DETROIT (WWJ) – Some concerned Detroiters have banded together to point out something they say is missing from the city’s demolition effort: black people.
Among those asking for a sit-down with the Detroit City Council is Damion Ellis, who said he had a look at the contracts awarded under Detroit’s federal-funded vacant home demolition program.
“When I downloaded it and I dug through the numbers, I’m finding that, of the first $170 million spent, 90 percent of those dollars went to non-black-owned businesses,” he told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas. “For me that just doesn’t make economic sense for a city that’s 82 percent black.”
Ellis said there are other barriers too that make it difficult for black contractors to compete, including the out-of-town location of the apprenticeship program for heavy equipment operators on demolition projects.
He said finding a ride to the training site is only part of the problem.
“On top of the transportation issue, it’s in Howell,” Ellis said, “which is known not to be the most inviting place for black people. It’s often called the Klu Klux Klan capital of Michigan.”
Detroit Land Bank Spokesman Craig Fahle disagrees that there’s a race issue at play here. He told Thomas that $147 million of a total $230 million in allotted federal funds have been spent so far. Of that amount, he said, 27 percent went to nine minority contractors; and nearly 80 percent to Detroit-based or headquartered businesses.
Asked if the thinks there’s a problem as it relates to black involvement in the program, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan seemed puzzled.
“I’d have to look at the numbers, but I think you’re gonna see that the numbers increased dramatically,” he told Thomas, adding that, like Fahle said, they’ve been focused on hiring Detroit-based companies.
“We’re awarding contracts under federal guidelines, as you are well aware,” the mayor added. “And so we have to follow every single federal guideline.”
Vowing to clean up the neighborhoods, Duggan pushed a program leading to the demolition of more than 12,000 dilapidated structures in Detroit. The program has since been under investigation by federal investigators to determine if federal funds were misappropriated, as costs soared.