The city’s forthcoming Reparations Task Force should empanel legal minds, historians and grassroots groups and they should be Detroiters, according to a community input survey.
But the majority of the 412 survey respondents said membership shouldn’t be limited to Black Detroiters. The task force, they also suggested, should be composed of six to 11 people who have lived in the city anywhere from six years to a decade.
The survey responses, compiled by the City Council’s Legislative Policy Division, revealed the vast majority of the respondents want the task force members to be residents. The LPD analysis released this month will be used to craft a resolution to establish who is eligible to sit on the task force.
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The survey was made available in late February, after the Reparations Task Force Steering Committee hosted its first community meeting. Detroit voters in November supported the creation of the reparations task force to address past harm caused by city housing and economic development policies.
Steering committee members asked participants for their thoughts on the creation of the task force during the initial meeting and read through the survey questions without adding or changing any parts of the survey before it was released to the public.
No other community meetings have been scheduled at this time.
Detroit has had a long-standing interest in reparations since the late U.S. Rep. John Conyers introduced legislation decades ago. The topic recently resurfaced throughout Michigan, even at the state’s most notable Mackinac Policy Conference. Residents talked about the importance of home ownership, equitable space, and access to opportunity throughout February’s community meeting. It is unclear how reparations will be approached moving forward as the council has no budget to support the task force.
Paris Blessman, legislative and organizational director for Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield, said that the council must create and approve a resolution to establish the task force. Blessman said the council president asked LPD to use findings from the survey to recommend candidates for the council to vote on who could sit on the task force.
“Interviews will likely take place for the appointments and after the appointments are confirmed the taskforce will start meeting,” Blessman said in an email to BridgeDetroit.
Once established, the task force will make recommendations to Detroit’s City Council. However, it will not have the power to enact any changes at the municipal level on its own.
Survey respondents had varying opinions on the length of time that a potential task force member would have had to be a resident of Detroit. Of those who took part, 122 said six to 10 years; 76 respondents said 11 to 16 years; and 73 survey participants selected over 25 years.
Additionally, 69 respondents said five years or less and 65 respondents said 16 to 20 years.
LPD’s survey analysis also revealed task force members do not have to be Black. When considering other races and ethnicities, 127 respondents said task force members should also represent Latinx residents; 12 selected Native American; 87 selected Arab; 87 selected Asian; and 71 selected white.
Respondents who chose to elaborate on their answers said that the task force should represent the past and the future of Detroit, LPD’s analysis notes.
Lauren Hood, a member of the steering committee, said she was not surprised by the survey results. Hood said that the committee has not held more community meetings because it is the task force’s role to engage, understand and relay the community’s needs to the City Council.
Detroiters can expect to see the council deliberate and take action on the creation of the task force by Juneteenth, just one year after City Council President Mary Sheffield introduced to council members the documents to create such a task force. The council pushed the decision to voters, who approved the creation of the taskforce last fall.
Although the council isn’t expected to vote until the summer, Hood encouraged Detroiters who feel passionate about the issue to get involved in grassroot organizing, community service, and city meetings now.