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Detroit tries again with charter update

The City of Detroit is back on the ballot with a charter reform initiative. Measure 24-499, which was placed on the May 21 election ballot by a unanimous vote of the City Council, is essentially the same measure that failed on a 55-51 vote in November 2022.

The key charter change is the proposed elimination of residency restrictions for council and mayoral participation. The current language calls for a council in which two members can be part-time residents and five must be full-time residents. 

Backers of the change think the clause should be changed because it “reduces the volunteer pool of interested property owners, full or part time, to be involved in city government,” said councilor Denny Nielsen in a statement that emphasizes how the city has changed as a result of the 2020 wildfires.

“Rebuilding Detroit, both commercially and residentially, will be an ongoing project for several years to come,” Nielsen said in the statement, which will be posted on Detroit social media sites. 

“We have many new property owners who are investing in our city and who have the needed skills, time and interest to contribute to our recovery efforts and our rebuilding vision.”

Nielsen and charter backers think new residents should be able to participate in city affairs even if they don’t finally move to Detroit permanently.

Nielsen noted in an interview that the charter change also would affect membership on the city’s Planning Commission, a key body for land use and code decisions the city will be facing during the rebuild.

“A younger cadre is needed,” Nielsen said. “We have a bunch of old guys such as Mayor Jim Trett and myself. I don’t know how much longer we are going to be around.”

Nielsen said that backers of the 2022 charter change did not do as good a job as they should have in educating and communicating what the changes would mean to the city’s voters. His statement will be posted on the city website in addition to area social media sites and handouts of the notice will be posted and distributed in town.

Nielsen and charter backers also are encouraging voters with Detroit ties to register to vote in Detroit. To do so, type sos.oregon.gov into your browser, then click on Register to Vote, go to My Vote and then to Update Registration. Fill out the form. It takes 10 minutes, Nielsen said.

Nielsen ended his statement with:

“City Council leadership is pivotal in terms of planning and oversight of our redevelopment activities. We need passionate, skilled, and dedicated volunteers. Expanding the pool of volunteers who are elected from within our city, whether full or part-time, just makes good sense.”

Key Election Dates

April 30: Last day to register to vote

May 1: Ballots will be mailed to registered voters

May 14: Recommended last day to mail ballot back

May 21: Last day to return ballot by drop box

May 28: Last day for review of post marks

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