Duggan, Evans working on ‘transforming’ Detroit
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans vowed to include neighborhoods in the city’s revitalization that critics say has solely benefited the downtown area.
The two leaders said Thursday morning that while Detroit is transforming, they are sensitive to concerns from residents that parts of the city are being left out.
Duggan said officials have succeeded in balancing the budget, cleaning up parks and improving bus service along with police and ambulance response times.
The next steps, however, will be filling vacant storefronts and encouraging companies to create job training opportunities for young people, Duggan said.
“There is progress but there are rising expectations,” Duggan said at a Pancakes & Politics event at the Detroit Athletic Club. “I don’t feel like the criticism and impatience is unfair. It’s what we signed up for.”
Evans noted that poor lighting has been an issue for city neighborhoods. He said the county is always looking for funding that will help improve neighborhood conditions.
“I agree that neighborhoods feel left out,” Evans said. “I think we both are trying to do the best we can to try to start to right that ship.”
Duggan said he is encouraging companies building in Detroit to set up training sites in the city so local residents have a chance to fill the jobs.
He also said he agreed that black entrepreneurs are not fairly represented in Detroit because they are challenged with access to funding.
Duggan said the city has looked to find sources of financing for black business owners.
“Access to the capital is a whole lot different than someone who is in a family where their parents can help them get started... who have longstanding relationships in the banking community,” Duggan said. “We are doing a number of things to try to level the playing field.”
Evans said the growth of Detroit has helped Wayne County significantly. Companies such as Amazon in Livonia and Ford in Flat Rock are investing in out-county facilities and creating jobs for residents, he said.
“Not only do I want jobs to come to Wayne County, I want people to move here and live,” Evans said.
Dorma McGruder, a lifelong Detroit resident, said she believed Duggan and Evans were both “candid” and “honest” about the transformation of Detroit.
McGruder said she wants to see more efforts to create affordable housing in Detroit and improve the education system.
“I really believe they are doing their best with what they have,” McGruder said after the event Thursday. “We have to remember that when they came in, they didn’t start with a blank slate, they started with a mess.”
Evans and Duggan also briefly discussed a proposal from Rock Ventures to build the county a new jail, juvenile detention center and courtrooms for $300 million on the Interstate 75 service drive between East Forest and East Warren. In exchange, Rock Ventures wants to build a soccer stadium on an unfinished county jail site at Gratiot near I-375.
“I’d love to see soccer there,” Evans said. “But the reality is Wayne County taxpayers have already been fleeced in a jail deal. And I think they ought to pay the least amount necessary to have a functional jail.”