Less than two weeks before the Detroit mayoral election, Wayne State hosted candidate Mike Duggan Oct. 24 at the Alumni House. Duggan briefly outlined his history in the city and his credentials before taking questions from the audience.
Duggan was born in Detroit and attended Catholic Central High School. Although he lived in Livonia for a time before moving back to Detroit to run for mayor, he said his heart has always remained in the city even when he physically did not.
“When I was coming out of law school in Ann Arbor in the 1980s, all of my friends were going to Chicago, Atlanta, L.A., and I said I’m only applying to jobs in Detroit,” Duggan said. “They said, ‘Detroit? Why would you apply at jobs in Detroit when you can go to L.A.?’ And I realized that Detroit is either in your blood or it’s not, but this is the only place I wanted to be... I wanted to be part of bringing this city back.”
Duggan said his positions have included private litigation attorney in the Penobscot Building, county attorney, deputy county executive, general manager of the SMART bus system, Wayne County Prosecutor and the CEO of Detroit Medical Center. Under his leadership, Duggan said the DMC was able to avoid bankruptcy, cut waiting times from three hours to 29 minutes and amass $18 million in profit over two years. Previously, he said the DMC lost $500 million over the course of five years.
“We built a team that turned something around,” Duggan said of the transformations. “And when I looked at what was going on in the city of Detroit about two years ago, I looked and I saw just the opposite.
I saw a mayor fighting with the council, a mayor fighting with the unions, a city fighting with the state. The violence has been out of control, the buses don’t run on time, the streetlights don’t work, and they’re always talking about being bankrupt.
“And I said, ‘you know, I think we’re at a point where we need a mayor who’s got a turnaround history,” he said, “who knows what it means to take an organization from the verge of bankruptcy and bring it back.’”
Duggan said many people doubted his ability to overcome the racial division in Detroit and become a viable candidate, but Detroiters have been extremely receptive. He has hosted more than 200 house parties and thousands have volunteered for his campaign.
Duggan was propelled to the front of the race after being knocked off the ballot for submitting his documentation too early. Despite some confusion and controversy caused by another write-in candidate, Mike Dugeon, Duggan’s supporters garnered him more than 40,000 votes in the primary election. Duggan placed well ahead of the other candidates — including his current opponent, Benny Napoleon, who received 28,352 votes for a total of 29 percent of casted ballots, according to Detroit’s Unofficial Election Summary Report.
Duggan highlighted some of the components of his neighborhood plan, including a provision where the city can file suit against homeowners who walk away from their properties. After this, homeowners can either have the property renovated within six months or deed it to the city for resale.JON ADAMS/THE SOUTH END
“If you’re across the street from a vacant lot that’s overgrown, we’re going to cut the lot and we’re going to bill the owner of the lot for the fact they didn’t maintain it,” Duggan said. “If they don’t pay the bill, we’re going to take the lot from them and give it to the next door neighbor so that the people in the neighborhood can maintain it.”
Duggan also said he’ll go after the scrapyards that buy from scrappers who obtained their products illegally. Penalties include five-to-ten-year felonies or seizure of the scrapyard.
“A guy comes down the street pushing a shopping cart with aluminum siding in it. You’ve got pretty good reason to know he didn’t come about it by lawful means,” Duggan said. “If we do those things, I think we can start to bring these neighborhoods back.”
Other planned initiatives include expanding citywide recycling, improving police department efficiency and creating entrepreneurial mentorships.
“Just like blight spreads, hope spreads,” Duggan said.