Detroit's Anthony Adams demands answers from DTE Energy, Duggan on 6th day of outages

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit mayoral candidate Anthony Adams demanded answers Tuesday from DTE Energy officials and Mayor Mike Duggan while attempting to enter the utility's headquarters downtown with about a dozen supporters on the sixth day of a power outage for thousands of residents.

He and the group carrying protest signs were turned away by DTE security. Instead, they remained at the front doors chanting "DTE, we deserve better."

Adams said residents deserve an explanation about why power is difficult to restore in the state's largest city and said a $25 credit for all the lost food in their freezers, "isn't going to cut it."

Mayoral candidate Anthony Adams holds a press conference outside of DTE Energy headquarters in Detroit on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 demanding answers about why power has not yet been fully restored a week after storms.

"We are here today to condemn the racist practices of DTE with respect to how they provide lack of service in the city of Detroit, how they fail to invest money in the city of Detroit and how they continue to fund the politician in this city, Mike Duggan, with their millions of dollars and yet they can't build the proper infrastructure in our city," Adams said. "We've got to stop the nonsense because people are pissed off."

DTE estimated 700,000 customers lost electricity in two waves of severe weather last week. As of early Tuesday evening, about 9,000 DTE customers were still without power and 2,800 crews were in the field working, according to the utility's outage map.

"Our field teams and support staffs made tremendous progress repairing layers of damage from last week's storm as quickly and as safety as possible, restoring power to the communities we serve," DTE spokesman Jerry Norcia said in a statement.

"Regarding issues facing Detroit, we have partnered with the city and the mayor on important needs ranging from new infrastructure projects to payment assistance programs, to workforce development programs," Norcia said.

He said officials could not specify how many of the remaining 9,000 customers without power Tuesday evening were in Detroit.

Adams said the lack of power adds to the city's crumbling infrastructure including recent flooding that impacted thousands of residents' basements, malfunctions at the city's pumping stations and families left without air conditioning and internet.

"They're pissed off because the executives of this building that make millions of dollars turned a completely deaf ear to the sound of voices of people who actually need service in our community," Adams said. "They're pissed off because when the city made the decision to transfer our public lighting authority to DTE, they said the service transitions would be completed and yet, it hasn't been done."

Metro Detroit residents filed a class-action lawsuit at the end of July in Wayne County Circuit Court against DTE Energy claiming the company didn't do enough to ensure reliable electrical power to the Freud pump station, which resulted in additional flooding.

Temporary generators in the city are being run off diesel fuel, which are toxic to neighborhoods, he said.

Adams accused Duggan of not speaking more forcefully about the frequent and extended outages because DTE is a contributor to his campaign and causes.

Mayoral candidate Anthony Adams holds a press conference outside of DTE Energy headquarters in Detroit on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 demanding answers about why power has not yet been fully restored a week after storms.

Since the start of 2016, the Duggan-tied nonprofit Detroit Progress Fund has reported $40,000 in contributions from DTE Energy. Over that time, the utility's political action committee has disclosed $50,000 in giving to Duggan's candidate committee and $5,000 in giving to his leadership fund.

Duggan secured more than $1.1 million in campaign contributions between January and July 18. Adams raised $160,000 during the reporting period.

► More: Hardships mount for Michigan customers without power

Norcia said DTE will continue to support Duggan.

Alexis Wiley, Duggan's campaign manager, said: “It’s unfortunate that when you don’t actually have a plan for the city, your campaign just degenerates into hateful rants and attacks."

Adams demanded DTE Energy restore service to Detroit as fast as it would to Grosse Pointe, invest in the city and upgrade infrastructure in the city, provide power to the pumping stations and provide the highest level of service in minority contracting, "which they have not done," he said. "...People are so numb to the pain they're experiencing in this city, that they almost have checked out."

Teresa Kelley was with Adams and said she was still without power in Highland Park.

"However Detroit rolls, we roll," said Kelley, 82. "My neighbor spent $100 on gasoline trying to keep her refrigerator going. We've got a lot of senior citizens who have already bought groceries with their pitiful monthly check and if their groceries are gone, they might give you a $25 check."

Charter Revision Commissioner Nicole Small said senior citizens in the city are being overlooked.

"We know they can't even access the elevator and a lot of them have mobility issues going up and down the stairs or they're confined to their apartments again," Small said. "This is the same senior homes that keep going without power and they don't even have the decency to go and make sure they upgrade the infrastructure over there for our most vulnerable community."

She demanded Duggan and council members answer residents' questions about what they're doing to improve the situation.

When asked what he would do differently than Duggan, Adams said he'd require plans from the utility company for tree trimming and improving minority contracting. 

Staff Writer Craig Mauger contributed.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_