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Toothless resolutions

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Detroit City Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel took a swipe at her colleagues last week, saying they have a habit of passing resolutions without properly studying the issues.

Cockrel’s criticism came after she cast the lone vote against two resolutions, one declaring the council’s opposition to Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s education reform plan, and another opposing a casino development that the Greektown Casino owners want to pursue in Romulus. (Council President Maryann Mahaffey, who was out sick, did not vote on either resolution.)

JoAnn Watson’s education resolution calls the plan a takeover, saying that to give the mayor “total and complete power over the Detroit Public Schools with the power to hire and fire the chief executive officer, who would be accountable only to the mayor, would give Detroiters only a symbolic vote with no real authority.”

Cockrel says she voted against that resolution because it represented a knee-jerk reaction to the mayor’s proposal without taking the time to fully consider the issue.

“We’re gonna look like idiots,” Cockrel says. “I wish the mayor would have taken the opportunity to brief the council. But I’m not voting on a resolution that is handed to me milliseconds before the council votes on it.”

Meanwhile, a resolution co-sponsored by Kay Everett and Alberta Tinsley-Talabi asserts that the Greektown Casino development agreement bars the Sault Ste. Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians — majority owners of the gambling hall — from operating or having financial interest in any casino within a 150-mile radius of Detroit.

“Council has now agreed that [the Chippewas] violated the radius restriction,” says Cockrel. “What if they haven’t?”

Dan Gustafson, executive director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, says the council’s resolution is nothing more than blown smoke.

There is a radius provision in the Greektown agreement, he explains, but it doesn’t apply to the proposed Romulus casino.

The restriction “was for a commercial casino,” says Gustafson. “This plan calls for a tribal casino. The gaming board would not have jurisdiction in this.” Tribal casinos, according to the gaming board, are treated as sovereign nations.

Tinsley-Talabi, however, says that it’s not clear that the loophole is indeed so wide. It may be, she says, that the agreement bars Greektown’s owners from participating in a competing enterprise within the radius restriction, no matter what the tribal status may be.

The council has asked its lawyers to review the agreement and get back to it with a definitive answer.

So why go on record opposing the Romulus project without knowing for certain if there is a legal leg to stand on?

“We did it to demonstrate our sentiment,” says Tinsley-Talabi.

All of which leaves News Hits asking: What’s the point? Especially given all the problems facing this city that desperately need the council’s full attention.

It’s reminiscent of being at the movies and listening to fellow theatergoers shout advice to characters up on the screen. No matter how loud they may yell, all the noise has no effect whatsoever.

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