May 28, 2014 at 1:00 am

Duggan gives himself incomplete on Detroit neighborhood reform

'I would say incomplete (about the work I've done). I don't feel good about it,' Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in his first address at the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual policy conference at Mackinac Island. (John L. Russell / Special to The Detroit News)

Mayor Mike Duggan told some of the state’s top business and community leaders Wednesday that progress has been made in reforming city neighborhoods during his first five months in office, but he’s not done.

“I would say incomplete (about the work I’ve done). I don’t feel good about it,” Duggan said at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference at Mackinac Island.

“If you were in my Wednesday morning cabinet meetings, I can assure you the department heads are not getting A’s from me every week. We’re just going to keep working hard. We’re not worried about letter grades.”

Duggan, who has been credited with restructuring the Detroit Medical Center and SMART suburban bus system, said he is set to implement a program to sell vacant lots to residents for $100. Duggan estimated that there are 4,700 vacant lots and nearly 2,000 are owned by people who live next to them.

“How much better would the neighborhoods be? We have a plan,” Duggan said.

This program would be in addition to programs to seize and sell abandoned homes in an anti-blight blitz.

Duggan added there’s a series of metrics that need to get accomplished for city services. They are boring, but if they are done well the city will be moving in the right direction, he said.

“If you do the boring stuff well, success usually comes,” Duggan said.

Duggan, who reiterated he’ll be judged by increasing the city’s population, touted how he’s attacking the task of improving city services for Detroit’s neighborhoods. In recent weeks, his team has rolled out programs to put up 500 lights per week in city neighborhoods and create the adopt-a-park program.

Detroit’s population has dropped from a peak of more than 1.5 million people in the 1950s to less than 700,000 now. The city lost 12,000 people last year, Duggan said.

“I told you if I got here it would be change,” said the mayor, who added one change is the collaboration with the Detroit City Council. “...We get up every day and we focus on what we can do to reverse the population decline in the city. It governs every single decision we make. We do not have a future if we do not start growing.”

Duggan said emergency medical services’ response time is not near the national average, but it’s around 12 minutes and 30 seconds. He said bus service is improving, but the city needs 225 buses and rolled out 201 last week.

“There is a sense the city is going in the right direction,” Duggan said.
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