Detroit— Mayor Mike Duggan urged Tuesday that Detroiters give him six months to fix problems in the bankrupt municipality before deciding to move out.
In his first public speech since becoming mayor last week, Duggan pledged the days of poor service are going to fade while acknowledging the city’s neighborhoods are crumbling as downtown and Midtown gain residents.
“People are moving in, (but) the problem is people are moving out of the neighborhoods a lot faster than anybody’s moving in,” Duggan said at a public investiture event where he, City Council members and new police commissioners were ceremonially sworn in and recognized. “... I say to you one thing: Just give us six months. Give us six months to prove we can turn things around. Push the pause button and don’t leave that house yet. Give us six months and let us prove what we can do.”
Duggan said he was feeling good about progress made on clearing city streets of snow and collecting garbage when on Monday and again Tuesday he saw dozens of city residents waiting for buses.
The new mayor, driving down Woodward Avenue, said he saw eight SMART buses and two city buses — and Detroit was already two hours behind on routes. By 10 a.m. Monday, he was given the authority by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to hire a new Department of Transportation director, he said.
The undisclosed out-of-state candidate is expected to begin work next week, Duggan said.
“I was so embarrassed and angry for the people who were standing out trying to get to work (and) the place they were going in sub-zero weather for hours at a time,” Duggan told a packed Erma L. Henderson Auditorium inside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.
“It drove home a point of how far we have to go. We are not going to tolerate this level of service in Detroit.”
Later, Duggan said an announcement is expected as early as Wednesday about a bus director who will be in place by the end of the week.
“We’re going to bring in a director with long experience in running bus systems. We’ve got a lot of work to do at DDOT,” Duggan said. “I was really angry. It’s just not acceptable, and we’re going to get to the point in this city where buses run on time and when it’s a given. It’s going to take some time to get there.”
Duggan will oversee other operations, including the Fire Department. But Orr will have veto power over some mayoral decisions, including department restructurings, outsourcing of city services and infrastructure investments exceeding $50,000, as well as hiring and firing of full-time employees earning more than $50,000 a year.
Tuesday’s event, which was not open to the public, welcomed the council and the newly elected police commissioners into office. Each panel took a ceremonial oath of office.
The Rev. Keenan Knox, filling in for the Rev. Solomon Kinloch, who was stuck in the snow, said it’s time to move forward with new elected leaders who will no longer embarrass Detroit.
“Gone are the days of Detroit being a nationally mocked city of disagreement. That when they turn on the TV they see dysfunction,” said Knox of Impact Church on the city’s east side. “Those days are long gone because we have elected officials that will move us forward.”
Duggan supporter Ernest Johnson of the Community Coalition said it is good to have a mayor who recognizes the value of city employees.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a mayor get out and ride with a city worker and listen to a city worker,” Johnson said. “This mayor is starting with the workers who do the work (and) who are at the bottom of the ladder, but (have) the ideas to make things work better.”