State of the Motor City

eBlog

February 11, 2014
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State of the Motor City. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan offered his citizens a vision of the recovering city’s road to tomorrow in his upbeat State of the City speech last night that sought to galvanize citizens towards the Motor City’s future. Mayor Duggan said the true measure of success would be measured by Detroit’s growth—a reversal of more than a decade of decline. He told the invite-only crowd at the Old Redford Theatre he will be judged based on whether Detroit’s population grows―and whether it can embrace both newcomers and longtime residents. Then he set down a series of markers or initiatives to help residents repair their homes, reuse vacant land, train for jobs, and start new businesses. Advising his fellow citizens that Detroit’s post-bankruptcy finances are sound and that Detroit would finish this fiscal year with a balanced budget for the first time in more than a decade, he sought to broaden recovery by defining the course he was proposing to be one of “economic inclusion” to ensure that all Detroiters take part in the city’s rebirth, telling his fellow citizens: “The talent in this world is distributed equally … what isn’t distributed equally is opportunity.” Speaking to an audience of more than 1500 citizens, Mayor Duggan noted the city’s progress towards the elimination of blight—telling them Detroit is now averaging demolishment of an average of 200 blighted structures per week. On a parallel track, he added the city’s nuisance abatement program has already led to 350 houses being repaired: “We are making progress.” Mayor Duggan appeared to be reaching out to ensure neighborhood groups have ownership in how the city’s vast expanses of land are used. Citing Detroit’s successful “side lot” program, which permits property owners to buy vacant lots next to their homes, Mayor Duggan said he plans to bring in a “world-class” planner to study how Detroit’s vast tracts of vacant land are used in the future — albeit stressing he intends to make sure residents will have a say in the process: “We are going to make sure as these neighborhoods grow that everyone is welcome…That’s what a city’s all about.”

Noting that safety is a critical priority, Mayor Duggan praised Police Chief James Craig’s efforts, telling his audience there were fewer carjackings and murders in the city last year than in half a century — and that average police response time has dropped from about 37 minutes, on route to what he promised would be 17 minutes: “We’re getting close to the national average and for serious crimes we’re getting there even faster,” adding his plan is to put more police officers on the street, with an agreement from the union to move them from desk jobs. He said police officers will go to high schools to build relationships with teens, and that Detroit will seek to be a leader in outfitting officers with body cameras “to build trust between police and the community,” adding that despite the signature improvement, 300 killings are too many: “We have got to change the culture in this community to recognize that every life matters.”
Speaking about politics, Mayor Duggan praised his City Council colleagues, Gov. Rick Snyder, and county leaders for working together on ways to rebuild Detroit. But he also focused on the role his commitment and goal to not only stem the outflow of citizens—but now to bring in new citizens. He said he was proposing a city-owned insurance company to help reduce high car insurance costs for Detroiters—noting the “injustice” of the city’s costly insurance rates, adding that his own had doubled when he moved to Detroit and telling his audience: “The farther we dig into this…the more that we find to get these rates down, we’re going to need some help…We’re going to find a way to do it. We are going through a whole number of scenarios.”

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