Letter to Detroit Charter Commissioners: Adopt the Detroiters' Bill of Rights, embed our values into the City Charter.
Dear Honorable Charter Commissioners,
We, the undersigned, support the package of proposed charter amendments known as the Detroiters' Bill of Rights. We call on you to adopt them into the recommendations sent to the ballot in 2021.
The Offices of Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López and President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield worked with racial, environmental, immigrant, and disability justice advocates, as well as housing, water, and transit content experts to put forth this package of Detroiters' Bill of Rights in response to the decades long struggle for racial equity and social justice.
The Detroiters' Bill of Rights is rooted in our country’s value of opportunity -- the opportunity to achieve our fullest potential as human beings -- with the recognition that opportunity must be based on the following principles of racial equity and social justice:
- RACIAL EQUITY: Racial equity is the condition where one's racial identity no longer influences how one fares in society. This includes the creation of racially just policies, practices, attitudes and cultural messages, and the elimination of structures that reinforce differential experiences and outcomes by race.
- SOCIAL JUSTICE: The principle that everyone deserves equitable economic, political and social rights. We advance social justice by removing barriers people face because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, disability, or sexual orientation or gender identity, and promoting their rights.
Detroit’s struggle is rooted in systemic racism, oppression, and economic inequality. For decades, Detroiters have fought for access to water, affordable and safe housing, reliable public transit, and access to economic opportunities. In Detroit, the promise of the “American Dream” is just that, a dream, with 35% of residents living in poverty and more than 50% of Detroit’s children living in poverty. In the movement for Black lives, we know that the effects of colonization, slavery, and Jim Crow are everpresent. Today, they have different names and take different forms: school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration, mass surveillance, and more, permeating every aspect of our lives.
We must be dedicated to creating systems that dismantle anti-blackness, center Black Detroiters, and create equitable access to and distribution of resources for the most vulnerable people in Detroit. We must join the global struggle against colonization, white supremacy and brutality, in defense of Black lives and to win our collective liberation.
Detroit has always risen above adversity and given birth to movements for social justice. The Detroiters' Bill of Rights continues this legacy by embedding in the city’s charter the principles of racial equity and social justice to protect residents' basic human and civil rights.
While we all play a role in upholding these values and principles, as Charter Commissioners you have a unique responsibility in advancing these principles. We ask you to embed these basic human rights into our City Charter and adopt the Detroiters' Bill of Rights:
Detroiters' Bill of Rights
1. Right to Water and Sanitation: Every Detroit resident has the right to clean and affordable water and sanitation for personal and domestic use.
- Prohibit water shut-offs
- Establish a water affordability program
2. Right to Environmental Health: Every Detroit resident, regardless of their zip code is entitled to live in an environment with clean air, soil and water.
- Establish an Environmental Justice Commission, Office of Environmental Justice & Sustainability & Public Health Fund
3. Right to Safety: Every Detroit resident is entitled to live in safe communities and has the right to live free of threat or harm from one another and city agencies.
- Demilitarize the police, restrict surveillance and immigration enforcement/partnerships.
4. Right to Live Free from Discrimination:
- Immigrant Communities: Every Detroit resident, regardless of their immigration status, is guaranteed the same fundamental rights and protection of the law from discriminatory practices.
--Establish an Immigrants Affairs Commission, Office of Immigrant Affairs and adopt a language access policy.
- Disabled Communities: Every person with disabilities in Detroit, regardless of their ability status, is entitled to the same rights and freedoms as able-bodied peoples in the City.
--Establish an Disability Rights Commission, Office of Disability Affairs and adopt a language access policy.
5. Right to Recreation: Every Detroit resident is entitled to access to parks, recreational opportunities and urban green spaces to protect and enhance their health and well-being.
- Adopt the WHO standards for creation of urban green space and a plan.
6. Right to Access and Mobility: Every Detroit resident, regardless of their zip code, has the right to safe, accessible and affordable public transit options whether walking, biking, driving, rideshare, or using public transit
- Create a low-income fare, motorized/non-motorized transit plans & strengthen the transit advisory commission.
7. Right to Housing: Every Detroit resident is entitled to affordable, habitable, safe and accessible housing.
- Define affordability based on the City’s AMI, establish the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and require annual reporting.
8. Right to Fulfillment of Basic Needs: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of themselves and of their family, including food, utilities and water and sanitation, clothing, affordable housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to care in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control.
- Create budgeting principles to invest in health, housing, transit, recreation and certain departments.
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