Duggan urges participation in Census, celebrates GM plant

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan is continuing his call for residents to step forward this spring and be counted in the 2020 Census, a response that sets the city's long-term trajectory.

"Our representation, our funding for the next decade matters," Duggan said. "We're saying to everybody, 'fill it out honestly.' And where you sleep at night April 1, don't be afraid to say 'I'm a Detroiter.'"

Mayor Mike Duggan and Dennis Archer Jr., CEO of Ignition Media Group, have a conversation about the growth and various developments in the City of Detroit.

The mayor covered the importance of the Census turnout, neighborhood revitalization and General Motor Co.'s newly announced plans for Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly during a 30-minute talk with Dennis Archer Jr. at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Detroit Policy Conference on Wednesday at the MotorCity Casino Hotel.

Detroit is in the midst of an aggressive $1.7 million campaign to boost response rates.

In 2010, only 64% of households submitted their forms prior to the U.S. Census Bureau sending out doorknockers, the lowest of any major city.

Duggan estimated the poor response cost the city about $300 million over the last decade, and he said Wednesday that the average person who isn't counted amounts to a loss of about $18,000 to schools and other programs. 

The mayor also celebrated plans formally unveiled this week by GM for a $2.2 billion plan at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly. The site last year had been targeted for closure but instead will become the automaker's first fully dedicated electric vehicle assembly plant.

Duggan said Wednesday that automakers are making a big bet on the cars of the future and he urged General Motors CEO Mary Barra to do that here.

"GM absolutely believes in the future," Duggan told Archer. "I am just really pleased with the fact that they changed course and they made the investment here."

Duggan, a Democrat, also discussed the importance of the upcoming presidential election and said he's "campaigning hard" for Vice President Joe Biden.

There have only been two times in the last 50 years, he said, when there was a Democrat in Lansing and Washington, D.C. That type of alignment would allow for a meaningful urban agenda. 

"If we could get that alignment," he said, "the next term as mayor could be a historic time."

The Duggan administration also is continuing its push to create more vibrant neighborhood districts. 

The mayor gave an overview of the $17 million streetscape improvements along the Avenue of Fashion. The project to widen the sidewalks, add bike lanes and improve a 1.5-mile stretch of roadway began in May and wasn't without construction pains for businesses.

"We put $17 million into that streetscape ... this is the kind of city we're trying to build," he said.