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Wards must wait

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Detroiters for Reform, a group seeking to change the way Detroit City Council is elected, came up short this week — by less than 3,000 signatures, according to its leaders. Now, it will have to switch gears, and look forward to next year’s primary.

The group wants to end the at-large election of City Council members and elect them instead in individual districts. The idea is that with council members answering to specific districts, or wards, they will be held to a higher standard than they are now. And, at least in theory, name recognition will be less important in races.

As of Monday, however, Detroiters for Reform failed to gather the 32,218 signatures needed to get the proposed City Charter amendment on the November ballot, says Alando Reeves, the group’s director. Altogether, he says, they got just over 30,000. Tuesday, August 9, was their deadline.

The 32,218-signature requirement represents 5 percent of the number of qualified and registered voters in Detroit.

"I believe the people of this city want more accountability," Reeves says. "And they want it from the top down"

Over the six months since the group was founded, Reeves says, it has won the endorsement of 68 Detroit civil rights, community and church organizations.

And he says the group fielded 300 volunteers at polling places during last week’s elections.

The goal now is to collect signatures in time for the August primary of 2006, which means having them to the city clerk’s office by May 9.

The reform group’s quest is not without precedent in Detroit, says Isa Azzouz, deputy director of elections for the City Department of Elections. In November of 1996, he says, the Detroit City Charter Commission put the same question to Detroit’s voters — and it was roundly rejected.

Reeves is unfazed. "We talk about a city coming back," he says. "But we need development and we need beautification for different areas of the city."

People interested in volunteering for the group can call 313-859-0100. News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact this column at 313-202-8004 or at cguyette@metrotimes.com

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