Reps. Banks, Neeley Announce Urban Workgroup

Local officials, legislators to work together on new urban policies

LANSING — State Representative and Detroit Caucus Chair Brian Banks (D-Detroit) and state Rep. Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint) joined with members of the House Democratic Caucus and local elected officials representing Michigan’s urban communities today at a Lansing press conference to announce the creation of an urban workgroup to develop state level policy goals for these communities.

“Too often, we have seen divisive state policies offered that have pitted communities against each other instead of solving the very real problems these communities face,” said Banks. “Our goal with this urban workgroup is to join together and find strategies and solutions that will unify our communities and address their needs.”

Banks, who represents a portion of the city of Detroit, is working with other Detroit legislators on the funding crisis in Detroit Public Schools. Neeley, who represents the city of Flint, is fighting to hold state officials accountable for the Flint water crisis and to ensure that Flint residents not only have clean water through their taps as soon as possible, but also that the state serves the needs of residents and particularly Flint’s children for years to come.

  Banks and Neeley both agreed that the state’s urban communities face many challenges, including:

  • Education: Two school districts have folded, while other districts have been handed to for-profit charter school operators to run. Emergency managers stripped locally elected school boards of their authority. Under emergency management, the DPS grew to a size that left the district unable to meet payroll.
  • Local Control: Emergency managers failed to help urban communities. Flint’s emergency managers ignored complaints about the smell and discoloration of water, which turned out to be lead-tainted. Communities struggle to provide police and fire services, trash removal and road repairs because of disastrous revenue sharing cuts.
  • Insurance Rates: Drivers in Michigan’s urban communities pay more for auto insurance simply because of their address. Detroit drivers have the highest auto insurance rates in the state, putting the cost of required insurance out of reach for many.

“Clean, drinkable water flowing through people’s taps isn’t the end of the Flint water crisis. We need to work now on long-term policy goals that involve not just infrastructure but also the state’s emergency manager system that is at-fault in the water crisis,” said Neeley. “Many of our communities have struggled with questionable decisions by emergency managers. We need to look for better strategies to help struggling communities that are still feeling the effects of the recession and job losses.”

Banks said that preliminary discussions to setting up meetings and an agenda for the workgroup are underway.