Minehaha Forman is a freelance writer living in Detroit. Born on a farm in Belize, Central America, she moved to the U.S. to pursue higher education and a career in writing. Forman’s work has been featured in many metro Detroit publications including Dbusiness magazine, Hour magazine and Corp! magazine. She has provided event coverage for Real Times Media and The Michigan Chronicle for three years, covering the popular Pancakes and Politics speaker series and other events. Prior to working with the Chronicle, Forman was a blogger with The American Independent News Network where she covered Metro Detroit politics and the 2008 presidential election. She will continue to provide commentary and coverage of Detroit politics as a blogger and feature writer for The Michigan Chronicle’s website.
Website URL: http://truthordarestories.blogspot.com/
Aside from community policing and preventative programs, law enforcement officials have offered up a tougher solution to get better a grip on crime in the city.
At a Forum at Wayne State University last week, former Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton and Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee suggested Michigan adopt sentence enhancements for gang members who commit crimes. The idea is that it will discourage gang-related violence, which is responsible for the high homicide rates in Detroit according to Godbee.
But before we go running to lawmakers to push for these “enhanced” punishments for organized crime, we should look at how Detroit’s criminal landscape differs from California in the late 90’s when Bratton was police chief.
Bratton talked about L.A.’s crime scene in a 2007 NPS interview:
“It's the birthplace of the black gangs, the Bloods and the Crips. It is the historical birthplace of the Latino gangs [and the] Mexican mafia …”
In the late 90’s when Bratton took on the Californian Crips and the Bloods, it was easier to ID gang members. For starters, they wore distinctive colors. The gangs were larger, some spanning an entire city with key signs and symbols that were easier to spot and define.
But Detroit gangs are different. The problem isn’t Crips or Bloods but rather small, wild groups of friends and neighbors who dub themselves according to whatever street they live on. Names like “Fenkell Boys” or “Lafayette Goons” are just neighborhood cliques getting into beef with the gangs or cliques just one street over. These micro gangs are harder to identify.
Detroit City Council Member James Tate, who formerly served as deputy police chief in Detroit, said it is hard to ID gangs in this city:
“Our gangs are really just people who get together and get themselves a name. We have to redefine what we call a gang. They’re not all the same colors or anything like that.”
While crime fighting is tricky, we have to be careful not to be so reactionary and take a closer look at preventative measures. It would take intensive community policing to keep up on all of the city's little crime cliques since they are often remote, smaller than big organized crime circles, and change constantly.
Public-Private Partnerships? There’s a Prop. For That
With all of the ballot proposals cluttering the 2012 ballot in Michigan this year—especially Detroit—we can pick just about any hot political topic and confidently say (much like iPhone applications), “there’s a proposal for that.”
One of the hot-button issues is the public-private partnership. These gray lines between private and public dollars and control have become more common in Detroit as the city struggles to fend off bankruptcy or State management amid a financial crisis.
So as the October 1 deadline to transfer Detroit’s Department of Health and Wellness Promotion to a private nonprofit approaches, let’s dig through the pile and see which proposals apply to these.
There is a couple. One of them is Proposal 2, an amendment to the state constitution that would engrave collective bargaining rights into state law. Those way, if a union-run city department gets transferred, guess who has the legal power to stop it?
The other is Proposal P, a Detroit measure that would amend the city charter to allow elected officials and employees to work for a private contractor with the city. In light of recent city hall scandals, the charter was revised to ban such movement, mandating a one-year interim period before a private company contracted by the City can hire for contract a former city employee.
Obviously, Proposal P has its issues. It blurs the line between public and private a little more than it’s already been blurred and without the proper controls could open the floodgates to more corruption, but as the city budget crunches and shifts services into private operations, it’s needed if city employee have any chance of keeping or finding a new job with the city.
Of course, this is creating kickback from unions, but it’s happening: public funds are drying up and services crumbling and private companies and organizations are there to catch them. In a lot of ways it makes sense.
Detroit is the only city in Michigan with health and wellness services on the payroll. Come October, that will change.
"The city has to increase its efficiencies in providing these services, and we've got to do a better job of making sure our citizens get the support services they need," Bing said in a statement.
As far as proposals go, Michigan's Proposal 2 would make such public-private transfers harder on a statewide level and Detroit’s Proposal P would make such city transfers a bit smoother, at least in terms of re-hiring those displaced by the public-private switch.
Ballot Chameleon: Events Change, Constitutions Don’t
When we go to the polls this fall and we get to the ballot proposal section, we can’t make our decisions solely based on current events.
These constitutional amendments and city charter shifts could hold for decades, through all sorts of conflicts.
In Detroit, there are four ballot proposals for people to decide on in addition to six statewide proposals. These city proposals are mostly clarifications and amendments to the city’s governing document, the charter.
An example of current events affecting city laws came during the charter revision process that started in 2010. People were caught up on the Kilpatrick scandal, they wished, at that time, that the law department had more power over the scandalized mayor.
The decision to give city attorney’s independent power was supposed to provide some sort of insurance to make sure this never happened again.
But that backfired when a new situation arose. The State and the City entered into a consent, or turnaround, agreement and when the city’s top lawyer, using her new found power, tried to stop it, there was nothing the Mayor or the Council could do about it.
Now the question on the ballot is whether the charter says that city lawyers have this power or not. It’s a clarifying question that has been seen through current-event shades.
That goes to show us that the amendments proposed this November can’t be changed on an issue by issue basis. They have to stick through all sorts of police weather and economic shifts. They have to be versatile.
Just because it’s unpopular for a city attorney to have power right now after the Crystal Crittendon consent fiasco, the scene may change next year.
So when we vote on these long-term decisions this on Election Day, we have to keep in mind: things won’t always be like this. These people won’t always be in power. Times change. Are these laws versatile?
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