Every Detroit mayor for decades has talked about blight. This week Michigan Radio and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative are looking Mayor Mike Duggan’s first six months in office and at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy. One of the biggest problems facing Detroit is the huge number of abandoned houses, buildings, and vacant lots. Here’s a look at what’s changed in how that issues is addressed since Mayor Mike Duggan took office.
“Six months from now, you are going to be able to judge for yourself whether the leadership of this city has a sound plan and is achieving it.” Those were the words of Mayor Mike Duggan when he was sworn in. His six-month challenge is coming to an end. All this week, The Detroit Journalism Cooperative will look at the changes in Detroit over the past six months and how the city is functioning under bankruptcy. Michigan Radio’s Detroit reporter, Sarah Cwiek, and investigative reporter Lester Graham spoke with Cynthia Canty on Stateside about Duggan’s efforts.
When Mike Duggan was first elected to serve as Detroit’s mayor earlier this year, he asked that residents in Detroit and its surrounding communities give him six months to make a difference in Detroit. Now that the time has come, Craig speaks with listeners to hear their assessments of Duggan’s performance. Hear what they have to say.
Noting Detroit’s 60 years of population decline, unique among the biggest U.S. cities, the Wall Street Journal last weekend explored Mayor Mike Duggan’s efforts to reverse the trend. Even during his first half year in office, Duggan knows his success on this particular issue could be a major factor in his re-election, the newspaper reports.
“The single standard a mayor should be defined on is whether the population of the city is going up or going down,” Mr. Duggan said in an interview at his City Hall office six months after he was sworn in. If he fails, he says he doesn’t expect to run in 2017 and win—marking the boldness of his undertaking, considering the long odds he faces.
Duggan’s first term, of course, has taken place with the city in bankruptcy. Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr controls the city’s finances and the police department, but Orr’s term is scheduled to be up at the end of September. Duggan has made public his enthusiasm, high expectations for himself and staff, and his energetic vision for the city.
These first six months of Duggan’s mayoral tenure have been full of headlines about cooperation with city council, blight removal, lighting improvements and a renewed focus on the city’s neighborhoods, the WJS reports. But like many city residents, advocates and observers, the newspaper is essentially asking the question “Will Duggan’s momentum continue?”
Judy Washington, a 55-year-old project manager, toured an open house on a recent weekend. Ms. Washington said she thinks about leaving the city “all the time,” but stays because Old Redford shows signs of coming back and she feels a “sense of responsibility” to help the city revive. “I think the jury’s out,” Ms. Washington said when asked about the mayor’s plans. “We’ve been down this road before.”
This week the media partners of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative are looking at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy and the leadership of Mayor Mike Duggan. At the beginning of the year, Mayor Duggan said to watch what happens in six months. We’ll review the changes throughout this week, but we thought we’d start with a look at the mayor himself. Here’s a profile by Michigan Radio’s Lester Graham.
Gov. Rick Snyder has signed the legislation that authorizes the state’s $195 million contribution to the Detroit bankruptcy settlement and creates additional oversight of the city’s finances and operations. The governor called the settlement, part of the “grand bargain,” a good deal for taxpayers because it sets the stage for the city’s comeback.
“This is about how not just Detroit but the spirit of Michigan came back,” Snyder said at the signing, held at the Globe Building near the Detroit Riverfront, which is under construction to become a Department of Natural Resources recreation center. “While we celebrate today, let’s recognize that there’s more work to be done.”
The governor said the day Detroit filed bankruptcy could be the “darkest chapter” in the city’s history, but the Governor says the taxpayer donation shows the entire state is behind the Detroit recovery effort. “Detroit, Michigan, means something special. It’s not Detroit versus Michigan or Michigan versus Detroit. It’s Detroit, Michigan, and we should hold our heads proud,” he said to applause.
There are conditions attached to the state contribution– including a commission that will supervise Detroit’s contracts and finances for years into the future. The money, along with hundreds of millions donated by businesses and foundations, will be used to mitigate cuts to pension benefits in the bankruptcy process. But pensioners still have to approve the deal. In exchange, they’d give up their rights to sue for their full benefits or other related issues.
“A ‘yes’ vote from pensioners is a vote for their own well being,” he said, “and the continuation of a message that is greater than bankruptcy.”
House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) said the Legislature’s passage of the “grand bargain” bills represented how connected the state was in helping Detroit. “We may come from different peninsulas, but as we stand here today, we are all one Michigan,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, (R-Monroe), who showed off his made-in-Detroit Shinola watch, said one of the reasons providing state funding for Detroit’s pensions was important was because city workers live throughout the state “in all 83 counties.” (Here’s a map of where they live)
Rep. Thomas Stallworth (D-Detroit) said the city’s bankruptcy, in part, represents failure on the part of political leadership for the people of Detroit. He urged pensioners to vote “yes” on the Plan of Adjustment, saying it represents the “best possible deal for the city.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan echoed the themes of voting yes, bipartisanship and “coming together.” He said, “What you have done with this bill is give us a fresh chance,” and it “will turn out to be one of the proudest things you’e done.”
As he did last week at the news conference at the Detroit Institute of Arts where the Detroit Three automakers announced their $26 million contribution to the “grand bargain” , U.S. District Chief Judge Gerald Rosen spoke. He is considered the architect of the “grand bargain” and has led the mediation efforts in the bankruptcy case.
“This is leadership, not just bi-partisan, but the three branches of government coming together,” Rosen said. “This isn’t a final victory lap. We’ve got a couple more laps to run.”
Also as he did last week, Rosen lauded Don Taylor and Shirley Lightsey, who head up police/fire and non-uniform retiree groups respectively.
Lightsey spoke directly to pensioners, saying “If you let that (grand bargain) money go and it’s off the table, you will have no sympathy from anyone. … Think about your decision. This is something you are going to have to live with.”
Lightsey also repeated her phrase that has been printed on buttons worn by some in the crowd of about 200. “We can’t eat principles, and uncertainty does not pay the bills.”
-By WDET’s Sandra Svoboda and Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta
Here’s audio of Rick Pluta’s report.
If it’s good for Detroit…and good — or even neutral — for Oakland County, L. Brooks Patterson says he’ll support it. But if something proposed as past of Detroit’s restructuring and bankruptcy process is to the detriment of his county, then the long-time executive tells MLive not to expect his blessing:
Here’s the rule that I laid out to my staff: If there’s a program or a proposal on the table that’s good for Detroit and good for Oakland Country then of course I’m going to support it. If there’s a proposal that’s good for Detroit and neutral to the interest of my taxpayers, then ‘Why not?’ I’ll support it. No harm, no foul. If there’s a proposal that’s good for Detroit, but injurious to my taxpayers then I’m going to fight it, then I’m going to resist it. And that’s been the rule for more than 21 years now.
Patterson, in discussing the city’s bankruptcy during a far-ranging interview with the news site, also warns Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is enjoying a bit of honeymoon…and honeymoons end.
Read the full interview here.
Because one end-of-the-day announcement wasn’t enough, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 and the city today released a statement that they have “completed a series of tentative agreements” for nearly all 2,000 AFSCME employees working for the city of Detroit.
The agreements, the union said in a statement, “build on the master template agreement,” which was announced April 28 and covers about 3,500 workers in 30 labor groups, including most of AFSCME’s. Mediators said the agreements “will be presented to active employees” ahead of a June 30 ratification and state approval.
“We remain severely concerned with the way this bankruptcy has been handled from its inception,” AFSCME Council 25 President Al Garrett said in the statement. “However, the agreements we have achieved are, in our view, the best path forward for city employees and retirees.”
Mayor Mike Duggan must also be happy. Five-year agreements extend well beyond his first term leading the city, meaning labor negotiations won’t happen for years.
Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr isn’t left off of the growing “love train” either. As part of the agreement announced today, AFSCME’s leadership also agrees to campaign for “yes” votes by pensioners on the Plan of Adjustment. Without pensioners’ acceptance of the plan, the “grand bargain” money goes away.