From left to right: Chairperson Scotty Boman, Vice Chairperson Karen Knox, Mayor Mike Duggan, and Senior Issues Representative Jocelyn Harris.
District 4 Community Advisory Council Meeting with Mayor Mike Duggan
CAYMC December 3rd 2021 at 3:30 PM
Mayor Duggan greeted us and introduced his staff: Deputy Director of Department of Neighborhoods Erinn Harris, Department of Neighborhoods Director Raymond Solomon II, and District 4 Manager Rod Liggons.
Chairperson Scotty Boman Introduced Community Advisory Council members: Vice Chairperson Karen Knox, and Senior Issues Representative Jocelyn Harris.
Mayor Duggan asked what we would like to discuss and Chairperson Boman recognized Vice Chairperson Knox first. Karen Knox described her inability to get an extension on zoning approval for a Community Center she was attempting to establish for the Community Surrounding Eden Gardens. Mayor Duggan asked VC Knox why she didn’t contact her District Manager. She had already contacted other officials who were involved in the process. The Mayor asked her to describe steps she needed to take in the process and identify the person who was denying her the extension. Mayor Duggan assured her he would speak to the official who denied the extension and see that it would be granted.
The Mayor addressed other concerns. He cited communication problems, failures to get work done, or misunderstandings by residents of what the city government can do. While there are limits to which sidewalk repairs the city has funding to do, sidewalks damaged by demolition crews should be fixed.
Other quality of life issues included residents using their front laws for parking. Mayor Duggan said Neighborhood Police Officers (NPO’s) can issue blight tickets.
The Mayor said there have been some neighborhood grants made possible using American Rescue Plan (“Biden money.”) There will be two new Recreation Centers in District 4: One in Chandler Park and another on Lenox in the Jefferson Chalmers community.
Chairperson Boman asked about the large number of people who were unable to get side-lots between Hayes and Gratiot. Mayor Duggan asked for specific addresses (which Boman didn’t have). He said we should provide addresses so they could look into the matter, but there are often liens on property that delay transfers. Some property also has Federal “holds” on them. People with side-lot issues should contact the District manager with the address and a description of the problem.
Senior Issues Representative Jocelyn Harris asked the Mayor for some advice, looking ahead to 2022. The Mayor revisited the topic of the new Recreation Center to be created on Lenox. The facility was previously a school for the disabled.
Senior Issues Representative Harris inquired about flood disaster wellness checks. The Mayor said there isn’t a Wellness-check program right now. He suggested delegating that responsibility to block clubs who would know the people involved better, and would be more likely to notice if something wasn’t right.
The Mayor said he would get us a block-club list.
We discussed seawalls, sewers, water heaters, and furnaces. The Mayor said the water Department will handle subsidized “check valves” (The City of Detroit pays 75%). The Jefferson Chalmers and Victoria Park communities.
Chairperson Boman brought up property over-taxation. Mayor Duggan conceded that it happened. He said he cut assessments by 22% when elected. He said the City could pay for some roof repairs using “Biden money” with a legacy preference, and the Community Advisory Council could facilitate programs to residents.
Chairperson Boman suggested crediting homeowners for the amount by which they were over-taxed. He said state law wouldn’t allow the city to return money to residents after the one year appeal period had passed. He said the state would view any direct compensation as a “gift” from the city that the recipient wasn’t entitled to.
Senior Issues Representative Harris asked about grants from Governor Whitmer to help people with water resources and disposal. Some residents had reported that people in the suburbs were eligible for state funds not provided to Detroit residents. The Mayor wasn’t aware of this. Department of neighborhoods director Erinn Harris stepped away for a few minutes and returned with an explanation. She said that grants were given to residents local governments who decided how to disperse money to residents. So some of the suburbs were using a different process to disperse funds.
Chairperson Boman asked about soaring water rates and whether there was a way for the Detroit Water Department to withdraw from the Great Lakes Water Authority. Mayor Duggan said the arrangement had saved the city money rather than adding to the cost. He said rate increases were only around 3% per year in recent times. In some cases new meters may be able to detect water use that was overlooked before. He said we should try to get Gary Brown to a meeting.
Boman brought up reports of the deliberate removal of catch basins on Wayburn and the Mayor said it didn’t happen. He said they had heard about this before and had it investigated. The Mayor said that sensing equipment (including metal detectors) were not able to show that remnant plumbing, that would have been around the catch basins, was under the asphalt. Boman also mentioned reckless roadwork in East English Village leaving asphalt on storm drain covers (with some falling inside). He asked for addresses.
Boman mentioned concerns, from some home-owners, that people could take over their property, by squatting. He gave the example of a woman who went out of town and returned to find there were squatters in her home that she could not quickly remove. The Mayor clearly said that there are no squatter rights in Detroit; people who move into a home without the owners permission are trespassers. If a trespassing complaint, of this kind, reaches police, the suspected trespassers must show some form of agreement between themselves and the property owner, or leave the premises. If there were prior arraignments, then eviction becomes a civil matter. A staff member mentioned that there would be some correspondence between the person acting as precinct commander, and the officer on the scene.
The Mayor indicated that ambiguities exist because many people make month-to-month verbal agreements with no documentation. Some landlords may claim an unwanted tenant is a trespasser in order to bypass the legal eviction process.
Finally, Chairperson Boman, brought up the matter of an increase in speeding on side-streets following the creation of bike-lanes that removed automobile traffic lanes. Boman suggested reopening East Warren to two lanes in each direction. The Mayor said he hosted a large meeting concerning East Warren’s road design and 95% of those attending preferred the current plan over alternatives.