Detroit – On Tuesday, September 18th, Building Movement Detroit partners the North End Woodward Community Coalition (NEWCC) presented petitions with over 1300 signatures to Detroit City Council. The petition called for the restoration of Detroit Department of Transportation service to pre March 3, 2012 levels to alleviate the harm and suffering felt by many Detroiters who depend on public transit.
The petitions were presented to council at a special evening meeting held at the Wayne County Community College East Campus. NEWCC community members met at St. Matthew’s & St. Joseph’s Episcopal Churchin the North End for dinner together before heading to WCCC on a bus filled with song, strategy, and prayer.
Thanks to an organized media effort, Rev. Joan Ross, the spokesperson for NEWCC, was interviewed by seven media outlets before the end of the evening. The group’s media strategy includes documenting moving video testimonials from Detroiters who are most affected by the cuts and posting them to a YouTube channel. Some of these testimonials were included in local, late-night news coverage of the council meeting. (see Media and Press Coverage below for links)
NEWCC Members present petitions, share their experience during public comments
D-DOT bus rider and NEWCC member, Syri Simpson presented a copied and bound stack of petitions to the council during the public comments section. Council members responded by calling for a meeting between NEWCC, community members and DDOT executives. Council Member JoAnn Watson also stated that after looking at recent budget updates she was “stunned not to see any real huge savings from DDOT based on these draconian cuts they’ve taken” and posed the question,”since they have not achieved the savings they promised, why can’t they roll back and provide the service that used to be provided? Because I don’t see the big difference between where they were last year and where they are now.”
Throughout the comments, other NEWCC members shared their experience as D-DOT bus riders and asked for council’s support around Transit Justice. Community advocate Lila Cabbil, citing her 42 years of experience with Rosa Parks and her work through the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, expressed to council members the importance of honoring the namesake of DDOT’s Rosa Parks Transit Center and her legacy. In a rousing statement invoking Mrs. Parks, Cabbil expressed; “this is not a matter of being in the back of the bus, but a matter of getting on the bus.”
The Transportation Advisory Commission application process
In addition to restoring the bus service to pre March 3 levels, citizens asked Council members questions about Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s new Transportation Advisory Commission and shared the challenges faced by NEWCC members attempting to apply for a seat on this new commission. This advisory commission is one of many created by the new Detroit City Charter (download a pdf of the new charter) which includes new opportunities for citizen participation in city government.
After the meeting, NEWCC member Kathy Milberg shared that only 3 out of 5 NEWCC members who attempted to apply for the commission were allowed to turn in their applications and that they were each given different instructions, procedures, and deadlines to apply. She also shared that the application required applicants to submit a copy of a valid driver’s license, noting that many citizens who ride the
bus only have state IDs. Furthermore, Milberg noted that applications were only offered in English, that requests were provide a Spanish version were ignored, and that the opportunity to apply had not been publicly announced through accessible channels.
Update: Wednesday September 20, Mayor Bing’s office sent out a request for Transportation Advisory Commission applicants to a small email group named ‘BING Roundtable’.
Title VI Civil Rights Complaint Status
In May of 2012, The North End Woodward Community Coalition filed a Title VI Civil Rights complaint against the Detroit Department of Transportation with the Federal Transportation Administration, alleging recent bus cuts came without proper notice, public hearings, or support for non-English-speaking residents. In June, Rev. Ross received confirmation from the FTA that they had received the complaint and would begin their investigation. Since this initial communication, inquiries by NEWCC members as to the status of the investigation have not been acknowledged by the FTA.
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