Detroit’s Proposal P would shift money from police surveillance to people’s needs
A tank belonging to Detroit Police maneuvers on a residential street. If Proposal P passes, resources would be shifted from police militarization and surveillance to public needs. | Paul Sancya / AP

DETROIT—The people of Detroit head back to the polls on Aug. 3rd, and the most important outcome of this election is whether or not Proposal P will pass. This measure would make revisions to the city’s charter that directly benefit Detroit residents, especially regarding access to clean water, reparations to citizens who have been overtaxed, and efforts to reduce police violence.

Another significant piece of the revision regards surveillance: If it passes, the city will be prohibited from implementing new surveillance technologies without approval from the city council. This is important because Detroit’s Project Green Light continues to spread throughout the city. The growing number of cameras and facial recognition technology devices is giving the police an ever-presence and totality over the people of the city.

There is a lot of campaigning against Proposal P, claiming it will cause “an imminent fiscal crisis,” that “parts of the revised charter [are] illegal,” and that citizens should not be “bullied” into voting for this so-called “product of chaos.” Mayor Mike Duggan, in particular, is a major proponent of the so-called fiscal challenge.

Indeed, the very question of whether these revisions are, in fact, illegal is being considered by the Michigan Supreme Court. Most notably, the fact that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declined to approve revisions multiple times.

A coalition of business interests is funding the opposition to Proposal P, while a wide range of community and labor organizations back its passage—including IBEW Local 58, the Michigan Democratic Party Black Caucus, and more.

City Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López spoke with People’s World to address and allay these concerns. When asked about the potential “illegalities” of the revisions, Castañeda-López mentioned the charter would be in full “compliance with federal legislation” and this was a main focus of the City Charter Commissions when drafting up these changes.

When asked about the potential of a financial crisis, Castañeda-López said not only are the numbers the mayor has been throwing out there inaccurate, but the Commission met with financial analysts to check the numbers. The findings showed there’s nothing to support the mayor’s claims.

“Even if it did cost $2 billion—that’s over four years, which comes to $500 million a year. The city’s annual budget is $1.1 billion. So the question is not a matter of whether it’ll fit into the budget but one of priority.”

Councilmember Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, right, looks on as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan makes a budget presentation in 2015. Duggan is one of the key voices saying that Proposal P would the city can’t afford Proposal P. Castaneda-Lopez argues otherwise. | Todd McInturf / Detroit News via AP

Well over the majority of this annual budget of $500 million goes to the police department.  The matter of this priority, Castañeda-López emphasized, is one of generating revenue and supporting the citizens. “We have the money and resources…and what the mayor is saying [by these claims of a financial crisis] is that they don’t support shifting resources to support Detroiters.”

As Council Member Castañeda-López also pointed out, the revisions would bring the Detroit Police Department up to international standards of warfare. This means the police would have to follow international agreements when it comes to the use of force and chemical weapons against Detroit citizens. “It’s ludicrous that you’re banned from using certain weapons internationally yet you can use them at home.”

Voting “yes” is the first step forward in granting amnesty of water and sewer fees to residents, providing more citizens access to broadband internet, limiting the violence police forces can enact against their own people, funding investigations into reparations for Detroit homeowners who have been wildly over-taxed for their properties over the years, preventing installation of surveillance equipment without public input, implementing affordable housing guidelines, and keeping public transit both affordable and accessible.

Voting “no” simply prevents these much-needed securities and measures from protecting the people of Detroit, all in the face of fear-mongering and misleading propaganda.

Mayor Duggan and Gov. Whitmer have spoken out against Proposal P, and as billboards have gone up and mailers sent out to perpetuate fears of a bankrupt city, the odds seem to be against it.

However, the people of Detroit—residents and activists alike—have been the only reason this proposal has not been drowned out by the noise. Rallies and tabling events continue to pop up in support of the charter revisions. These grassroots movements are the only support this proposal has. It’s all too clear that Proposal P is something the people want and need.

On Aug. 3rd, it is in the best interest of the people of Detroit to vote “yes” on Proposal P.


Andrew Wright
Andrew Wright

Andrew Wright is an essayist and activist based in Detroit.  He has written and presented on topics such as suicide and mental health, class struggle, gender studies, politics, ideology, and philosophy.