Detroit has seen some hard times. Over several decades, I’ve watched my members lose their jobs and neighbors lose their homes. For so many families, finding a good job meant leaving the city we all love. At that time, the idea of businesses bringing good paying jobs back to Detroit seemed like a pipe-dream. However, over the past few years, what so many thought was impossible is finally happening.
Companies are moving to Detroit, bringing thousands of jobs with them. Within the past two years, more than 1400 manufacturing jobs have been created in Detroit. The City of Detroit’s website outlines the details of some of the most recent developments negotiated by the Mayor’s Office and approved by City Council. Companies like Sakhti Automotive are turning buildings such as the old Southwestern High School into manufacturing and training facilities. Sakhti’s hiring 650 people, many of them returning members of our community. In addition, urban agriculture projects like Recovery Park are creating nearly 180 permanent jobs and employing people whom have had difficulty finding jobs in the past. Among those jobs, nearly 60 percent have to go to Detroiters. Finally, the men and women in the skilled trades are working again thanks to the boom in construction that this growth has created.
The results are undeniable. Since this past January, 6,000 more Detroiters have found jobs and our unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in a decade.
Our Mayor and our City Council are doing exactly what we elected them to do. They’re bringing jobs and opportunities to Detroit and our recovery is just beginning. Though it’s important to note that despite our growth, Detroit still has the highest unemployment rate of any major city in America.
We must continue to attract more companies to Detroit and create more jobs for all Detroiters. However, the so-called community benefits ordinance forced on the ballot by a group of petitioners threatens to end all that. The name sounds as if this new law will benefit our community but if you read it closely, you’ll see it will likely do the exact opposite.
The ordinance, as drafted, forces developers to negotiate with a group of people who either live in the census tract or the tract nearby. There’s nothing blocking people with conflicts of interest from steering negotiations and no limit on how long negotiations can last or what can be demanded. Our city officials aren’t even allowed to be part of the process. We all know there have been some companies in the past that didn’t live up to their end of the bargain. We should continue to hold our Mayor and City Council accountable for ensuring that any businesses that do not live up to their agreement face strict penalties.
This ordinance may be well intended, but, in its current form, creates a process so unclear and chaotic that it will drive companies and jobs away from Detroit. Let me be clear: We deserve community benefits. We also deserve an ordinance that will create jobs, not force them into the suburbs. I urge City Council to send the petitioners back to the drawing board and hope they deliver an ordinance that will truly benefit Detroit. Let’s keep our city moving forward.