Reparations, magic mushrooms, citizen initiatives - what proposals are on the Detroit ballot this election?

While a mayoral election looms large over the city of Detroit this Tuesday, there are three proposals that will have big implications on the city's future governing. One proposal also takes aim at the decriminalization of a certain kind of drug.

Make sure you read the FOX 2 election guide here so you're well prepared for Tuesday's vote.

Reparations, magic mushrooms, and amendments to the city charter - here's a breakdown of what you need to know:

Proposal R

Should the Detroit City Council establish a Reparations Task Force to make recommendations for housing and economic development programs that address historical discrimination against the Black community in Detroit?

  • If the proposal is passed, a task force would be created to study the idea of reparations.
  • If the proposal is not passed, a task force would not be created to study the idea of reparations

Among the most radical of subjects emerging in politics and race-based discussions is the idea of reparations, or compensating those for historical discrimination and slavery. 

Reparations were part of a larger proposal that was on the August Primary ballot called Prop P. It included several progressive amendments to the city charter, including new measures on policing, public internet, a declaration of citizens' rights, and water affordability. 

Detroiters soundly rejected that proposal. 

But the creation of a reparations task force is still on the ballot after Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield introduced a resolution for Prop R to be on the ballot. It is similar to a bill proposing the creation of a reparations task force at the federal level as well.

Proposal E

Shall the voters of the City of Detroit adopt an ordinance to the 2019 Detroit City Code that would decriminalize to the fullest extent permitted under Michigan law the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults and make the personal possession and therapeutic use of Entheogenic Plants by adults the city's lowest law-enforcement priority?

  • If the proposal is passed, it will decriminalize the possession and therapeutic use of entheogenic plants
  • If the proposal is not passed, then laws and enforcement around the possession and use of entheogenic plants will remain

There is growing support around opening laws to allow for the medical use and scientific study of hallucinogenic or psilocybin mushrooms. Some cities like Ann Arbor and Denver have already enacted their own laws around the drugs' decriminalization.

"I think there's really good evidence that they treat depression better than a lot of antidepressants that are on the market," a registered nurse told FOX 2 last week. 

Approval of Prop E would follow the progressive tone around drugs that Michigan has taken in recent years following the state's legalization of recreational marijuana in 2018.

Proposal S 

Do you agree to amend a provision of the City of Detroit Charter to amend Sec. 12-101 of the Charter that restricts power from the voters to enact City ordinances for the appropriation of money?

The amended section shall read: The voters of the city reserve the power to enact City ordinances, call the "initiative", and the power to nullify ordinances, enacted by the City, called the "referendum".  However, these powers do not extend to the budget and the referendum power does not extend to any emergency ordinance.  The initiative and the referendum may be invoked by petition as provided in this chapter.

  • If the proposal is passed, it would amend language in the Detroit City Charter that prohibits initiatives from passing or amending ordinances to allow citizens to propose rule changes that use city funds
  • If the proposal is not passed, the Detroit City Charter would not be amended to include language about citizen initiatives that allow for the creation or prohibition of city ordinances that use city money.

This amendment gets into the budget-making in Detroit that is typically overseen by the mayor and city council. After the mayor proposes a budget, the city council will consider its breadth while taking in opinions and holding hearings from different departments within the city. After concluding on an appropriate allocation of money, the council approves the budget. 

Currently, residents don't have control over setting spending limits on ordinances - only the power to propose ordinances that can then be voted on via ballot initiative. 

Prop S would expand the budget-making authority to include citizen initiatives.