Print Friendly and PDF

Still Pushing for Progress: Mayor Duggan

By Karen Dybis

Mayor Duggan focused on Detroiters coming first when opportunities arise

As he jumped onto the podium at the launch of the Joe Louis Greenway project in mid-May, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan came at the announcement the same way he approaches all of his work in the Motor City: Where others see blight, he sees potential.

The greenway started as dirt, but when it is finished, the 27.5-mile bike and walkway named after the legendary boxer will connect Detroit to Dearborn, Highland Park, Hamtramck and the riverfront, Duggan said. It took long-term strategy and, most of all, neighbors giving input to develop a vision for what the greenway and the city could be.

At a moment when inequality and hardship seem everywhere, Duggan said he continues to see Detroit as a unified place where, with the help of residents, strategic funding and key partnerships, things most see as detriments become Detroit’s greatest strengths. That is why Duggan is seeking a third term as mayor – he knows progress still needs a push.

“I was elected, and re-elected, by the Detroiters who stayed, so we’re just going to keep adding layers to our approach to make sure Detroit residents come first every time a new opportunity comes to our city,” Duggan said.

Stabilizing Services and Finances Brings Shift

Duggan’s two terms couldn’t be more different. He has been through the city’s historic municipal bankruptcy, mountains of preexisting mistrust and, toward the end of his second term, a pandemic that hit with a devastating effect threatening the progress and momentum underway. During his first term, “we were focused on restoring basic city services,” Duggan said, like streetlights, ambulances and police response. With Detroit’s services and finances stabilized, “we shifted more to creating opportunity for Detroiters.”

That has included building out Detroit At Work to be the city’s employment agency, where thousands of jobs are listed every day, along with free training programs for Detroit residents to get them ready for those opportunities. Duggan’s staff has been landing major employers, and Detroiters are getting a large number of the jobs. Stellantis (formerly FCA) has hired more than 2,000 Detroit residents for its new assembly plant with more hiring to follow. A supplier, Dakkota Solutions, followed suit. Now, Amazon is rising at the State Fairgrounds and they’ll have 2,000 more jobs, as will GM at Factory Zero.

Looking to Uplift Every Detroit Resident

In addition to job growth, Duggan is looking at safety, healthcare, housing and parks as ways to uplift every Detroiter.

“Just recently, we’ve seen that of the first demolition and vacant home stabilization contracts to be awarded under Proposal N, the overwhelming majority have gone to Detroit-based, Black-owned companies,” Duggan added.

Bringing Supportive Services in New Ways to Most in Need

Another solution he’s trumpeting is known as The People’s Plan, “which is going to bring the supportive services of city government to people in most need in a way they’ve never seen before,” Duggan said.

“We are piloting a program called the Community Health Corps (CHC), which works with residents who are experiencing the direst financial hardship to connect them with an entire range of social service programs, financial assistance programs, and employment and job training programs that can help them break the cycle of intergenerational poverty,” Duggan added. “We are now raising $50 million to greatly expand these services to allow us to reach more people through the CHC and Detroit At Work through programs like Learn to Earn and Get Paid to Learn a Trade.”

His greatest pride? In the past five years, Detroit has reduced its population in poverty from 40% to 30%, one of the largest drops of any big city in the nation. “Our goal with The People’s Plan is to lower our poverty rate by another 10 percent over the next five years,” Duggan said. •

Karen Dybis is a freelance writer in Metro Detroit.