Duggan: Community benefits plan coming
Detroit — A resolution is expected soon in a long-standing debate over mandating certain benefits for residents and city-based contractors in large-scale developments in Detroit, the mayor said Thursday.
Mayor Mike Duggan, during an annual policy conference on Thursday, expressed optimism for a potential compromise between his administration and Detroit's City Council.
"I think we're going to end up with a fair program by which we will, at the city, initiate conversations with major employers and neighborhood groups and have some parameters on what's expected," Duggan told a crowd of about 800 during the Detroit Regional Chamber's fourth Detroit Policy Conference at MotorCity Casino Hotel.
The "Urban Development Agreements" ordinance was spearheaded by Council President Brenda Jones to ensure Detroit neighborhoods share in the benefits of major development projects, but some critics — including Duggan — expressed concern over terms in a draft circulated last fall that they feared could drive business away.
The mayor on Thursday says he is open to and working toward a compromise. He further called on the Detroit Regional Chamber to rethink its position on state legislation that would prevent local community benefits rules.
Sandy K. Baruah, Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO, stressed Thursday that the chamber's position mirrors Duggan's. While the chamber supports the state legislation on a broader level, it doesn't agree with the portion that would restrict community benefits, he said.
Whether it's an ordinance or policy is something to be worked out. A decision is anticipated in the next month or two, Duggan said.
Duggan on Thursday also noted that the city is gaining ground in the manufacturing arena and touted a planned summer youth employment program. Changing the political culture has been a focus too.
"I came here from the beginning with a very conscious thought: We are going to change the politics in the city away from the us versus them and toward collaboration," he said.
The mayor also lauded the City Council's newest member, Janee Ayers, noting that the 33-year-old has faced some immediate "criticism" because she's a "labor candidate."
"Detroit is going backwards. That's the way she's being labeled," he said, detailing Ayers efforts to work with at-risk children in the city and, in the fact of employment challenges, her commitment to staying in Detroit.
"This is the kind of young person that we need to keep in the city. Whether she'll turn out to be a good council member or bad council member, time will tell. She should not be dismissed as a bad candidate because she came out of labor."
Other areas Duggan covered Thursday were neighborhood revitalization and additional funding to attack Detroit's blight problems.
The federal government, with support from the Snyder administration, allocated $100 million for the effort. Detroit knocked down 4,000 houses last year and will bring down another 4,000 through August.
Duggan says funding will run out in the coming months, and he's grinding away at a new strategy to secure more funds.
"We are going to find a solution," he said. "I'm optimistic about that."
The mayor reiterated that a detailed plan for a city-owned insurance company as well as getting the bus services running on time are anticipated in the first half of this year.