Four years ago Mike Duggan won a stunning write-in primary victory on his way to a Detroit mayor’s office that had been stripped of most of its power by the state’s takeover and the city’s bankruptcy.
Instead of setting himself up as an adversary to the emergency manager and the restructuring Gov. Rick Snyder was orchestrating, Duggan joined the process of helping speed the return to local control.
After his authority was restored, Duggan used the clean slate provided by the bankruptcy to begin improving the quality of life in Detroit and reforming government operations.
Mike Duggan has done a solid job under very challenging circumstances, and should be rewarded by voters with the chance to compete for a second term in November. The top two finishers will advance to the fall runoff, regardless if the primary winner tops 50 percent of the vote.
Under Duggan’s watch, the city has resolved some of its most nagging problems. All of the street lights have been replaced, and for the first time in decades neighborhoods are consistently well-lit.
Likewise, garbage is now picked up on a predictable schedule. And buses are a lot closer to running on time.
These may seem like small things, but they go a long way toward making a city liveable.
On bigger challenges, Duggan has also had success. He’s kept the city’s books in balance, so Detroit no longer faces the annual budget-cutting crisis.
He’s made improving the workforce a top priority, initiating a series of training programs.
Property tax assessments are being rationalized, and as they come closer to reflecting true market value, tax collections are rising.
Duggan has supported the private sector’s efforts to redevelop the downtown footprint, lending the city’s support to a number of key projects.
He’s put in place a more sensible blight policy, trying first to save homes and put them back on the tax rolls rather than tearing them down. But the city is moving at an aggressive pace to remove dangerous and unsalvageable structures.
The blight program has come under federal scrutiny for the way in which funds have been used. That’s an issue the mayor must continue to address, and with absolute transparency, and he should be called to account for the irregularities by voters during the general election campaign.
Of Duggan’s seven challengers, state Sen. Coleman Young II seems the most formidable.
The son of the city’s first African-American mayor, Young is a longtime Detroit legislator, having served both in the state House and Senate.
He is passionate about the city’s neighborhoods, and that’s where the focus should be in this election.
But Young is light on ideas. His primary plan for fixing Detroit is to file a series of lawsuits against the state and other parties.
Complaints that life in the neighborhoods has not substantially improved under Duggan’s watch are not unwarranted. There is still too much crime, and the public schools still stink.
Duggan asked when he took office to be judged by the repopulation of Detroit, yet that still is not happening.
Again, the campaign ahead should compel Duggan to express a clearer commitment to building One Detroit, and that means speeding up improvements to neighborhoods.
Still, no one in the primary field offers a better alternative.
We endorse Mike Duggan for Detroit mayor in the Aug. 8 primary and look forward to a vigorous general election campaign.