Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Separating the Warrendale Neighborhood from Detroit

It's no secret that those of us who live in Detroit pay taxes that are almost double national averages yet receive services that, to put as diplomatically as possible, are severely lacking. The Detroit Police Department has the worst response times of any urban department in the industrialized world, in spite of having one of the largest budgets of any such department. Street lights are problematic, at best. The list simply goes on from there.

All of this stands in stark contrast with our suburban neighbors. Their local governments get more done, faster, and with a lot less money than the City of Detroit does.

As a result, one of the common musings that I hear is: why doesn't the Warrendale neighborhood secede from with the City of Detroit and either become a part of Dearborn or simply become an independent city?

Leading the Warrendale Liberation Movement

I dealt with this question frequently when I was vice president of the Warrendale Community Organization in 1995-96 and again when I was president. The idea has been around for more than a decade, if not longer. As such, I wanted to post about this in detail since I'm hearing it with greater and greater frequency as Detroit's troubles continue on and on.

I sat down with an attorney to gain perspective on exactly what it would take for the Warrendale neighborhood to dissolve its relationship with the City of Detroit. The fundamental problem is that there currently isn't a procedure in place for residents of one city to succeed and either form a new city or join an existing city. Current law in Michigan, I have learned, is built on the assumption that individual cities - not the residents of those cities - would initiate any changes in their political boundaries.

As a result, if residents of the Warrendale neighborhood wanted to dissolve their relationship with the City of Detroit, the first thing that we would have to do is create the legal procedure that we would later have to follow to do such a thing. This, by the way, would most likely mean that we would have to gather enough signature to create a ballot initiative and put it on the statewide ballot.

We would then have to wage a statewide campaign to get said ballot initiative passed. The majority of voters across Michigan would have to approve legislation to give us the legal authority to secede from Detroit and to set a procedure for such a thing to happen.

Once we complete the statewide campaign to create a procedure for such a secession to happen, and the ballot initiative passes, then and only then would we be able to begin the process to secede from the City of Detroit. All told, between launching a statewide ballot initiative to create the process for us to secede and then implementing such a process, it would unquestionably take more than a year to complete - even longer if the ruling kleptocracy within Detroit decides to fight such a move.

My personal opinion is that such a move should be an absolute last resort, simply because of the amount of time and effort that would be involved. There may well come a point where we have to resort to such a move. However, I don't think we're there yet.

Detroit will almost certainly have a new mayor in less than two years from today. Mayor Dave Bing has failed so miserably that it's unlikely he will even make it past the primary, let alone gain re-election. We will also have a new City Council that will be elected by districts, an elected Board of Police Commissioners, and new ethics rules. All of this adds us to a considerable amount of changes that are coming in the next 23 months; changes that do not bode well for the kleptocracy.

I respect those who have quietly advocated for separating the Warrendale neighborhood from the City of Detroit. If they decided to move forward with it without, I would wish them the best and sign their petitions. However, when one considers the amount of time and effort that such a move require as well as the magnitude of changes that are in store for Detroit in the coming months, an effort towards secession is not where I would put my resources at this time.
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