Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and President Barack Obama (The Detroit News)
President Barack Obama, who hasn't commented publicly on Detroit’s record-setting Chapter 9 bankruptcy, is expected to have lunch with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in Michigan on Friday.
The pair will have lunch while the president is in Michigan to sign the farm bill at Michigan State University in East Lansing, according to a source with knowledge of the event. The lunch will occur during the less than three hours that the president is scheduled to be in the state.
The pair will be joined by the White House’s Detroit on-the-ground point person Don Graves, senior adviser at the President’s National Economic Council.
Obama also will tour the Michigan Biotechnology Institute where the White House said he “will see firsthand what institutions are doing to create jobs and drive innovation that benefits farmers, ranchers, our rural communities, and our nation.” Obama is expected to spend about three hours in the Lansing area.
Last month, Duggan had dinner in Detroit with Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden said the federal government will not provide a bailout to help the city exit bankruptcy, but will look for ways to help the Motor City with existing federal money and resources, providing the highest level remarks by the Obama administration on the city’s filing.
Asked by The Detroit News if the Obama administration would provide assistance to help exit Chapter 9 or if the city needed to do it, Biden said the city had to do it.
“The city will do it on its own, but there’s no reason why the federal government can’t do what we’re already doing,” Biden told reporters after wrapping up a dinner at Roma Cafe with Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan. “There are things that the city was entitled to, to begin with, that aren’t new monies but they are monies that have been reorganized and brought back in at the mayor’s disposal.”
Biden said Duggan didn’t seek federal funds during the dinner and didn’t ask for a check: “No. Matter of fact that was the one thing he didn’t ask for,” Biden said.
“We didn’t talk about money at all,” Duggan said. “We talked about strategy.”
The Obama administration has a team of advisers that has been working to find ways to speed up funds and help the city apply for funds it might be eligible for — and provide technical assistance and other help. Duggan’s this week hired as his chief information officer Beth Niblock of Louisville, a technology expert who was part of a team the White House assembled a few months ago to assist and advise Detroit following its bankruptcy filing.
The vice president, who toured the North American International Auto Show during his trip to the Motor City, said Detroit has major issues to address.
“You’ve got a lot of streetlights going. You’ve got to get the transportation system back up and running and it’s a Herculean task,” Biden said. “There’s a lot of raw material here still that upon which you can build and create opportunities for jobs. It’s all about being able to have a job.”
He called Duggan a “first-rate mayor.”
“Whatever help we can be, we want to be,” Biden said, adding they talked about the mayor’s “strategies for bringing this great city back.” Biden said Duggan “is focused on getting city services up and running.”