February 20, 2014 at 9:29 am

DETROIT POLITICS

Duggan and cronyism, Part Two

Mike Duggan swore he would find the best people for his administration as mayor. In reality, he's put a lot of friends on the payroll. (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)

Rarely in Detroit’s history has it been blessed with so much bright, fresh talent eager to take on the revitalization of the city.

Unfortunately, new Mayor Mike Duggan must not be seeing their resumes.

Instead of tapping into this growing pool of would-be Detroit saviors, Duggan is filling the key positions in his administration with cronies, nearly all of them Democratic operatives who would seem better suited to staffing a political machine than remaking a city.

I wrote earlier about the cronyism of Duggan’s first round of appointees, which included his personal attorney Tom Lewand Sr., a former Democratic Party chair, Butch Hollowell, another one-time Michigan Democratic Party chair, Ike McKinnon, the ex-Detroit police chief, and Charlie Beckham, City Hall’s boomerang man.

Now Duggan has tapped a third ex-Democratic Party chair, Rick Wiener, to head up the Detroit Land Bank.

The land bank will take control of finding new uses for property in Detroit after blighted structures are removed. Nothing on Wiener’s resume suggests a qualification for a job that is primarily concerned with real estate and redevelopment

An attorney, Wiener runs a political consulting firm and for a stretch was former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s chief of staff. He’s good at what he does — had Granholm listened to him, she might have been more successful. But what he does isn’t development or real estate. It’s politics.

Don’t worry, I was told by someone in the development community, because the heavy lifting will be done by Carrie Lewand-Monroe, who’s been with the land bank for nearly a year.

That’s Lewand as in the daughter of Tom, Duggan’s development director, who has responsibility for the land bank and other development initiatives. You think the brooming of George Jackson from the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. had anything to do with the fact that there are a lot of good jobs to pass out in that arena?

Development is also where Duggan is looking to place Trisha Stein, wife of ex-AFL-CIO Michigan head Mark Gaffney and the cracker jack Democratic political strategist who ran his successful campaign for Wayne County prosecutor in 2000. Oh, and Mary Palazzolo Martin and Kevin Simowski, who were with him in Wayne County and the Detroit Medical Center.

These folks may be smart and capable. But, again, their expertise is mostly in politics, or they’re longtime Duggan loyalists, or both.

The optics are bad in a city still healing from Kwame Kilpatrick’s friends and family approach to governance. Are these really the best people Duggan could find to rebuild Detroit, or are they the best to build another political machine?

nfinley@detroitnews.com
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