Community Benefits Agreement News Weekly Roundup

August 4, 2014 -- Partnership for Working Families

 

 

NW/SW Atlantic Ave. communities celebrate first ever Community Benefits Agreement

Pineapple Newspaper

Delray Beach, FL

July 30, 2014

DELRAY BEACH FL – In an historic event on June 26, 2014, NW/SW Atlantic Avenue communities celebrated the first ever Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signed between the developer (Equity Enterprises USA) and a diverse community coalition comprising of NW/SW Atlantic Avenue Neighborhoods, Village Elders and West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition.

Talking about the benefits agreement Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein said, “Today is another milestone for Delray Beach. This agreement shows what we can achieve when the public, private and community interest come in line to serve the vital cord of our city.” He also said that this CBA provides a template for other projects of this kind.

Chair of Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA) Howard Lewis said that many times the CRA is criticized but this event shows that we are working and we are doing the right things. Praising the CBA he said that it is a product of a shared vision for the future of our neighborhood by the people who do not want to be left behind.

Peter Perri, a member of the West Atlantic Redevelopment Corporation Board, defined the impact of this CBA on arts, culture and historical preservation. He thanked the developer for providing a significant donation in support of the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum. He said this donation would enable the museum to continue to offer exhibitions and other programs for the children.

Community coalition member Ann Stacey Wright talked about the economic benefits of the CBA. She said in the past the developers only promised good faith efforts, which later turn out to be merely futile promises. She described the small business relocation program, local hiring initiative, and living wage terms of the CBA signed between the developer and the community.

Joyce Patrick also played a leading role in the community benefits negotiations. She described the Students Apprenticeship program based on a project based learning approach in partnership with the Community Coalition, Village Academy, Carver Middle School and Atlantic High.

Choli Aronson from Currie Sowards Aguila Architects said that the developer has shown his commitment by hiring the local general contractor Randolph & Dewdney Construction. She further added the CBA also includes hiring and training of three sub-contractors and 15 employees from the project area.

Representing the Village Elders, former Delray Beach Commissioner David Randolph said that the elders played an integral part in seeing that the project get off the ground.

Chairman of the WARC board Reggie Cox explained the historical context of the West Atlantic Development. He said that this CBA would be a case study for other communities. Cox added that Delray Beach is known for making history and the developer is making the history with us.

At this occasion the developer thanked the community and development team for their support. WARC Board member and facilitator of the event, Chuck Ridley, added that the developer earned the community’s support and this CBA is a living proof that when community, private sector and government come together, we can achieve greater results.

Later, Chairman of the WARC Board Reggie Cox and John Flynn from Equity Enterprises USA signed the CBA Terms. The copies of the CBA Terms will be given to the City Council, CRA Board, WARC Board and the developer.

Amongst others from the community, NW/SW Neighborhood Alliance, West Atlantic Redevelopment Corporation (WARC) members, Village Elders, Equity Enterprises USA Inc., Currie Sowards Aguila Architects, Career Source, small businesses, construction workers, contractors and subcontractors, elected representatives, CRA Board members, and students of the Village Academy participated in the event.

 

At the last minute, Detroit looks for community benefit guarantees with new bridge plan

Michigan Radio

By Sarah Cwiek

July 28

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr got the Detroit City Council to delay a key vote that paves the way for a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor. The Council was supposed to vote Monday on whether to transfer about 300 city-owned properties to the Michigan Land Bank for $1.4 million as part of the New International Trade Crossing project.

Under Gov. Snyder, the state and business community have pushed hard to speed up construction of the new crossing. So has the Canadian government, which sees it as a top national infrastructure priority—and is footing the bill. But Orr’s chief operating officer, Gary Brown, asked Council to postpone the vote until next month.

Brown said that both Orr and Mayor Mike Duggan want to make sure the deal includes some guarantees for the host community in southwest Detroit. “The mayor’s office as well as the Council supports this bridge. That’s not the issue,” Brown said. “The issue is community benefits. And we’re going to go work really hard over the next 30 days to come back with something that’s acceptable to you.”

A coalition of residents and business owners in the Delray community have long pushed for a community benefits agreement attached to the bridge development. But after years of negotiations and promises from various government officials, they’ve never been able to secure a legally-binding agreement.

Council members and community leaders welcomed the news, but wanted to make sure community voices will be involved in the process. They also urged city negotiators to address specific needs—and make sure they get any guarantees in writing.

Kevin Casillas is a member of the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition and pastor of the First Latin American Baptist Church, which sits in the path of the planned bridge. Casillas told Council that community concerns have been an “afterthought” during the years-long process of planning the new crossing, leaving residents in a state of perpetual limbo. “This uncertainty does not protect the very people who will sacrifice the most for this project,” he said.

Casillas called for the implementation of a 2010 Delray neighborhood revitalization plan, which includes $1.9 million in state funds for replacement housing, and asked that any proceeds from the land transfer be devoted to quality of life improvements. These benefits “really ought to be guaranteed by a $6 billion international development,” said Casillas.

 

Orr temporarily withdraws proposal to transfer property for new bridge

The Detroit News

Christine Ferretti

July 28, 2014

Detroit — The city’s emergency manager on Monday temporarily withdrew a proposal to transfer 301 city-owned properties to the Michigan Land Bank for the New International Trade Crossing to allow further negotiations over protections and benefits for the southwest Detroit residents in the project’s path. The proposal calls for a $1.4 million payment to the city from the Canadian government for the properties, located within the footprint of the proposed bridge project between the city’s Delray area and Windsor in Canada.

The City Council was set to vote on the transfer during a special session to meet a deadline established under the state’s emergency manager law. But Detroit Chief Operating Officer Gary Brown told the panel that Kevyn Orr is pulling the transfer. The benefits of such a transfer, Brown added, have been an issue of “concern” to Mayor Mike Duggan and the city’s top lawyer along with the council. A memorandum will be immediately drafted and submitted to the Detroit City Clerk’s office on Orr’s action to delay. The decision marks the first time that Orr has pulled back a request put before the council.

Council President Brenda Jones said Orr’s decision to delay the transfer was a sign of progress. “There were a lot of concerns with community benefits,” Jones said, noting that although the council has approved a resolution favoring a benefits agreement there is currently no ordinance in place. Jones says she’s been working with the city’s law department on the legislation for more than a year and said “it needs to happen.”

Brown vowed the administration and state will work on a benefits plan that’s acceptable to the panel and community to submit in September.

Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez asked Monday that a representative of council and the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition be included in the talks.

First Latin American Baptist Church Pastor Kevin Casillas joined many residents and community organizations appealing to the council Monday that they “want guarantees, not just promises.” 

“Families have been suffering while waiting for this bridge for 10 years, fighting for what ought to be guaranteed...,” said Casillas, whose church is slated to relocate for the project. “This uncertainty does not protect the very people who will sacrifice the most for this project.”

Denise C. Pike, development director with the Community Health And Social Services Center, says the delay is nothing new, but she hopes the end result is a legally binding agreement. “This isn’t the first time it’s been tabled. It’s a bit frustrating,” said Pike, who said the center will not be acquired in the construction, but is located on the eastern edge of the plaza and will be affected. “The community deserves a decision.”

In 2013, the U.S. State Department announced approval of the $2.1 billion six-lane bridge, which plans to link Interstate 75 in Detroit to the Windsor-Essex Parkway in Canada. Canada is paying most of the project’s cost on both sides of the border and plans to recoup the money through tolls. Officials say they hope to open the bridge in 2020, but the Obama administration has yet to propose paying for a U.S. customs plaza.

In 2011, Detroit’s City Council unanimously supported a community benefits agreement for the development. About 70 percent of the necessary land for the project is city-owned. In a report last week, the council’s policy staff reiterated that the bridge agreement contemplated some process for community benefits, but nothing that appeared to be legally required. The report further recommended the council ensure local community interests and concerns are adequately reflected.

State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, who also attended the meeting, urged the council to “stick to the protections of the public.” “This is a way to basically give back to the community,” she said, noting the children and residents that are “left behind.”

There are roughly about 3,000 existing residents in the area affected and about 700 to 800 are expected to be displaced through the project. The community however stresses that it will remain viable and needs environmental and safety protections, among others.

Gov. Rick Snyder and Canada have agreed to build the New International Trade Crossing over the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The project is opposed by the owner of the existing Ambassador Bridge.

Also Monday, the council voted 6-2 in favor of a three-year, $2.4 million agreement to turn over the administration of the city’s workers’ compensation to a third-party contractor. Jones and member Mary Sheffield voted no. Scott Benson was absent.

The contract with CMI is needed because the city could not maintain its self-insurance while in bankruptcy and due to concerns raised in previous internal and external audit reports, officials said.

Brown has said the city spends about $15 million on workers' compensation annually. The contract is expected to save about $3.6 million.

 

 

Orr agrees to delay sale of Detroit land for international bridge project

Detroit Free Press

By Joe Guillen

July 28, 2014

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s office has agreed to delay a proposed sale of 301 parcels of land in Detroit for the construction of a new international bridge from Detroit to Windsor. The City Council was scheduled to vote this morning on the land sale for $1.4 million to the state. But a community benefits agreement that council members requested was not yet included in the land transfer agreement, so Orr’s office agreed to bring back the deal in September while such an agreement is negotiated.

Members of the public who attended this morning’s council session applauded after it was announced a community benefits agreement would be negotiated. Community benefits agreements can address concerns about a project’s environmental and economic impacts and the potential to displace residents.

This morning marked the first time Orr’s office has pulled back a request for council’s approval. The state’s emergency manager law requires Orr to ask for the council’s input for the sale or transfer of city assets. The law allows Orr to ask the state to override council if the body rejects such proposals, which is what occurred when the council rejected his proposed lease of Belle Isle to the state.

Gary Brown, the city’s chief of operations, told the council this morning that Orr and Mayor Mike Duggan decided it was important to delay the request while a community benefits agreement is negotiated.

Under the proposed land sale, the Michigan Department of Transportation would buy the land, which includes commercial and residential lots in the city’s Delray area. The land is in an area where the bridge’s plaza would be built.

The new, government-owned international bridge from Detroit to Windsor could put thousands of people to work in southeast Michigan and revitalize the trade corridor with Canada.