Community Advisory Council approved for Detroit’s 4th District

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published October 15, 2019

 Scotty Boman, left, stands with District 4 Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey, right, while they hold the petition that Boman circulated to form a Community Advisory Council for the district. The petition was approved Oct. 4.

Scotty Boman, left, stands with District 4 Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey, right, while they hold the petition that Boman circulated to form a Community Advisory Council for the district. The petition was approved Oct. 4.

Photo provided by Scotty Boman

DETROIT — The residents of Detroit’s 4th District now have a new avenue to become involved in local politics and administration thanks to a new Community Advisory Council in the district.

The formation of the council was confirmed by the Detroit City Clerk’s office Oct. 4. Its creation was largely the work of Detroit resident Scotty Boman, who circulated a petition to form the new body throughout the summer.

“People were coming to City Council meetings and complaining about issues only after they passed,” explained Boman. “I wanted to ensure people had a voice in this process and knew they had this voice. A diligent person could always follow the council closely and go to meetings and do the legwork, but most people don’t have the time for that. This body will help them do so and help ensure the priorities of the community are being looked out for.”

District 4 will be the second of Detroit’s seven districts to establish a Community Advisory Council. The first was District 7.

“This council will improve citizen access to city government beyond what is currently taking place with the meetings hosted by the council member of District 4 and the monthly meetings by various community groups,” District 4 Councilman Andre Spivey wrote in an email.

The city charter specifies that the advisory council meet at least four times per year. The advisory council will decide how often and when to meet once it forms. It would host meetings at donated spaces open to the general public within the 4th district. It will be a seven-member body with five members being elected by residents every four years, and the last two being appointed by the City Council upon the recommendation of the district’s City Council member. The first appointed member must be between the ages of 13 and 17 and the other must be a senior citizen over the age of 65.

The first members will be elected in November of 2020 during the general election. Meetings have not been scheduled yet, but details will be available on when they are.

“Its role is to advise City Council members. It has no way to bind the hands of a City Council member; it’s more about providing a voice for citizens directly,” explained Boman. “Plus, a City Council member of a city like Detroit has a lot of people to look out for, and this body lets a wider range of people let their voices be heard. … They also can serve as liaisons between the City Council and the population of that district.”

A Community Advisory Council is allowed in Detroit’s City Charter as an optional measure for each district.

“The city charter of Detroit says certain political bodies are automatically created; this is like the mayor, the Board of Police Commissioners, the City Council and so forth,” Boman said. “Most other positions are appointed positions, but the Community Advisory Council is an optional body that has five members who are elected and two who are appointed.”

At least 1,141 signatures were required for Boman’s petition to be approved. He collected 1,570.

The body is designed to be separate from the City Council representative, but the representative can listen to the advice of the council.

“The Council Member has no direct role or influence with the CAC,” wrote Spivey. “The City Charter does call for the City Council member or a designee from the District in which a Community Advisory Council resides to attend the meetings of the CAC. I look forward to the CAC hearing from the community and communicating those concerns to our city government.”

Boman said a variety of local issues will be discussed by the advisory council and that it will mean additional opportunities for residents to make sure their voices are heard.

“This will include a lot of local issues. For instance, when they were putting the bike lanes on East Warren Avenue, a lot of people weren’t aware that was happening. This would bring the general public into that decision process more before decisions are made,” he said. “Other issues could include discussing potential uses of grant money or what areas projects like neighborhood revitalization could target.”

Boman went on to say that some people have misconceptions about the Community Advisory Council, believing it will cost taxpayers money or will mean a new layer of bureaucracy, but he said that is not the case.

“The charter specifically says city money cannot be used for the Community Advisory Council,” Boman explained. “They can collect their own donations to cover expenses, but it can’t come out of any part of the city budget. I want people to understand this is not an additional level of bureaucracy people have to plow through to get through to the city government; it’s a new way for them to interact with city government. It’s not a roadblock; it’s another bridge.”

Spivey had attempted to start such an advisory council in the past, but was unable to gain sufficient support.

“I undertook this effort independently,” said Boman. “(Spivey) had attempted to start these efforts earlier, unsuccessfully. I proceeded to set up the petition myself and collect signatures. I was walking down one of the streets and crossed paths with Mr. Spivey in August as he was coming home, and we began talking. He told me how he had attempted this in the past and came on as a supporter. We both wanted to make sure people got involved and worked to get the word out about it.”

Spivey hopes this will allow more residents on Detroit’s east side to become involved in how their community is run.

“I first want to thank Scotty Boman of the Morningside community for going out since last spring to collect signatures to establish the CAC for District 4,” Spivey wrote. “I also want the residents of District 4 to familiarize themselves with the Community Advisory Councils in the City Charter for those who would be interested in running to be a member and for the entire community to know how important their support and involvement needs to be ... when this CAC is seated.”