DETROIT (WWJ) – He currently wields little power, but that didn’t stop Mike Duggan for making his first State of the City address as mayor of Detroit.
Duggan remains optimistic despite the ongoing managed bankruptcy, along with a myriad of other challenges facing the city.
“The change in Detroit has started, and the change in Detroit is real,” the mayor said, Wednesday evening, “and Detroit is really not as far away from turning around as most people think.”
Duggan said job creation is key to recovery, and “a job means a reliable bus system.”
Duggan announced he signed a letter asking the Obama administration for 50 new city buses; and pointed out that the city’s new bus director Dan Dirks has hired additional mechanics to fix buses, and is working to extend and add bus routes to help Detroiters get to work.
Duggan told the story of one resident’s struggle with the struggling city bus system. “This man leaves his home two hours early to travel five miles,” the mayor said. “… Our residents often have to face obstacles that people in other communities wouldn’t dream of.”
What Duggan can actually do for Detroiters is limited at the moment, as the city remains under the control of an emergency manager.
Duggan said admitted that he’s exactly happy to be working underneath Kevyn Orr, who was appointed by the state.
“And that really wasn’t an easy decision,” Duggan said.
“I don’t like the arrangement — that the emergency manager’s running the bankruptcy and the police department,” he said, “but I had a choice to make; and that was should I take responsibility for the city exercises that are there, do the best I can, and prepare for the smoothest transition as possible October 1st when the emergency manager leaves — or should I take the politically easier way and criticize him for the next nine months.”
“I gave that a lot of thought, but at the end of the day I really felt that the people of Detroit were going to be better served if we put aside or differences and tried to work professionally,” Duggan said. “And I couldn’t be more pleased that my colleagues in the city council reached the same conclusion.”
“It’s a change that had to happen; and, probably, the change that surprises most people is that the mayor and the city council are working together,” he added, to a round of applause.
As for bankruptcy proceedings, Duggan said Orr’s plan of adjustment “made pretty much everybody unhappy.”
“And I know the challenges are going to be difficult in court, but I join with the majority of Detroiters and say to the courts I hope that every effort will be made to honor the pensions of the men and women who gave their careers to the city,” Duggan said.
Acknowledging that he’s a fairly new resident of the city, Duggan said that his car insurance jumped from $3,000 to $6,000 when he moved to Detroit — and that’s a problem.
He said the city hopes to start its own insurance company, “D Insurance,” and they’re putting together a team to get that ball rolling.
“It’s going to take a while, but we’re going to start the process this summer, and we’re going to keep going until we give people an affordable car insurance option,” he said.
Touching other hot button issues: Duggan said the plan is to have 150 city parks open and well-maintained this summer. He said they’ve been reaching out to local clergy asking them to adopt parks as well.
The mayor touted efforts to get residents enrolled in the Obamacare, continuing to add new streetlights, and tapping unused fire insurance funds to fight blight, targeting irreparably damaged buildings.
“And as everybody’s heard me say a hundred times on the campaign trail, it is not enough to demolish our houses,” Duggan said. “There are a lot of houses in the city that are vacant that are perfectly solid. They are good home. If we are going to build the population of the city we’re going to have to move people in.”
Duggan said they plan to sue owners of abandoned homes, take control of them, and auction them off to families who want to live there.