Council Member Sheffield’s Statement on the Pistons DDA Amendment Vote

DETROIT, MI – Detroit City Council Member Mary Sheffield has issued a statement concerning her vote on the Pistons DDA Amendment after many in the community have taken to social media and the airwaves to attack her character.

Her official statement is as follows:

“Over the last week, some have taken to the airwaves and social media attacking my character, my intelligence and most importantly my ability to represent the interests of District 5 residents.

Most days, Monday through Sunday, I dedicate a minimum of 12 hours to studying materials, meeting with residents and business owners, assisting constituents and preparing myself to best serve the residents of District 5 at the Council table. I think it’s shameful that some would have people believe otherwise with baseless claims and misinformation.

Since taking office, if I have done nothing else I have been consistently working to improve the lives of all residents especially some of the City’s most vulnerable citizens: seniors, our youth, those experiencing homelessness and those with incomes below the poverty level. I would like the record to reflect that prior to this vote there were several meetings to discuss this deal, that I personally promoted through multiple methods of communication, which were not well attended.

Also, my office had not received many calls regarding the approval or disapproval of this project until media reports suggested the measure takes money away from our children. It should be mentioned that I also received emails and calls from District 5 residents asking me to stand by my decision to support the DDA amendment. At that point, I believed I needed to give my residents another chance to share their opinion and possibly reconsider my vote at an emergency meeting in District 5 designed to educate my constituents about the deal’s intricacies.

After listening to my constituents and sharing the facts about the DDA amendment paving the way for the Pistons to begin play in Detroit, I have decided not to reconsider my vote on the DDA amendment to facilitate the Detroit Pistons move to Detroit. After doing my due diligence, asking the important questions related to DPSCD, fighting for community benefits for Detroiters in public and behind closed doors as well as having an understanding of Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) I came to the conclusion the deal, albeit not perfect, was in the best interest of Detroit and my constituents.

Most of the consternation regarding this proposal has centered around taking money away from DPSCD students, the ability to use the money in the neighborhoods and the community not wanting to use their taxes to help a billionaire owner and his team – all of which are not true. In a Legislative Policy Division Report, that I initiated, the Detroit Public Schools Community District spokesperson is quoted as saying “the new school district does not levy taxes and receives full funding from the State.” With respect to using the $34.5 million in the neighborhoods or to directly benefit residents, one needs to understand the history of the DDA, its purpose and how tax incremental financing works to know that these funds, once captured, can only be used within the DDA’s boundaries.

The DDA was created by the State with the urging of then Mayor Coleman Young to facilitate development and job creation in the City of Detroit after more than a decade of systematic disinvestment. The DDA has the authority to capture the increase in taxes in its boundaries that result from developments like the arena.The captured taxes then must be reinvested in development projects within the DDA boundaries which result in even higher taxable values for all the properties in the area and ultimately generates more tax revenue for all the taxing authorities in the long run.

Finally, with respect to not wanting to use public resources to subsidize a billionaire owner and his team’s move to the City I would have to say in general I am in agreement in principal and my staff and I expend a lot effort in trying to achieve more equity for governmental subsidies. With that said, each development/deal must be judged on its own merits and a decision should be made solely based on what is best for Detroit. It is worth noting that nearly a year ago I sponsored a resolution supporting a package of bills which exclude school districts and libraries from any tax captures.

Other residents who took exception to the approval of the DDA amendment did so on the basis of wanting more in the form of community benefits. But as elected officials and residents we must be cognizant of laws and the Charter and realize where the power lies with respect to negotiating deals on behalf of the City. According to proposal B, the Pistons relocation and DDA amendment does not subject the team to the Community Benefits Ordinance and their participation in the CBA process was voluntary.

Also, according to the Detroit City Charter, City Council does not have the authority to negotiate development deals and the Charter expressly gives that power to the Mayor. In that vein, the Mayor and his team negotiated with Palace Sports and Entertainment and presented Council with a deal they perceived to be in the best interest of the City. Moreover, a neighborhood advisory committee (NAC) for the new practice facility was established by a vote of residents in the area and the NAC agreed with proceeding to facilitate the Pistons move to Detroit.

I was in attendance at every meeting between the Pistons and the NAC – successfully working to ensure the community had a voice and true community benefits were added to the development deal. Given their actions thus far, I am confident that the Detroit Pistons are interested in being great corporate neighbors and I look forward to establishing more fruitful relationships in the near future that will further demonstrate their commitment to Detroiters.

As a result of the emergency community meeting, I came to the realization that many residents were frustrated with the lack of investment in neighborhoods, the conditions and lack of safety in neighborhoods, high tax rates, the lack of resources and jobs and the need for more funding for home repair and blight removal. Anyone who truly knows me and what I have done since taking office, is keenly aware of the fact that I have been a champion for our neighborhoods and have sponsored programs, initiatives and ordinances aimed at improving the lives of residents outside the Midtown and Downtown areas of the City.

For example, I have hosted Occupy the Corner – Detroit, the first-ever Taskforce on Homelessness, State of the Youth, Save Our Homes and Save Our Schools rallies, as well as requested to reallocate Hardest Hit Funds to prevent tax foreclosures, and secured over $2.5 million for home repair grant funding. In addition, I have introduced an Inclusionary Housing Ordinance which creates a Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing, I have introduced a Notification and Right of First Refusal ordinance in an effort to prevent the displacement of residents in Detroit and I have attempted to sponsor an ordinance aimed at capping property taxes for long-term homeowners. Yet, I realize Detroiters want and need more from their elected officials.

In effort to be responsive to the constituents I represent and to deliver more tangible benefits to the neighborhoods outside the DDA boundaries, I am proposing the creation of a Neighborhood Investment Fund (NIF). The NIF will be funded with the proceeds in the amount of any and all income tax revenue generated by the Pistons Players, visiting NBA players, the Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment employees’ salaries, those proceeds are projected to be approximately $4 million annually and can only be used outside the DDA’s boundaries, downtown and midtown.

The funds will be available for, but not limited to, the following purposes: to remove blight, provide new recreational opportunities, provide home repairs for seniors and the disabled, educational and apprenticeship opportunities for young people and to finance affordable housing developments. The NIF will become effective in the upcoming fiscal year and shall remain in effect until at least the year 2048 when all obligations related to the $34.5 million in bonds to support the Pistons move to Detroit are satisfied.

As always, I will continue to serve my constituents and the residents of this great City to the best of my ability. For me, being a public servant is both an honor and a privilege and I remain committed to voting in the best interest of those who have entrusted me to represent them.”

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