Deciding whether to keep Mayor Mike Duggan or replace him with state Sen. Coleman Young II is about three key questions: Has Detroit improved significantly under the mayor’s leadership? Does the city have a strategic vision for a brighter future? And could the challenger do better at raising the quality of life of Detroiters?
The first question would be easy to answer if it covered just those parts of Detroit that are most visible — the 7.2 square miles that make up downtown and its adjacent neighborhoods.
For that part of the city, the comeback story is remarkable, and one that has gained national attention. Construction is underway throughout downtown, Midtown and New Center, as well as in nearby Corktown and the east riverfront.
The recent addition of the Little Caesars Arena district, the QLine and other projects are knitting together the various downtown parcels and setting the core city on its way to an exciting future. Businesses and residents are lining up to get in.
But in too many of Detroit’s residential neighborhoods, the revival is inconsistent. Some things have gotten better during Duggan’s tenure, and some things haven’t, and overall daily life in the city remains challenging.
The street lights are back on throughout the city, bus service is more consistently reliable, and blighted properties are coming down or being rehabilitated.
But crime remains top of mind. Detroit continues to post the highest per-capita murder rate of any large city in America. Too many acts of senseless violence make life in the neighborhoods unacceptably risky.
And while blight is under attack by a raft of new initiatives, too many derelict properties are still standing, adding to the sense of abandonment in the city.
Detroit’s poverty rate is among the worst in the nation, with too little job opportunities for city residents.
What’s Duggan doing to address these challenges? While many in the city would answer, “too little,” the honest response is the mayor has devoted more attention to the neighborhoods than any of his recent predecessors.
He has put in place public/private partnerships aimed at restoring homes and stabilizing neighborhoods. Duggan has also instituted a number of job training programs to get residents prepared for the real jobs being created by downtown’s construction boom.
Programs are in place to alleviate the impact of water shut-offs, to stop foreclosures and to upgrade the city’s infrastructure. And attempts to spread the downtown excitement to places like Livernois/Six Mile are taking hold.
That answers the second question. No mayor could have erased all Detroit’s monumental problems in just four years. It took decades for Detroit to fall into bankruptcy; it will take decades to overcome all its problems. But Duggan sees a brighter future for the city and has developed an action plan for realizing it.
Could Coleman Young II do better? The Democratic state senator and son of the city’s first black mayor is a passionate officeholder with a deep empathy for the city’s residents. He has been a competent lawmaker who has kept the interests of his constituents in the forefront.
But he has zero executive experience, and we fear the managerial and administrative demands of the mayor’s office would overwhelm him.
He also has failed to present a comprehensive plan for doing better for Detroit than Duggan has done.
While delivered a dogged and well-prepared performance in this week’s mayoral debate, he spoiled it with gratuitous race baiting, urging Detroiters to “take back the motherland.”
It is also distressing that Young chose to run a campaign video comparing the irregularities in the demolition program to the widespread corruption of the Kwame Kilpatrick administration.
Duggan should be held to account for the federal investigation of a city operation. But there’s no parallel with the millions of dollars Kilpatrick stole from Detroiters. The ad, which suggests the reason Kilpatrick is in jail and Duggan is not is as clear as “black and white,” is divisive and has no place in today’s Detroit.
If Detroit’s revival is to sustain and spread, it will take all Detroiters of all backgrounds pulling together to make it happen.
We believe Mike Duggan is best positioned to lead Detroit to that place, and so we endorse him for a second term as Detroit’s mayor.