State Supreme Court considers appeal in Detroit charter revision case
The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments early next month about whether Detroit’s proposal to amend the charter should be on the ballot.
On June 4, the Supreme Court halted a decision to remove the constitutional revision plan from the August 3 vote. The court said it was considering whether to accept or expedite a challenge to a state appeals court opinion that upheld a Wayne County District Court ruling that the plan, Proposal P, should not be on the ballot.
In a decision on Wednesday, the court announced that it would examine the appeal against the decision of the appellate court.
Oral arguments are scheduled for July 7th. The parties involved are expected to consider whether the proposed revisions can be presented to the electorate without the governor’s approval.
Mark Burton, an attorney who has opposed printing voting slips from Detroit on Proposal P on behalf of Rev. Horace Sheffield and several residents, welcomed the move.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to speak to the Supreme Court, given the strength of our position and the established rules of the legal construction by which this has been and should be decided,” he told The Detroit News in an email on Wednesday.
Detroit’s Charter Review Commission representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday night.
The initiative launched by the Commission aims to make permanent changes to the charter. The plan was developed in part by the Detroiters’ Bill of Rights Coalition. The group, made up of environmental, immigration and disability advocates as well as experts on housing, water and transport, tries to enshrine “fundamental human and civil rights” in the charter.
Proposal P has been criticized by the administration of Mayor Mike Duggan and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who have both warned that the cost of implementing the Charter provisions would drive the city back into bankruptcy and trigger active oversight by their Financial Review Commission.
Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said Proposal P will be printed on the ballot, but should the Supreme Court rule against the proposal, it will be up to their office to correct the problem. Winfrey said they would either have to reprint the ballots before the August personal election or program machines to discredit the votes.
Detroit’s senior finance officials initially estimated the revisions would cost $ 3.4 billion over four years, then $ 2 billion after the charter commissioners revised the plan. Chief Financial Officer Jay Rising’s office has announced that the city’s four-year financial plan will become unbalanced if the revised Bylaws are so approved in August.
The nine-member commission spent three years preparing the proposal, which includes increased access to public transport and broadband internet, affordability of water, increased transparency, accountability and police reform.
Whitmer turned down the plan on April 30, and Detroit Corporation attorney Lawrence Garcia argued that it was unlawful to show it to voters without Whitmer’s approval. Wayne County Circuit chief judge Timothy Kenny and the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed.
Meanwhile, two lawsuits were filed against Winfrey in May alleging she failed to properly validate the election question.
The Supreme Court last week rejected a motion from opponents of Proposal P that tried to prevent it from appearing on the ballot.
Last week the Detroit Charter Commission passed a resolution to put the original version on the ballot “without modification or addition”. The commission previously made changes to address the issues raised by Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel, but said the governor declined to review the updated version.
The August primaries are the last elections during the founding commission’s term of office. If approved, the charter would come into force in 2022.