Duggan to talk equity, auto reform during State of the City

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan is set to deliver his seventh State of the City address on Tuesday with a focus on ensuring residents benefit from Detroit's rebound.

The second-term mayor will give his speech to an invitation-only crowd inside Flex-N-Gate, an eastside auto parts manufacturing plant that brought 600 jobs, about half of which for city residents.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan

"We're going to talk about a shift in direction in this city's history. And now, Detroit is shifting to growth," Duggan told The News on Monday, noting that just a few years ago, the site in the Interstate 94 industrial park where facility now stands was a vacant field. 

"The question is: How do we build Detroit's recovery on principles of equity? Because really, what I hear every day is Detroiters want to know 'is this recovery going to benefit me?'" Duggan added.

"We are talking about the fact that we are seeing empty buildings and vacant fields converted to thousands and thousands of jobs and talk about how Detroiters get those jobs."

According to U.S. Census estimates released last spring, Detroit's population has continued to drop, but the losses were smaller than prior years. The city's population was 672,662 as of summer 2018, a loss of 1,526. The previous year's loss was 2,695.

Duggan once expected the city would start drawing residents by the end of his first term and his performance should be measured by the milestone. But he's blamed the schools for the continued losses. 

Meanwhile, the city last year, Duggan said, created an equity council to aid Detroiters with funding and support for new city businesses that are small and growing. 

Duggan made police response, garbage collection and other basic city functions a priority in his first term. But he said Monday that "we're done talking about really poor services."

"Now, we're talking about, for really the first time since the 1940s, how do you manage a Detroit that's growing, and how do you make sure that it's Detroiters that benefit from the growth?" he said. 

Duggan is expected to reiterate Tuesday the transformation of the long-vacant Michigan Central Depot in Corktown that's undergoing a $350 million makeover by Ford Motor Co., as well as the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV plant that promises 5,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly had been targeted for closure last fall. But a deal has since been worked out for it to become the automaker's first all-electric vehicle assembly plant. 

Duggan hinted Monday that a number of other major projects are "in conversations" but said he'll leave it to the companies involved to announce them when the time is right. 

The mayor said Detroit is competing against the Metro Detroit suburbs and other states for industry, and despite rhetoric attacking corporations over tax breaks, the city will continue to support abatements to stay competitive. 

"We're going to keep partnering with companies who give preference to hiring Detroiters, and I'm glad to give them incentives to come in if you give our residents incentives to work," he said. 

Separately, Duggan said he will convene a series of eight forums across Detroit in March and April to educate residents on Michigan's no-fault auto reform and the rate cuts afforded to residents once the law kicks in on July 2. 

A component of the law, he said, provides that individuals with health care from their employer don't have to pay for it a second time on their car insurance. 

"I'm going to tell our 9,000 employees tomorrow night that July 2 most of them are going to see significantly more money in their pockets," he said. "The people in Detroit have waited a long time for that."