Jan 10, 2024 - News

Detroit's reparations task force sees slow start

Public commenters line up to talk about what they want to see from the commission this year. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Property tax overassessment and the I-375 makeover were among topics raised by public commenters who spoke during a meeting Saturday at the Northwest Activities Center. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Clear progress has yet to be made by Detroit's reparations task force nearly one year after taking shape.

Driving the news: On Saturday the task force agreed to its first regular meeting schedule since August. It was the first meeting since last summer, and members have complained about the group's inability to get organized.

  • "There have been delays and challenges that have not been insurmountable — we'll continue moving forward," District 6 member Janis Hazel told Axios after the meeting.

Threat level: Former co-chair Lauren Hood and task force member Maurice Weeks resigned last month following the death of Dr. JoAnn Watson, both citing the panel's inaction.

  • Cidney Calloway, daughter of city council member Angela Whitfield-Calloway, was appointed co-chair to fill Hood's vacancy, despite telling Axios she had not planned to take on a leadership role.

Catch up quick: In 2021, 80% of residents approved a ballot measure to establish a commission to investigate reparations for Black Detroiters, who have been wrongfully stripped of economic opportunities for centuries.

Zoom in: "It took a while to learn how people work, learning what people are good, not so good at and just balancing different personalities," Calloway says.

Between the lines: While City Council allocated a $350,000 budget for the group, it didn't require the task force to abide by the Open Meetings Act.

  • The group has been livestreaming meetings over Zoom and taking public comments before the board.
  • You can sign up for updates on the task force here.

What we're watching: Some members indicated the group's Oct. 13 deadline to submit its final report to City Council could be extended.

  • "If we're not ready for the report, I will certainly ask for an extension," Hazel says. "When we get there, we'll get there."
  • The task force is also in the process of hiring a project manager.

What's next: The task force plans to host town halls in March to begin an impact analysis to determine the scope of potential reparations programs.

The bottom line: Despite their organizational struggles to this point, task force members and residents who gave public comments Saturday told Axios they wished more people were interested in the city's efforts.

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