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Editorial: Vote No on Prop P to revise Detroit city charter

Detroiters who use absentee ballots are already casting votes on Proposal P, even though its appropriateness for the Aug. 3 primary ballot is still being decided by the state Supreme Court.

Should the court rule the proposal to revamp the city charter doesn't meet the eligibility test, those votes won't count. 

But if the court leaves Prop P on the ballot, Detroiters should make sure to defeat it. This proposal is a bad piece of work. 

Charters are intended to provide a framework on which an effective government can be built.

They are not designed to dictate day-to-day operating decisions. Those are best left to elected leaders, who should have maximum flexibility to adapt to changing situations.

The Charter Revision Commission acted as if it were decorating a Christmas tree, adding on everything everyone wanted to see the city do.

More: Editorial: Charter commission lies to Detroit

Its proposed revision of the 2012 charter would bloat Detroit's city government with bureaucracy and diminish the authority of elected officials.

It establishes dozens of new commissions to advise and oversee nearly every city function. These commissions will slow the process of governing and raise its costs, and the myriad reports the charter demands they produce will bury city workers in paperwork.

The revision is far too prescriptive. For example, it requires the city to give out an annual humanitarian award in honor of former Mayor Coleman A. Young, asks that it establish an African cultural district, and demands it continue funding the Charles Wright Museum of African American History in perpetuity.

It also demands that every city department provide summer jobs for teens.

In addition, the charter involves itself in the recruitment and discipline of Detroit police officers and dilutes the chain of command.

It also puts at risk the tax abatements and special tax districts Detroit has used to encourage job-creating development.

City residents may find some of these ideas appealing. If so, they should be put in place by a City Council and mayor who can weigh whether the city can afford them.

The Duggan administration estimates the cost of the various mandates in the proposed charter to be at least $2 billion over four years.

That could well send Detroit back into bankruptcy and place it again under outside financial oversight. Provisions dealing with the setting of water rates could also violate the agreement that established the Great Lakes Water Authority.

Attorney General Dana Nessel found many of the provisions violated state law and recommended it not go on the ballot. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer concurred.

But rather than fixing the proposals, as they promised, the charter commissioners put them on the ballot anyway. The Supreme Court is weighing whether they had a legal right to do so.

Detroit has a solid charter in place that establishes a proper framework for governing the city. If there are serious problems in the city, they are best addressed by changing the people who run it, not the charter. 

Regardless of what the court does, Detroit should vote no on Proposal P.