(Courtesy of The Detroit News)
Detroit— Some see him as a political rabble rouser and a three-time loser in the mayoral sweepstakes, but Tom Barrow loves a good fight.
Now the 62-year-old is revving up for another battle — this time helping to lead the effort to take down the proposed city charter.
Barrow, cousin of the late heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, said the changes to the charter are not needed. He contends the new charter would weaken the City Council, destroy unions and ultimately give control of the city to private interests.
“The public needs to understand that this charter in its form will essentially rob Detroit of its resources,” Barrow, leader of Citizens for Detroit’s Future, said in a phone interview. “It’s repugnant. We don’t need it. If the public doesn’t organize, we will be led like a lamb to the slaughter.”
Barrow has been meeting with groups of Detroiters and sent out a top 10 list via e-mail to supporters of his mayoral campaign against Mayor Dave Bing, explaining why the charter changes should be voted down. Among the critiques, he states that if you haven’t seen the charter revisions, “just vote no.”
Proposal C, as the initiative is known, is up before voters Nov. 8 and puts forth changes that would have seven out of nine council members elected by districts and two elected at large.
Jenice Mitchell Ford, chairwoman of the Detroit Charter Revision Commission, said Barrow’s opposition is “dismissed and ignored by most citizens.”
“His misleading statements against the charter are not based in the document but in an attempt to create fear, pit Detroiters against Detroiters and foster an unsupportable ‘takeover over’ conspiracy theory,” she said. “His motive for being against Proposal C is suspect and seemingly opportunistic.”
Barrow is among several public figures opposing the proposed charter. Others are one-time mayoral candidate Jerroll Sanders, City Council President Charles Pugh and Charter Commissioner Reggie “Reg” Davis.
Barrow is against a proposed change giving council veto power over some mayoral appointees and taking away council’s power to request data for any appropriation it deems necessary.
But the main thrust for the charter to be revised comes from the Kwame Kilpatrick text message scandal that brought down the former mayor and a subsequent federal corruption probe that has sent several to prison.
“We don’t build our constitution around the failings of one mayor,” he said. “That’s not a reason to hold up this charter. And we resent the manor in which it was done. The charter was not to be redone until 2018.”
Agnes Hitchcock, leader of the group Call ‘Em Out, praises Barrow for stepping up and taking on the issue of the charter because she sees it as bad for “Detroiters who are already here.”
“I know people say we’re kooks and kooky, but the charter is not for the people who reside in the city of Detroit. It’s the next Detroit,” she said. “That charter will not benefit us, the ones of us who are left. I think it’s a bad deal to have that charter passed. I’m pleased that he’s involved.”