Cynthia J. Pasky
Detroit is in the midst of the perfect storm … a new mayor and a new city council working well together … a new financial future and committed business and neighborhood communities. The stage is set for our city to move quickly on its transformational initiatives.
Much of that was laid out by Mayor Mike Duggan and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr in a recent Stakeholders Meeting hosted by the Downtown Detroit Partnership.
As we all know, Orr is tasked with completing Detroit’s bankruptcy process. When it is all said and done, he predicted Detroit’s comeback will be swift and the outlook is bright. He cited how quickly Miami and Washington, D.C., came back after their financial crises. South Beach, for example, was a ghetto, and now it can take millions of dollars to buy a place there.
He also pointed out that Detroit’s long-term future depends on its ability to be a robust part of the global market. Everything that is being done now to move our city out of bankruptcy and create a sustainable plan for the future must address that issue. If we cannot accomplish that, Detroit will simply miss the boat. All of us … every person and business in Detroit … can play a major role in making sure we are not only on that boat but that we are piloting it forward.
Both the mayor and the emergency manager commented positively on their collaborative efforts and pointed out recent successes. Here are two examples. They created the new Detroit Public Lighting Authority, which made it possible to put LED lights in the neighborhoods to light the way for residents and visitors to feel safe and secure. That process began last week and the mayor expects it will take two to three years to get it done.
In other collaborative efforts, Duggan and Orr reduced the number of land bank authorities from nine to one, streamlining the process of dealing with our blighted and heavily distressed structures. Duggan said the city has a strategic plan to remove blight and at the same time not destroy buildings that can be refurbished. For example, if there are three abandoned homes in a neighborhood and one is burned out, the city will demolish the burned out one and immediately sell the others. The new land bank is a catalyst for accomplishing that.
Several other comments from Kevyn Orr stuck out.
* The $820 million pledge from foundations, the DIA and patrons to keep the DIA and its art safe is unprecedented and Detroit should be very proud that that kind of collaboration and commitment is so vibrant in our city. To me it is a symbol of who we are … a city that will come together to make a difference.
* He will be gone in about seven months but there will be some kind of oversight when he leaves. That is necessary to ensure the capital markets feel Detroit is a good risk to invest in. Mayor Duggan is supportive of this plan.
Just think what can be accomplished if all of us take advantage of this perfect storm.
Next week more than 150 Strategic Staffing Solutions team members from our branches outside Detroit will descend on our city to attend the S3 annual meeting. They join the 50-plus people who work in our office here.
It’s a time when our global team gets together to discuss strategy and action plans. It’s also a great time to show those coming in from Lithuania, Latvia and the United Kingdom, as well as those attending from every corner of the United States, the progress Detroit has made. They will be very impressed.
While our ultimate goal is to move S3 forward, our underlying objective is to show them what Detroit has to offer, and that it is also a great place to live, work and play.
Our Detroit team has the tools. S3 has been in this city since it was founded in 1990. We know the cool places to go and we’ll take them there on off-work times. I’ve lived downtown for 27 years and share my own special places. Each year we also provide our visitors with a list of places and a map so they can explore on their own and People Mover passes to do it.
We’ve held every one of our annual meetings in Detroit since we were founded in 1990 and that will not change. This is our home, our headquarters. We are very proud to be part of the Detroit business community and pleased that we have the financial ability to contribute to the community.
More importantly for the city as a whole, I am very proud of the progress Detroit has made and the headway I see on the horizon. I am more than proud to share that with our global team and always encourage them to tell their friends and family back home how our city is transforming. As we all know Detroit’s real reputation is built on how people feel about our city and what they see when they visit.
As chair of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, I am pleased with our progress, but I want to see more, and see it quickly. There is still much work to do, not just downtown, but across all of our beloved 139 square miles. Detroit is a mosaic of neighborhoods made up of dedicated people. We all need each other and we all need to work together.
I hope when the S3 team comes back for our annual meeting in 2015 more blight will be removed, the M-1 RAIL will be much closer to completion, there will be more retail downtown, the new Red Wings entertainment district will be underway, Capital Park will be finished and, crucially, there will be more done to improve our neighborhoods.
I will be more than pleased to show them all we’ve done. It is a great team and their commitment to Strategic Staffing Solutions and our core business around the world is why I can spend time, resources and energy on Detroit’s transformation.
Detroit looked great on national TV during the Monday Night Football game this week. The buildings glowed as businesses and residents kept their lights on in honor of the game.
Our new mayor, Mike Duggan, and the members of the new city council have a tough and rewarding job ahead of them as Detroit continues to move through one of the most challenging times in our history. They will set the tone for our city’s future, and ultimately create a new sustainable, business model that will take us into the future.
That new business model must deliver an action-oriented road map that puts people to work, improves education, moves our neighborhoods and our region forward, deals with Detroit’s safety and security issues and, most importantly, ensures our city never again falls into the economic quagmire we are in today.
The only way to accomplish those goals is to create a collaborative environment where business, government, labor, the religious community, residents and others come together to create a Detroit that is clean, safe and inviting for everyone in every neighborhood. That means eliminating silos. Sharing power. Listening to one another and building long-lasting, trusting relationships.
Here’s the bottom line: Everyone involved, from Mike Duggan to Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to the Detroit City Council to city departments and unions to Governor Snyder and the state Legislature to the federal government, needs to be for Detroit.
Duggan is a master negotiator and I have every confidence he will gain a place at each table. Still, sitting at the table is not enough. His seat must carry the same weight as all the others for Detroit and a new business model to succeed.
That still is not enough to resolve one of our biggest challenges, safety and security.
Duggan must restore faith in the Detroit Police Department’s ability to keep our neighborhoods safe and to investigate and solve crimes and to respond quickly to emergencies. Chief of Police James Craig as well as Fire Commissioner Don Austin currently report to Orr. The best way to restore faith in both departments is have them report to the mayor’s office instead of the emergency manager. That would streamline decision making, bring an amount of local control back to elected leadership and help Orr focus on finances and Duggan focus on fixing departments. I would hope the powers that be see the wisdom in making that change.
Much will be decided over the next month or so as we head toward Duggan’s inauguration on Jan. 1. He’s picked two very strategic and knowledgeable people to head his transition team … former state Rep. Lisa Howze, a certified public accountant, and former Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon, an associate professor at the University of Detroit Mercy. With their help I hope he will be able to put together a strategic plan that will include the road map for Detroit’s future.
How that plays out will determine what image Detroit portrays locally, nationally and internationally for the foreseeable future.
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George W. Bush once said, “Think about every problem, every challenge we face. The solution to each starts with education.” That is certainly true in Detroit… Michigan… and the United States.
Education helps us turn away bitterness, misconceptions and anger at our differences.
Education helps us understand the world around us and gives us perspective.
Education develops a generation of responsible individuals who understand proper conduct.
Education drives economic development.
Education turns into jobs and the more education, the higher the salary.
Not to mention, continual lifetime learning does all of the above.
So when I read the Education and Talent Michigan Scorecard the Center for Michigan just put out that compared Michigan to the other 49 states it gave me great pause. Here’s why.
We are 42nd in the nation in 4th grade math and 37th in 8th grade math. We are 36th in 4th grade reading and 29th in 8th grade reading. We are 28th in 4th grade science and 18th in 8th grade science.
We are 25th in expenditures per pupil and 37th in college completion. We are 45th in college affordability and 39th in higher education investment.
As a result we are 35th in per capita income, our unemployment rate is ranked poor at 8.7 percent, and we are ranked 14th in violent crime.
In Detroit, the high school graduation rate is 64.7 percent and the dropout rate is nearly 29 percent, according to studies by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and Excellent Schools Detroit.
We aren’t faring much better on the national front, where the U.S. education system has lost competitive ground internationally. Our nation has slipped 10 spots in both high school and college graduation rates over the past three decades, according to a new report and scorecard from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Renewing America initiative, which examines the domestic foundations of U.S. power.
So what does that mean to all of us? To the business community it means we are slowly losing our ability to innovate and be competitive globally. To the nation it means our national security and economic development are further threatened if we can’t compete with other nations and set a positive example.
“It is an economist’s rule that an increase of one year in a country’s average schooling level corresponds to an increase of 3 to 4 percent in long term economic growth,” the study says.
Innovation is what drives a societal change and what will change the world. If the U.S. is not at the forefront we will be left behind, and so will its businesses. Business, government and the educational community must come together to
develop a new, robust learning model that truly reinvents education throughout our nation.
As John F. Kennedy said, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”
We simply must instill a passion for education and continual learning that taps that human mind in our city, our state and our nation if we expect to compete.
The election this November is one of the most important elections we have ever had in our city. Who we choose for mayor and for city council will set the tone for where we go from here. So, those running need to lose the rhetoric about the bankruptcy and the emergency manager and concentrate their campaigns on Detroit’s future.
What is the plan to keep our city’s transformation alive during and after the bankruptcy and Kevyn Orr is gone? What’s the new business model for Detroit? What’s the new social model for Detroit? How will you work with the business community to create and deliver those new models? How will you work with the neighborhoods to create and deliver those new businesses and social models? How will you work with law enforcement to ensure our city is safe and secure?
To earn their seats these candidates must offer solutions … solutions followed by quick actions. They must be committed to collaboration with the region, the neighborhoods and the business community. Businesses in Detroit are committed to its transformation. They must know city government is committed to working with them. We won’t always agree on the solutions but we all must be at the table.
One of the major solutions that must be found quickly is for safety and security. Our new police chief James Craig is quickly taking steps to do just that. First he’s clearing up some major problems with how Detroit’s numbers are reported. Those numbers have been splashed over front pages everywhere.
Reports say it takes an average of 58 minutes for officers to respond to life-threatening emergencies and that homicide investigators solve only 11 percent of the city’s murders. The numbers are flawed. Response time has been counted from the time the 911 call is placed. Most other law enforcement agencies start the clock after the 911 operator assigns the call to an officer since dispatchers can spend several minutes getting the information from the caller.
The Chief changed that. Now the clock starts when the dispatcher assigns the run to an officer.
In addition, many non-life-threatening calls such as break-ins, burglar alarms and other crimes with no immediate life-threatening danger were classified as emergencies. According to the Chief, half of all calls were classified as emergencies. A close examination of real “life-threatening emergency” calls showed it took officers an average of 15 minutes to respond. The Chief wants that to drop to 7-8 minutes.
As far as homicides go, the Chief says the department has closed about 35 percent of the cases. That’s not great and a lot of work has to be done, but it’s not 11 percent.
I don’t know about you but I’m very tired of having Detroit, its inability to collaborate and its police force bashed in the national and international media and used as a punch line on late night TV. Let’s get the right numbers out there and let’s show the world Detroit knows how to collaborate.
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