Bankole: How Trump deals with Detroit

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

It’s difficult to decipher how President-elect Donald Trump plans to govern and where Detroit will be on his list of priorities for a man who has never held elected office.

But Trump must decide whether he wants to be an ally in Detroit’s revitalization by continuing the path that President Barack Obama started in supporting various projects in the city including the demolition program — now under scrutiny — which received more than $200 million in federal dollars since 2014 to tear down 8,000 blighted properties or create new ways to work with the city.

Either way, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office said it is ready to work with Trump.

“Our approach with the Trump administration will be the same as it has been under President Obama and would be with any new administration: to make a strong business case for the use of any federal funds so they will be awarded to the city on the strength of our proposal and on our track record of effectively putting these federal dollars to good use,” said Alexis Wiley, the mayor’s chief of staff.

“Like any major city, Detroit has a significant number of programs and projects that rely on federal funding, which comes first to the state and is then allocated to Detroit. This ranges from Community Development Block Grant funds, to road and transportation funding, housing projects and a number of other key city programs.”

An oft-repeated position during Trump’s campaign is ending federal funding for “sanctuary cities,” a loose definition for cities and counties that have enacted laws, ordinances and practices that limit federal immigration enforcement which critics say shield criminals from agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

For example, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Monday said Trump’s election will not change a 1979 rule in that “sanctuary city” that prohibits officers from initiating contact with anyone on the basis of their immigration status. Beck said the city’s police force will not participate in any mass deportation plan.

That same day Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel echoed a similar sentiment saying “Chicago will always be a sanctuary city” as has been the case for the last three decades.

But Duggan, during a Nov. 10 town hall meeting at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church said “we are not a sanctuary city,” and Detroit will not be affected by Trump’s threat.

That’s because, according to the mayor, the city cooperates with the feds in criminal investigations involving undocumented immigrants, despite an ordinance that prevents police officers from determining the immigration status of individuals.

“Detroit is not a sanctuary city. While our officers do not initiate investigations to determine an individual’s immigration status, they do cooperate with federal agencies that may be investigating an individual based on a specific alleged crime they are believed to have committed,” Wiley said.

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, said she wants to work with the Trump administration on issues where common ground can be found.

“Under the Obama administration we have been favorably budgeted for funding to boost economic development. We are going to build that relationship with Trump because we have depended so much on federal dollars and that is why we have to keep the allocation of grants and funding intact,” Lawrence said.

However, Lawrence says she remains worried about how Trump will govern.

“I am very concerned about his immigration policy because we have one of the most diverse districts. I am also concerned about his idea of criminal justice reform because he said what happened in New York and the stop-and-frisk issue was great,” Lawrence said. “We need a mandate to bring federal dollars to address community policing. We don’t need a mandate that incorporates racist policies in our criminal justice system.”

Because there is a distinction between a candidate trying to win an election and serving as president where your obligation goes beyond fiery rhetoric and partisan divide, Trump faces a challenge making his remarks as a candidate the policy thrust of his administration.

“No one knows Trump. He said a lot of things on the campaign but we really don’t know him when it comes to legislative policies,” Lawrence said. “We are going to be extremely focused on being vigilant because I want my country to be a place to all Americans.”

But perhaps we may have an idea of how Trump will relate to Detroit from an Aug. 8 speech he gave before the Detroit Economic Club.

“In short, the city of Detroit is the living, breathing example of my opponent’s failed economic agenda. Every policy that has failed this city, and so many others, is a policy supported by Hillary Clinton,” Trump said.

In that same speech Trump said: “Detroit — the Motor City — will come roaring back. We will offer a new future, not the same old failed policies of the past.”

We will see how Trump defines a future for Detroit.

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910AM weekdays at noon. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays.

Twitter: @bankieT