Benny Napoleon said the plan would create 28,000 jobs. )
Detroit— Mayoral contender Benny Napoleon is calling for a partnership between private developers and the city for major retail projects that he said would generate more than $3 billion in redevelopment in the city.
Napoleon, the Wayne County sheriff facing former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan in the Nov. 5 election, has been campaigning on a platform of reducing crime and improving neighborhoods. He addressed a crowd of about 175 on Monday at the Peace & Goodwill Baptist Church, calling for the city and developers to create public safety service centers throughout the city.
The centers would have police, fire and emergency services integrated into retail community centers in each of the seven council districts in the city.
Napoleon said the strategy is projected to generate a $3.15 billion impact and create 28,000 permanent jobs. Details are spelled out at www.bennynapoleon.com.
The goal, Napoleon said, is to transform neighborhoods “one square mile at a time” by forming the public-private partnerships, attracting new investments and improving the quality of life by reducing crime and restoring city services. The plan won’t cost any additional taxpayer money, he said.
Money for the centers would come from state and federal grants and market tax credits as well as major companies including DTE Energy, according to the Napoleon campaign.
“I have no intention of being a do-nothing mayor while waiting for an emergency manager to leave,” Napoleon said in a statement.
Scott Simons, DTE spokesman, said the company would be open to exploring city improvement ideas with whomever is elected mayor.
Napoleon also called for targeting and demolishing blighted structures, stiffer fines for owners of blighted buildings and requiring those who buy foreclosed properties to improve them or face having the properties revert back to the city.
“We can’t demo our way out of this,” Napoleon said during the presentation. “We will transform our neighborhoods by making properties an opportunity.”
The sheriff said another way he plans to build neighborhoods first is to “use eminent domain to keep residents in their homes who face a foreclosure because of job loss or underwater mortgage.”
“We will take the house under eminent domain, then sell to the family at fair market value,” Napoleon said.
Using eminent domain to take a foreclosed or underwater mortgage and help limit the spread of blight is not a new idea. Elected officials in El Monte, a 113,000-person city in Southern California, are the latest to float the idea. Two other California cities considered the move last year but shelved it.
John Mogk, a Wayne State University law professor and eminent domain expert, remains dubious. “I don’t think it can be done in Michigan,” he said.
When the state amended its Constitution on the public taking of property in 2006, it redefined the definition of “public use” of eminent domain for what the term meant that year and considerably limited the use of eminent domain, Mogk said.
“In 2006, nowhere in Michigan or the rest of the country was eminent domain interpreted to be used to take a mortgage,” he said.
For the idea to work on a major scale requires considerable legal and administrative expense, he continued, and would be “prohibitively expensive” to do in Detroit.
Less than four weeks remain until the general election. In the Aug. 6 primary election, Napoleon collected 30 percent of the votes and Duggan, who faced a write-in campaign in the primary, won 52 percent of the total.
Political analyst Eric Foster said Napoleon has depended on “identification-based” politics — relying on well-known politicians, pastors and labor — to get voters to see him as credible. Instead, he should have been focusing on having his campaign reach out directly to voters in key districts to shrink Duggan’s lead, Foster said.
“He needs to change his campaign narrative immediately from an identification base to a community-impact base,” Foster said. “Benny’s campaign doesn’t fit the 21st century on how to reach voters.”
Most business leaders have supported Duggan while Napoleon has gathered the support of some of the biggest unions. Napoleon received the endorsement this month of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and is supported by Michigan’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 25, which represents the largest contingent of city workers.
Duggan is endorsed by unions including the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Michigan and Detroit Firefighters Local 344.