Dispatch from Detroit

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Honorable City Council Members;

I am writing to you concerning two areas of concern in Corktown and SW Detroit. As you are aware, the libraries are currently closed due to Covid 19, but this is a temporary situation. We need our library open. The Campbell Branch is important to the area it serves, but it is three miles west in a neighborhood where many people walk.

We have filed ADA complaints against the Bowen due to its lack of wheelchair and walker access, no parking lot and no ramps and no first floor bathroom. Instead, we are told it “Did not make the cut for reopening.” We understand that only six branches are slated for reopening.

We understand that there is not much money circulating for the libraries. Yet, millions are spent on bike lanes that are not functional in the winter and block traffic across the city. Millions are spent on dog parks, but our libraries are closed and without adequate handicapped facilities. There are thousands of people in Detroit without internet access who use the libraries for job searches, checking in with unemployment, applying for all manner of assistance or college entrance, all things that are available to those who already have. The library bond money is being diverted – upwards of 15%- to downtown construction projects.

Meanwhile, in the Barbara Apartments on W. Grand Blvd, many people will be gentrified out as a British investor is rumored to be rehabbing the building and putting out the current tenants. In Corktown, the Clement Kern Gardens are slated to be demolished, displacing 84 units of Section 8 families, which includes many children. This is the majority of Black and Latino people left in Corktown. The properties being built are condos costing between $400,000 and 700, 000 per unit. there is a clear project of racial and economic segregation while displacing residents with no plan for relocation is clear.

Housing for and by white only;

The plans are outright hostile to non white people, particularly children, and particularly people who may not get around on bikes. Why is the city moving forward with constructing homes for rich white people while displacing the rest of us? Why is the majority of the construction work force white in a city that is Black and Latino? Why, after all these decades can the skilled trades still be segregated and thus, the only ones capable of doing the high paying work?

Why is this allowed, giving tax breaks to contractors and taxing us out? We have nothing to say about these spending priorities and it is not clear that we are not still under emergency management.

Who would close libraries while allowing residents to be displaced from their homes? Who would allow tax abatements for billionaires while we, the overtaxed residents still have to pay our property taxes while receiving no relief from years over being overtaxed?

Each of these is a real question. This is not a rhetorical letter to the Council. Please respond accordingly. I hope you are thinking about these things; the inequality of Detroit life since the bankruptcy and the ease with which some can buy homes, fix them up, while grants for us have turned into loans that we may not qualify for. The unfairness is found in every little policy- no “white only” signs are necessary. No denial of jobs, just credit checks – while some never had to pay predatory car and homeowners insurance, never went to schools looted by the state, yet can take now privatized jobs from Detroiters who lived through all the years of disinvestment.

I hope you are thinking about the segregation project of Dan Gilbert, who gave big money to racists who opposed the outcome of this election, He told us who he is and what his vision is and we cannot turn our faces away from this fact. The largest employer in Detroit and his employees gave campaign contributions to a candidate who was openly supported by the KKK. Gilbert contributed to the ballot campaign to make us stay under emergency management. This is a clear violation of our voting rights by a man who sends his staff to count our votes on election day. I respectfully ask you to wake up.

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