There’s No Place Like Detroit
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.
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.
For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, I am a huge Tigers fan.
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 problemswith 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.
Next week, we’ll begin celebrating our nation’s independence when the Detroit Ford Fireworks boom and glow over the Detroit River. It’s a great show and a tremendous way to remember all those who fought in the American Revolution as well as those who have fought in all the wars since. We are indebted to them all and owe them our thanks and respect.
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