was sent to City Council thereby giving them 60 days to pass the ordinance as written or refer it to the Election Commission for placement on the ballot in November.

Within 48 hours efforts to challenge the Community Benefit Ordinance were underway.  On Wednesday June 29, 2016 CBA Coalition members learned of a legal challenge filed against the ballot initiative. One of Detroit’s leading corporate law firms, working on behalf of an unidentified, anonymous client, has challenged the validity of signatures collected.

Please visit for more information and updates on the efforts to gain a Community Benefits Ordinance for all Detroiters.

“If we have to pay, we get a say!”

Join the conversation: #RiseTogetherDetroit #CBO

Learn more and help spread the word!

#RiseTogetherDetroit VIDEO Angy Webb “People want this. They wouldn’t have filled out petitions if they didn’t”

\#RiseTogetherDetroit VIDEO Lila Cabil “we’ve given a lot, but we’ve lost a lot”

#RiseTogetherDetroit VIDEO Ron Turner: “Detroiters are capable of working with developers for a win/win situation.”

#RiseTogetherDetroit VIDEO Bro J Smith @CapSoupKitchen “people served by the kitchen don’t benefit from development”

#RiseTogetherDetroit 7 VIDEOS of Public Comments on Community Benefits from

#DetroitCityCouncil’s July 5th Meeting

Detroiters deserve a seat at the table when large projects use public $$$#RiseTogetherDetroit VIDEO
Please take a few minutes to look at this short video Detroit Eviction Defense made of Barbara Campbell, who is facing eviction this month.

Would you be interested in adding your name to the petition (see below), opposing her unjust eviction by Flagstar Bank? We want to gather signatures quickly so you’d like to sign, please email Dianne Feeley ( by this Wednesday, July 13. If you can get an organizational endorsement that’s great too, but time is running out and we want to be sure to send the petition in to Flagstar ASAP.

Many thanks!,
Dianne Feeley

Petition Statement:

As community advocates, we are calling on Flagstar Bank to stop eviction proceedings against Barbara Campbell and work out a reduced mortgage payment so that she can remain in her Detroit home. We won’t speak to the contested legal issues involved in the denial of her application for a mortgage modification and the foreclosure that followed. We say simply that Barbara deserves your help and support rather than eviction. She is a former program director for the Girl Scouts, a mother, and a long-time stalwart in her community. She has also struggled with multiple medical disabilities— including kidney failure, cancer and heart disease—that warrant assistance from a bank promoting itself as a member and protector of our community. This is a matter of justice, if not the law. Detroit doesn’t need another heartless eviction!



What We’re Reading

Are You Ready for Some Hard Truths About the Birth of Our Nation? Brace Yourself – by Frank Joyce



The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…
Ron Scott’sHow to End Police Brutality

{R}evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214


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