Budget Hearings — Ombudsman / Dept. of Public Works & GDRRA

Detroit City Council
Finance

Remote

This assignment is for two back-to-back budget hearings:
2:00pm: Office of the Ombudsman
3:00pm: Dept. of Public Works/GDRRA

The full schedule of budget hearings may be found here.

Join meeting on Zoom: https://cityofdetroit.zoom.us/j/85846903626

Check the source website for additional information

Reporting

Edited and summarized by the Detroit - MI Documenters Team

Note-taking by Autumn Jackson-Hines

Ombudsman: The demolition deferral process includes an additional proof of funds requirement to minimize miscommunications, new law simplifies property tax exemption for veterans. DPW: Ending one-time $25 fee for recycling bins, linking 800 traffic signals to backup generators.

Live reporting by Amelia Benavides-Colón

Ombudsman: The demolition deferral process includes an additional proof of funds requirement to minimize miscommunications, new law simplifies property tax exemption for veterans. DPW: Ending one-time $25 fee for recycling bins, linking 800 traffic signals to backup generators.

Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon
I’m back in time for the afternoon City of Detroit budget hearings!
On the line-up: Office of the Ombudsman at 2 p.m. & Dept of Public Works at 3 p.m
Partners:
@BridgeDet313 @chalkbeatDET @freep @media_outlier @metrotimes @michigan_public @PlanetDetroit @wdet @wxyzdetroit

11:55 AM Mar 28, 2024 CDT

Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 2/94
All of the budget hearings are held at 2 Woodward Ave., Suite 1340 in the Coleman A Young municipal center,
Or you can join virtually or watch live or stream on Channel 10:
detroitmi.gov/government/cit…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 3/94
Recap my coverage of this morning’s budget hearings where we heard from the Board of Review and Office of Inspector General:
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 4/94
Today's meetings will wrap up Week 3 of this year's 46 budget hearings, all of which were covered in partnership by @DetDocumenters & @BridgeDet313
These meetings tell us exactly where the $ is being spent & what future plans are
Catch up on them all:
outliermedia.org/detroit-budget…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 5/94
First up this afternoon is the Office of the Ombudsman at 2 p.m.
This body is responsible for receiving and investigating complaints of alleged maladministration by Public Institutions and determining the appropriate remedies.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 6/94
The Mayor’s Office is recommending a 3.08% increase for FY2025, increasing the overall budget from $1,457,701 to $1,502,595
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 7/94
And our final hearing of the day is the Dept of Public Works, which works to enhancing Detroit’s well-being by providing essential environmental and infrastructure services.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 8/94
Council has nearly 3 pages of issues and questions on this budget:
The Mayor is proposing $160,192,814 for FY2025:
detroitmi.gov/sites/detroitm…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 9/94
It's 2:05 p.m. and the room is starting to fill up, I think
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 10/94
Alrighty we are back in session at 2:10 p.m.
Missing:
Durhal
Sheffield (excused)
Young II
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 11/94
From the Ombudsman Office, we have Detroit's Ombudsman Bruce Simpson
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 12/94
Simpson said the future focuses for his office are:
- Lead Abatement issues
- Issues w/ demolition deferral process
- Dept of Appeals & Hearings lack of mechanism to collect on blight tickets
- 24/hr biz requirements
*There's a presentation being shared, but it's blank*
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 13/94
Simpson is asking for a greater focus on veterans
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 14/94
Simpson said veterans struggle with mental health, homelessness, injuries and lack of education among other issues.
Through work w/ Gov Whitmer disabled veterans have the ability to apply for tax levys
.
detroitmi.gov/document/disab…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 15/94
Simpson said he's proposing a change to tax law.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 16/94
Simpson said his dept has fulfilled their 2023 goals
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 17/94
Simpson said he wants the same energy being put into the NFL Draft to be placed into neighborhoods and communities.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 18/94
Simpson said he's against Land Value Tax and Garage fee increase
detroitmi.gov/departments/of… cbsnews.com/detroit/news/d…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 19/94
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 20/94
This concludes the Ombudsman report and we open up to questions.
Right of Simpson is Gayle Bernard, Deputy Ombudsman -- and the people behind them are members of his staff
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 21/94
Pro Tem Tate said there's a considerable amount of complaint coming from D-1 and he thanks Simpson for compiling
*note Durhal is now present*
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 22/94
Waters (far left) has questions about the new FTE positions
Simpson said all employees outside of him and Bernard are "assistant ombudsman" and he uses cross-training to ensure all employees can perform every duty his office requires
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 23/94
Waters is asking about one-time expenditures?
Simpson said he can't thing of any. He said the budget is very straight-forward, with an emphasis on salary and wages and attorney fees
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 24/94
Simpson said at last year's Turkey Giveaway where 700 families were fed, he raised that money himself
Waters said she frequently sees Simpson throughout the city and commended him on his active engagement
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 25/94
Santiago-Romero (middle right) doesn't have any questions but regarding the comment made on deferral processes, she wants the entire dangerous property evaluation process revamped
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 26/94
Simpson said he's asking for $164,000 for the two FTE positions, and he's confident he will continue to make good on his promises.
He said he can't recall a previous Ombudsman who put two laws into action, and things can only go up
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 27/94
Regarding deferral processes, when a person goes to file a deferral that file is processed by BSEED who is then supposed to make a recommendation to Council -- but right now that's not happening and they are acting as the final voice, Simpson said.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 28/94
Santiago-Romero moved the $164,000 FTE budget into executive session.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 29/94
Santiago-Romero said Council receives a list of deferrals that is looked at and approved but she is open to hearing how the process could be improved
She said she would follow up personally for a conversation.
*note Young II is now present*
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 30/94
Johnson (second from right) said she appreciates Simpson's work in collaboration with her office and uniting all parties to address problems with creative solutions
She also said she wants to thank Simpson for the property transfer affidavit he advocated for
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 31/94
Johnson wants to know if there are any significant barriers to solving complaints?
Simpson said it's become difficult to make relationships with dept. heads when things are so constantly changing, and that's a key part of the job
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 32/94
Durhal is asking for an update on proportional funding
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 33/94
More on proportional funding:
detroitmi.gov/document/2022-…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 34/94
Durhal wants to know how cases are prioritized
Simpson said members of his team have decades of experience in case resolution. Time-sensitive cases are always treated first but things are done on a case-by-case basis
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 35/94
Young II said he has no questions and commended Simpson on his work.
Young said he has taken several of Simpson's ideas and passed them off as his own. He's laughing but Simpson isn't, and I'm not really sure how funny that is.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 36/94
Tate is shouting out the work done to promote Detroit's marijuana industry
.
fox2detroit.com/news/michigans…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 37/94
Tate is asking about any complaints made against licensed cannabis facilities
Simpson said this topic is hard because voters chose this, but there are some residents with 0 tolerance for this "new way of thinking" - but there haven't been any actual code violations
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 38/94
Simpson said this is a touchy subject for people inundated in marajuana facilities, like areas off of 8 Mile
worth reading:
freep.com/story/news/mar…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 39/94
CORRECTION: Simpson said he has seen "a couple" complaints against licensed marijuana facilities, but they don't come to his office
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 40/94
Tate is now asking about the ordinance to allow small farm animals in the city
Simpson said he's been to a house in the city with an emu. Tate made clear emus are not permitted in the ordinance
bridgedetroit.com/animal-keeping…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 41/94
This ordinance only applies to honeybees, chicken and ducks. He said this needs to stop being dramatized into exotic animals, Tate said.
Simpson said he has seen complaints against the animals Tate is referring to, specifically with honeybees.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 42/94
This concludes Simpson's 8th Ombudsman Budget Hearing!
He said he made an effort to be more comprehensive this year in order to expand the snapshot of his office
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 43/94
It's time for the Department of Public Works Budget Hearing, and right on time too!
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 44/94
In the middle is Director of the Department of Public Works Ron Brundidge leading this presentation
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 45/94
The DPW fund is split into 4 fund budgets: general fund, street fund, metro fund & solid waste fund
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 46/94
There are 496 budget positions with an increase of 4 for 2025.
There are 87 vacancies, 5 of which will be filled with seasonal employees in April.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 47/94
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 48/94
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 49/94
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 50/94
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 51/94
92,000 homes participate in the recycling program and yet there has been no effect on the yearly solid waste, Brundidge said.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 52/94
upcoming programs
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 53/94
This concludes the presentation and now for questions
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 54/94
Durhal wants to know about the status of Eastern Market given the incoming I-375 project
What's the plan for infrastructure noting we'll have all this traffic in the future?
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 55/94
Brundidge said they are monitoring the impact of all development projects and factoring them into future improvement programs.
He said he's also a member of the Eastern Market board and asked them to compile a list of priority issues to be addressed in next year's programming
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 56/94
Durhal is referencing city activist Marguerite Maddox and her fight for disability accessibility rights within neighborhoods
outliermedia.org/marguerite-mad…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 57/94
Brundidge said they are making great strides towards making all the residential intersections ADA complaint
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 58/94
Durhal is asking if there are any efforts to collaborate with other departments or utility providers? And what are the exact materials required?
Brundidge said yes, all projects required are done in collab w/ DWSD, DTE, etc.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 59/94
Johnson is asking if permeable pavement has been considered in upgrades?
epa.gov/soakuptherain/…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 60/94
Akinyemi said yes, this is being used in a few locations and so are burns instead of catch basins -- but soil is the best solution
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 61/94
Santiago-Romero said her office would love to help out with political education within communities. She is asking if DPW paints side streets?
Brunbridge said no, but on occasion when there's confused messaging (like around Corktown) they made adjustments
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 62/94
Santiago-Romero said the Clark Park area is also experiencing high ticket rates and she wants a study done to see where painting corners would lower tickets
Brunbridge said that would be difficult to identify data since they operate on a complaint basis
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 63/94
Young II and Brunbridge are having a cute little kiki reminiscing about growing up together
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 64/94
Young wants to know why Detroit is at the top of the list for traffic deaths and what is being done to improve infrastructure? Are partnerships taking place with public lighting authority?
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 65/94
I am so sorry my laptop spontaneously gave out on me!
It seems we are on Councilmember Waters' question about grant status - Brunbridge says there are so many it's hard to keep track
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 66/94
Durhal wants to know the effectiveness of street sweeping
Brunbridge said on top of the fact that residents love it, 10,000 tons of debris is collected that would otherwise make its way into the sewage system
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 67/94
Durhal said since COVID in 2020 there have been no parking enforcement in regards to street sweeping, forcing the vehicles to navigate parked cars
How would enforcement of the parking ordinance affect things?
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 68/94
Brunbridge said the program was stopped at one point and when it started back up 8 years ago, they made the decision not to enforce the parking rule - it wasn't related to COVID
He said they didn't want to create a scenario that would ticket residents, positive vibes only
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 69/94
Durhal said he hears negative comments about the program often because there's no point if the parking rule isn't enforced.
Brunbridge said he's open to going back to the table on enforcement, but he won't say anything confidently today
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 70/94
CORRECTION: Pro Tem Tate is the one talking about parking enforcement, not Durhal. I am so sorry for this mistake!
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 71/94
This the Council's questions and we open up into public comment:
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 72/94
There is 1 member of the public for public comment.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 73/94
And there are 12 people online
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 74/94
1: Inspectors came to her home to tell her they would demolish her home in 3 weeks. She was in the process of working with BSEED and was told she had to provide proof of funds this year, even though it was not on the application; it was denied citing lack of funds
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 75/94
1: Her home was torn down yesterday. She said she delivered a full binder of information and her application was still denied. She was a District 5 resident now living in Sterling Heights. She said she emailed every single person on Council and never heard back.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 76/94
Waters is extending a helping hand and said she doesn't know what can be done but she feels terrible.
Santiago-Romero said this is heart-breaking and her property came to her committee in 2022, during her first year in office. She said BSEED wasn't sending images 1/2
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 77/94
Santiago-Romero said this case is really horrible and she no longer feels comfortable holding violent building hearings until this issue is resolved.
She said while the mayor's office may not be happy with this, there is no way they can move forward with this ongoing
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 78/94
Ombudsman Simpson also wants to speak but Tate wants to circle back after public comment
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 79/94
2: says the OIG and Ombudsman deserve additional resources for the large amount of work they do. In regards to street sweeping, it should go up to 3 times per year - and they need to ensure catch basins are not being covered by repavement
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 80/94
3: wants to know why taxpayers ar being charged recycling fees, they are not a fee they are a tax - which doesn't make sense if they are applying for grants
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 81/94
4: Received the neighborhood beautification grants and wants Council's support on future initiatives
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 82/94
5: Said she has 3 main issues: who inspects the shower repairs and who goes around after them? And she says there is a problem with 1/4 inch deep holes at all intersections in her neighborhood
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 83/94
6: D-4 resident advocating for accessible city sidewalks
clickondetroit.com/news/local/202…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 84/94
7: *connection issues*
8: Parish at Mariner's Church advocating for the Office of Ombudsman - they helped save the church from a water shutoff during their busiest week
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 85/94
9: *no connection*
10: AARP Chapter 68 member in support of the Ombudsman office after receiving no help from District 3 - city buses were going down residential streets almost hitting pedestrians and the Ombudsman office literally stood at the intersection to stop buses
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 86/94
11: D5 resident in support of sidewalk improvements and echoing ADA complaints at intersections
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 87/94
12: Huge shoutout to the Ombudsman for his involvement and willingness to advocate for veterans
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 88/94
Back to 7: Sounds like we are listening to a recording in Arabic, or maybe it's not a recording, but it seems to be a phrase in repetition -- frequent sounds of cars
Council let this go uninterrupted for the full 2 minutes
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 89/94
Back to 9: Says she agrees with previous commentors comments about greater collaboration between orgs. She said there is inaccurate information being displayed and repeated by DPW - she said the speed humps don't slow vehicles
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 90/94
Back to 1: Ombudsman Simpson said this is an example of the real people behind the data - he said processes in place need to be revisited. Simpson said the home featured in his presentation earlier was the house in question - which in his opinion was done unjustly
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 91/94
This concludes public comment.
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 92/94
The final day of budget hearings will be on Monday, and then it's crunch time.
Here's the full schedule:
detroitmi.gov/government/cit…
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 93/94
Tate is making a motion for an increase for online videos on the city page to allow for the backlog of city council meetings
Amelia Benavides-Colón @benavides_colon 94/94
The final budget hearings for March 28, 2024 have been adjourned.
You can find more of our coverage at www.
documenters.org

Attachments

Agency Information

Detroit City Council

www.detroitmi.gov

See Documenters reporting

The Detroit City Council is the legislative body of Detroit, Michigan, United States. The Council is responsible for the creation of local laws—called ordinances. Additionally they pass resolutions, motions, and the proposed city budget. The full-time council is required to meet every business day for at least 10 months of the year, with at least eight of these meetings occurring at a location besides city hall. The council may convene for special meetings at the call of the mayor or at least four members of council. Areas of responsibility for the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee include, Budget, Finance and the Auditor General.

City Council members are elected on the same cycle as the Mayor and will be elected in 2021. Seven members represent the seven council districts, while two members are elected at-large.

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