Thursday, July 30, 2009

Detroit City Charter Profiles: Time For A New Beginning by Akindele Akinyemi

There are some very well qualified and highly educated people running for the Detroit City Charter Commission races next Tuesday. While the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News have picked mostly name recognition to lead their pack there is a new silver right movement happening here in Detroit. One leader who should sit on this charter commission is Kortney Rice Neloms.

Kortney has Masters degrees in Social Work and Urban Planning from the University of Michigan. She gained experience at the neighborhood level organizing, planning, listening to people’s concerns and desires, and working as a part of a team to implement proven strategies that resulted in improvement.

She wants to amend the charter’s forfeiture clause so that an elective city officer or appointee forfeits their office upon pleading guilty to a felony; establish a clearer process for succession; elect city council in a manner that increases accountability as well as ban the hiring of relatives by city officials and employees.

Kortney is in favor of electing City Council by districts because it is what a majority of Detroit citizens desire. Districts should be determined based upon U.S. Census data and data from local entities such as the Detroit‐Area Community Information System and drawn in such a way that districts contain a balanced number of residents.

This superstar needs no introduction but I am crazy over Jenice Mitchell Ford. She is uniquely qualified to serve on the City of Detroit Charter Commission ("Commission"). Jenice have spent
the last 10 years as a practicing attorney, and for almost nine of those years she have interpreted the Charter as a member of governmental transition teams and Detroit volunteer, appointed boards.

Jenice favors maintaining the current "strong mayor" form of government but propose revisions
which provide clear language regarding checks and balances with delineated consequences for contrary behavior.

I also believe that council‐by‐districts can only be most effective if accompanied by other
Charter (and possibly ordinance and/or department level policy) changes/revisions. She also would support a revision proposal for council by districts where some members are districted and others are at‐large.

Another superstar and close ally of mine is Olumba-John Olumba. The Nigerian-American attorney and rising star is making his second attempt to run for office. It is critical to get Olumba elected because he wants to reform the ethics board to make them more accountable. He is also promoting transparency in the charter to create a language that will help move the process along smoother.

James Heath is highly qualified for the position for Charter Commission. His most important qualification I possess for membership on the commission is his commitment to working alongside my fellow citizens to improve our city.

He support several changes that will improve the way our local government functions. For example, James feel that adding the position of an independent Comptroller to city government will help city services.

James feels that our local laws should articulate what we as citizens expect from our public servants. Similar to other major cities, he feels that we should explore establishing the position of Inspector General, a person whose singular job will be to root out public corruption. He also supports a hybrid council by districts system.

Ken Harris is one of the silver rights leaders in our community. As the founder & President/CEO, Detroit Black Expo there are over 7,500 members who are moving our community from civil rights to silver rights. From integrating the lunch counter to integrating the dollar.

Ken wants to strengthen our ethical guidelines in the Detroit City Charter and empower the ethics board to enforce those guidelines. More importantly he believe the ethics board should be elected by an independent body to avoid conflict of interest. Detroit needs complete clarity and transparency when it comes to holding our leaders accountable.

He support Council by Districts in the City of Detroit. It is time that leaders elected to serve and represent the people of Detroit are held accountable by their neighbors. Council by District also means economic empowerment allowing us to rebuild the City of Detroit district by district with a unified economic agenda. Only a silver rights leader speaks like this.

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Chiquita McKenzie‐Bennett is one of the most overlooked candidates running for charter commission. This heavyweight is no joke at all. A straight shooter Chiquita brings her life time of research, audit experience, review and program responsibilities for large communities to the table. Her training as a mediator-listening skill and ability to create overlapping policies are levels of experience which qualify me to serve as a Charter Commissioner to revise Detroit's Charter.

Recently, Chiquita proposed annual requirements of elected and appointed personnel to complete the following documents: detailed disclosures statement‐conflict of interest statement‐character fitness statement developed by the Charter Commissioners. These documents would become folded into the revisions of the Ethics Segment, strengthening the Forfeiture segment, strengthening the Human Resource Department, the Ethics Board, the Legal Department participation and the joint requirement of a multi-party board (which cannot be appointed by one person) which reviews and researches 'the appearance
of inappropriateness'.

Chiquita favor full council by district, with council selecting the president, pro‐tem, group training, planned growth of the city, accountability, responsiveness to citizens, and a methodology to provide greater service from council. She favor all members required to serve a district and KNOW the city as a whole to provide for the possibility of temporary mayorship. Lastly, those who opt to run at‐large are set to assume that they have a different level of service.

If you ever talked to Chiquita in person you would fully agree with me that is capable of handling this position.

Ricardo Moore brings a unique set of qualities to the table including a MPA degree from Central Michigan University. He would like to see a system of checks and balances with the mayor's department heads will cause immediate loyalty to citizens, businesses and visitors.

He would like to place the entire budget on line for public scrutiny as well as pushing for no campaign contributions from lobbyist or city contractors. He wants to see city council reduced from 9 to 5 members. I share the same sentiment with Ricardo.

Lastly, Ricardo wants the Chairperson of the Commission to appoint members to committees(i.e.,Budget/Finance, City Services, Personnel) for deliberation purposes.

This Charter Commission race is serious and should not be taken lightly. We must examine each candidate and ask questions. I have examined ALL of these candidates and I feel that if Detroit is going to move into a 21st century global silver rights agenda and world reality we need people who will shape that reality. The people above can get the job done.


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