DETROIT (WWJ) – Mike Duggan’s win in the Detroit mayoral race is making world headlines — primarily because he’s the city’s first white mayor to be elected in 40 years.
But speaking live on WWJ Newsradio 950 the morning after the election, Duggan said he finds all the talk about race rather “offensive.”
“I resent it and hopefully we will get to the point where we start to get worldwide attention for the things that we’re starting to do well in the city,” he said. “The voters of this city moved past the race issue, I mean they settled that in the August primary when I won 94 percent of the precincts.”
Duggan defeated contender Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, who is black, by a margin of 55 to 45 percent with all of the city’s 614 precincts reporting. Duggan said he’s sure voters made a decision based on who they thought was the best option for the city, not based on the color of their skin.
“People made a decision based on who they thought could get this city turned around. I didn’t feel like race was an issue in this campaign. It was just wonderful going to neighborhood to neighborhood across the city and having honest conversations with people about what they’d like done on their blocks,” he said.
Duggan said he was actually blown away at how passionate Detroiters are starting to become about politics again, despite reports that say voter turnout was less than 25 percent.
“If you were in any of the neighborhoods in the city, you would have seen tens of thousands of either Duggan or Napoleon lawn signs in every corner of this city. People in this city were deeply engaged and they’re ready to be deeply engaged in the turnaround. Every place I go, they’re saying ‘What can I do to help?’ I think there’s a lot of interest and we need to get some confident city government,” he said.
When Duggan takes over as mayor, he’ll be facing a poverty rate hovering right around 40-percent in the city — but he has a vision on how to improve that figure.
“The answer to that is jobs and to get jobs you need to create the environment where people want to bring their businesses. But I cannot believe the number of people I met in this campaign who have businesses in the suburbs, or have a businesses in Detroit that wants to expand, who are saying ‘If you get elected, we’re going to look at investing in Detroit,'” he said.
And getting new businesses in the city is one of Duggan’s top priorities.
“There are a lot of people who really care deeply about Detroit’s success and I think we can create an environment where we start to get businesses back in this town. Take those vacant store fronts spread throughout the city and start turning them over to entrepreneurs to start companies. When that starts to happen, we’ll start to have some real job opportunities,” he said.
Duggan said another one of his top priorities is to focusing on reusing vacant properties instead of just razing everything.
“See, I don’t start with the assumption that they all need to be knocked down. We certainly have burned out and dilapidated buildings but this process of mindless demolition has served the city very badly. There are lots of solid brick homes in this city that are abandoned, and we’re going to go back to what I was doing in the prosecutor’s office, taking these houses when they’re first abandoned and making them available for families to move in. The way to grow the population in this city is to take the good housing stock that is left and move people in. And if you can demolish the bad houses, you raise the values of the rest of the houses that are still structurally sound,” he said.
Addressing the city’s street light problem is also high on Duggan’s list. Officials estimate over half of Detroit’s 88,000 street lights are in disrepair.
“In this city, we’ve got a lot of excuses for everything. In tough cities all over America, the only place the lights are out are in Detroit. So, we’re going to demand some results and not excuses, we’re going to start to get these streetlights on,” he said.
Duggan said he’s already planning to meet with state-appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to discuss the city’s precarious finances.
“We’re going to sit down this week, but we’ve got to deal with reality and the reality is they’re in the middle of a bankruptcy trial. Mr. Orr himself has said repeatedly that he wants to end his tenure as an emergency manager as early as possible and I want to talk to him about ways we can work together to accomplish that,” he said.
Duggan says everyone in leadership roles with the city will be evaluated, including Police Chief James Craig who took the top cop job this summer.
“I’ve been impressed on what I’ve seen with Chief Craig, I’ve had a chance to talk with him a few times but I like the way he thinks and approaches things. But, he’ll be evaluated like everybody else based on performance. We’ve got to get the police response time down, we’ve got to get the violence down, we’ve got to deal with quality of life crimes like graffiti and stripping of houses that have not been given a priority by the police department. If Chief Craig succeeds at those, he’ll be chief for a long time and I’m very optimistic that he will succeed,” he said.
Duggan, who plans to move into the Manoogian Mansion “assuming Dave Bing leaves me the keys,” said one thing you won’t hear about during his time as mayor is a scandal.
“I’ve been in the public eye since I was 27-years-old as Ed McNamara’s campaign manager so everything I’ve done has been well documented and I’ll keep living the way I have,” he said.