Editorial: Duggan pledges a Detroit for Detroiters

The Detroit News

Detroit’s long decline began in its neighborhoods, and the city’s comeback won’t be fully realized until those neighborhoods are restored.

Mayor Mike Duggan acknowledged that reality in his first State of the City address since winning re-election last fall, and pledged to keep his focus on three key areas essential to improving the quality of life for those residents who stayed in Detroit when others were leaving.

In a speech best labeled Detroit for Detroiters, Duggan, who never mentioned downtown development, said the best way to reward those neighborhood stalwarts is to improve education, reduce crime and create more jobs and economic opportunity for them.

Of the three, education remains paramount. Families will not stay in a city where the schools are failing their children.

Duggan highlighted some new developments to encourage more Detroit youth to pursue higher education. The Detroit Promise program, which offers Detroit students the opportunity to go to either community college or a four-year college (if they meet GPA requirements), is a good step. And it was jump-started by Gov. Rick Snyder and the Detroit Regional Chamber. Now taxpayers in the city are helping cover the cost.

But college doesn’t mean much if Detroit’s young people aren’t getting a quality K-12 education, and that’s the case for too many in the city. The mayor touched on a new plan to coordinate efforts between traditional public schools and charters in the city.

Noting that 32,000 Detroit children leave the city every day to attend suburban schools, Duggan proposes to make it easier for parents to choose the best school for their children. His key idea, and perhaps the biggest headline of the night, is to make sure every child has safe and efficient transportation to the school of their choice.

Duggan’s plan will gather students in central locations and move them to both charter and traditional public schools around the city. He also plans after-school activities to assist working parents.

The new bus routes would be evenly funded by the city, schools and philanthropic community.

“I believe in choice,” Duggan said. “We could provide good choices here in the city of Detroit. I’m not here to choose sides.”

That’s smart politics, considering that half his constituents choose non-DPSCD schools for their children.

On crime, Duggan pledged to add 141 new police officers, largely to staff an expansion of the successful Operation Ceasefire and Green Light programs. Ceasefire works to identify those most likely to commit violence and intervene before they act. Green Light encourages businesses to install surveillance cameras that are monitored by the Police Department. Both have reduced crime in areas where they are active, Duggan said.

Duggan touted a number of measures, including Entrepreneurs of Color and Motor City Match, to encourage business startups and job creation in the city. For too long, the city has been focused on the challenge of moving Detroiters to jobs in the suburbs. These initiatives will create jobs for them in the city.

He also said the city will continue its requirement that 51 percent of projects supported by taxpayer dollars employ a workforce that is 51 percent Detroiters, and said he would help employers meet that target with expanded job training programs.

To that end, he announced that the Canadian government has written Detroit a $10 million check to train residents to help build the new bridge across the Detroit River.

This address rightly continued the Neighborhoods First theme of Duggan’s re-election campaign, and keeps his administration’s priorities in the right place.