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Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has gone from offering no real solutions to the crisis of the $600 million overtaxation of Detroit homeowners, to saying he has a team working on finding an answer to a problem which may have contributed to the devastating foreclosure crisis in the past. 

Duggan’s change of heart is due to the fact that there’s been mounting public pressure since the story broke in The Detroit News, which was followed by demands from the public for City Hall to find a way to make homeowners who were overtaxed financially whole. 

More: Detroit homeowners overtaxed $600 million

“The mayor has currently a team of people actively looking to identify some possible solutions that are both possible and legally allowable,” the mayor’s office said last week. 

While the Duggan administration’s new position is encouraging, it should not mitigate the continued outcry from Detroiters. Three weeks ago, the mayor himself wasn’t initially inclined to do anything about the revelations. He was pointing to existing law as to why nothing can be done. He even suggested that those who were wronged had an opportunity to appeal in the past but didn’t.

The mayor and his team seemed like they were going to walk away from the issue. They didn’t expect the public reaction the story has generated — a reaction that’s only going to increase as more and more people become aware of what happened. 

Based on Duggan’s initial reaction alone, however, there is no guarantee that his administration will come up with something that is tangible and that amounts to a financial recovery for many homeowners.

It’s important to note that the efforts of Brenda Jones, the president of the City Council, who has been rightfully nagging the mayor’s office with questions about how residents can get compensated, is helping by making the Duggan administration prioritize this issue. Jones fired off a flurry of emails badgering the city’s law department to provide answers as to how Detroiters can be paid back.   

Agnes Hitchcock, the leader of the activist group “Call ’Em Out Coalition,” told me recently that she is at the point of breaking down because of the hardships that many economically disadvantaged Detroiters have gone through. She said the overtaxation was just one more pivotal example of how many people in the city have been left to fend for themselves.

But Hitchcock said she isn’t giving up on this issue and will continue to galvanize more awareness around the story, which ought to be heard across the length and breadth of the city.

Earlier in the last week, The PuLSE Institute, an anti-poverty think tank in Detroit that I'm associated with, launched a forum series to keep the issue of the overtaxation at the forefront of the recovery. The panel that I moderated featured Christine MacDonald, the investigative reporter who broke the story, Wayne State University law professor John Mogk, 910 AM host Sam Riddle and attorney Tina Patterson, the president of the institute. 

The takeaway from the forum, which was attended by hundreds at Wayne County Community College District, is that Detroiters are truly incensed about this crisis.

The panel discussed solutions, from potential legal remedies to grassroots public campaigns. 

Now that Duggan has gone on the record to say he is working on a solution, he should know that the people that put him in office are watching and waiting. 

bankole@bankolethompson.com

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews. Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at 11 a.m. weekdays on Superstation 910AM.

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