Seventy-five people have applied to serve on a committee that will be assembled in the New Year to study reparations proposals for Detroit.
City voters passed a ballot initiative in 2021 calling for the creation of a “reparations committee” to make recommendations for housing and development programs which address historic discrimination against Black residents. The City Council established a process to fill the 13-member task force last year and is responsible for narrowing the list of applicants in 2023.
Residency requirements help reduce the number by a handful. There are 65 eligible applicants from Detroit. Eight others, from Macomb County, Grand Rapids and even California, shouldn’t be able to serve on the task force under rules passed by the City Council.
Applications opened this summer, with a deadline of Oct. 10. Council members had planned to review the applications and pick nominees to move on to be interviewed by the end of 2022. However, the council did not formally discuss nominees before breaking for a holiday recess in late November.
BridgeDetroit obtained the list of applicants, resumes and other materials submitted by task force hopefuls through a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents show strong interest in the task force from Detroiters with an impressive array of skills and expertise.
Council President Mary Sheffield will select four individuals to lead the 13-member task force, which includes the appointment of a chairperson. The other nine members will be appointed by the City Council during a public vote.
Sheffield previously told BridgeDetroit that she was considering a few names for her appointments, including Detroit Planning Commission Chair Lauren Hood, Michigan Democratic Party Black Caucus Chair Keith Williams and Michigan Democratic Party Deputy Voter Protection Director Dorian Tyus. Each has submitted an application for the task force.
Other recognizable names include Janis Hazel, a former legislative assistant for U.S. Rep. John Conyers who said she worked with the late Conyers to develop the first reparations bill that Conyers introduced to Congress in 1989. Tahira Ahmad, a Detroit housing advocate and frequent public commenter at Detroit’s City Council meetings also applied.
Being Black isn’t a requirement to serve on the task force. The city’s application form did not ask about race or ethnicity. It did collect the age and address of each applicant. Detroit residents made up the vast majority (87%) of applicants, a requirement to serve on the task force.
To be eligible, applicants must also have lived in Detroit for at least six years. The application materials provided to BridgeDetroit did not ask how long candidates have lived in the city. The average age of the applicants is 48.
The City Council also has expressed some preference for people with certain expertise, like historians, community organizers, housing or economic researchers, urban planners, youth representatives, restorative justice advocates and others.
Once created, the task force is required to provide recommendations to the City Council within 18 months of its first meeting. Task force meetings will be open to the public.