Detroit Charter Commission candidate Ken Coleman said he is running for a seat on the nine-member commission because this is a historic opportunity to strengthen a document that, in some areas, is vague and ambiguous.
He also said many people don’t know much about the charter, despite it being the city’s constitution.
Coleman, who has worked as a legislative aide to the late Councilwoman Brenda M. Scott; State Sen. Irma Clark-Coleman and State Sen. Buzz Thomas; been a Michigan Chronicle reporter, and worked in the Office of Community Relations and Office of Governmental Relations for Detroit Public Schools, said his experiences make him a unique candidate.
He added that many people do not realize that under the Home Rule Act of 1909, the state allows cities to have their own constitutions as long as they are aligned with state law.
While working for Scott, one of his assignments was to cover Charter Commission meetings that met from 1993 to 1996.
“I’ve attended many meetings of the Charter Commission, so I have some experience and working knowledge of how that body carried out its work, in addition to experience working at City Council and I have state legislative experience,” Coleman said.
Coleman believes it is important that the Charter Commission listen to voters. He said that if elected, he will urge his colleagues to hold no fewer than eight meetings in community to gather community input as to what they want to see in the charter. He would like to have those meetings immediately. This would be a departure from what the previous commission did in the 1990s. That commission had its first meeting on Nov. 16, 1993 and then didn’t have meeting outside of downtown until April 27, 1994.
Coleman said an ivory tower approach to revising the document, where the nine commission members hash out the details by themselves, is the wrong way to go. He wants more citizen participation. He also wants to strengthen the seven-member ethics board, which is appointed by the mayor and council, possibly by following the lead of Philadelphia. That city made its ethics board an enforcement board that can issue fines and penalties for violations of lobbying registration, campaign finance violations, general conflict of interest issues, etc.
Coleman also favors an overall revival of the charter, one that cleans up ambiguous language, making it a stronger document, one that “doesn’t take a team of lawyers to figure out.”