Lawyers discussed on Wednesday whether residents of Detroit should be able to vote next month on sweeping revisions to their municipal charter, regardless of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s opinion on the matter at a Michigan Supreme Court hearing .
Under lower court rulings so far, judges have concluded that “power and authority rests with the governor and governor alone,” who rejected the plan on April 30, said Aaron Phelps, lawyer for the Detroit Charter Review Board and Detroit City Clerk Janice. Winfrey.
But, Phelps argued, the Home Rule City Act of 1909 includes many provisions giving residents the power to revise the charter.
“Nothing in the law requires the governor’s signature before the review can be submitted for election,” Phelps said, arguing that amendments, not revisions, must be submitted to the governor.
Where there are inconsistencies in state law on process, the state constitution of 1963 requires that these matters be “liberally interpreted in favor of the city,” he said.
“We are not interpreting it in favor of the governor and giving him a right which is not expressly stated in the law and which would be totally inconsistent with the theory of autonomy,” said Phelps.
The Michigan Supreme Court took the case under advisement at the end of the approximately 30-minute hearing.
The hearing came after the State Court of Appeals upheld a Wayne County Circuit Court order to remove the charter review plan, Proposal P, from the August 3 poll, in part because the initiative did not receive the approval of Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The city continued to print ballots with the proposal while the case awaits a high court ruling.
The initiative developed by the Detroit Charter Review Commission aims for permanent changes to the charter, including those related to expanding access to public transportation and high-speed Internet, accessibility to water and increased transparency and police reforms, after three years of review and drafting by the nine-member commission.
Judge David Viviano asked on Wednesday whether Phelps’ arguments were inconsistent with the way the commission acted in bringing the proposal to the governor.
“Your client apparently followed what seems to be the routine that people have followed for the past 100 years, which is that they submit revisions to the governor to receive the governor’s contribution well in advance of the election,” Viviano said.
Jason Hanselman, counsel for two of the plaintiffs contesting the proposal, echoed Viviano’s comments and argued that the “plain language” of state law requires that revisions be submitted to the governor for approval or return. proposal.
“The actions of the charter commission that we just heard show that it has agreed that these are the only two ways,” said Hanselman. The early confusion over a missed deadline and the different versions of the proposed charter show the need for the governor’s involvement to protect voters, he added.
Judge Richard Bernstein questioned the effect of the governor’s involvement and whether his intervention was necessary before the proposal reached the polls.
“Why shouldn’t the default allow people to have the opportunity and the right to vote? Bernstein asked. “… If I’m not happy with what (the Detroit Charter Review Board) has done, I can vote accordingly, can’t I?”
Whitmer and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan have warned that the costs of passing the charter’s provisions would bankrupt the city again and lead to active scrutiny by the Financial Review Commission.
Senior financial officials in Detroit initially estimated the revisions would cost $ 3.4 billion over four years, and the expected cost was lowered to $ 2 billion after charter commissioners altered the plan. Michigan’s office of CFO Jay Rising said if the revised charter was approved in August, as drafted, the city’s four-year financial plan would no longer be balanced.
The plan was developed in part by the Detroiters Bill of Rights Coalition. The group, made up of environmental activists, immigrants and people with disabilities, as well as experts in housing, water and public transport, seeks to integrate “fundamental human and civil rights” into the charter.
Editor-in-chief Mark Hicks contributed.