Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, a University alum, returned to Ann Arbor on Monday to speak with a group of Business sophomores about ongoing revitalization efforts in Detroit.
Duggan, who graduated from the University’s Law School in 1983, was not new to Detroit politics when he assumed the mayor’s office in 2014. From 1987 to 2001, he served as Wayne County’s deputy county executive, and prosecutor from 2001 until 2003. In 2004, he became the president and CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, where he remained until December 2012.
Duggan said one of the pillars of his campaign was to make policymaking in the city a more inclusive process.
“I finished every speech the same way,” he said. “I said if I’m the mayor, if you’re going to vote for me, the ‘us versus them’ politics is over. It’s no longer going to matter if you’re Black, brown or white. It’s not going to matter if you’re Christian, Jewish or Muslim. It’s not going to matter if you’re gay or straight. It’s not going to matter if you were born in the city of Detroit or you’re an immigrant from another country. We’re going to build a city where everyone is welcome and everyone is included.”
Since becoming the city’s mayor in January 2014, the city has experienced a number of changes. Five months before he assumed office, the city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. The following November, Judge Steven Rhodes approved Detroit’s plan of adjustment.
Now that the city has emerged from bankruptcy, Duggan said he is pursuing a number of initiatives to improve the city.
Over the past year, the city has installed 58,000 new streetlights in Detroit to fix the city’s public lighting problem. According to Duggan, the new LED lights have been installed every 300 feet so that most blocks have a light on each corner and in the middle of the block.
Business sophomore Alex Rakestraw said he was impressed with Duggan’s efforts to ensure the city is well lit.
“So much of wanting to go to a city is being comfortable and feeling safe in it,” Rakestraw said. “I thought it was really cool how much he emphasized making sure the streets were clean and well lit as a precursor to making real change. It seemed like the kind of response you would get from someone who is looking at the big picture in totality.”
Duggan has also spearheaded a number of crime-fighting initiatives in Detroit.
Given that the city does not have the resources to employ more policemen, Duggan said the current police force must be used more efficiently. Even with current law enforcement efforts, the city’s murder rate fell by 3 percent in 2014.
“If we are going to reduce crime in the city of Detroit, I need to take the same 2,400 cops and use them smarter than we ever did before,” he said. “And so we are essentially, for those of you who are ‘Moneyball’ fans, we are applying ‘Moneyball’ policies to fighting crime. And it’s pretty interesting to see business school grads and cops mixing. The key to getting violence down is you have to get criminals to make different decisions. How do you get them to change the decision not to commit the crime in the first place?”
Ceasefire Detroit is a program the city has implemented to address this question. Under the program, the city brings 30 to 40 residents, many of them youth, with known criminal histories together for a discussion once a month. Community members, Duggan and the Wayne County prosecutor are all present to speak about the state of violence in Detroit.
“We’ve had 30 American men and women killed in Iraq last year, in this one little corner of Detroit we’ve had 40 people murdered,” Duggan said. “It is more violent in our corner of Detroit than in war-torn parts of the world. And what I say to them is, the ones who are most likely to be the next victim, are you. The violence has to end.”
Duggan has also worked to jumpstart GreenLight, a program aimed at securing high-risk gas stations. The nine participating gas stations will be lit out to the street front and outfitted with high-resolution, color security cameras. These cameras will be connected through Wi-Fi to police headquarters where there is a real-time crime center.
“The technology is so advanced that if somebody carjacks somebody at a gas station, we will be able to rewind that image at police headquarters, take a snapshot, send it out to the patrol cars in the area that have laptops so that they’ll be able to see the cars and the perpetrators immediately,” he said.
Duggan also emphasized the importance of enticing young people to move to Detroit — an area where he said he has seen significant improvement.
“Today every housing unit in downtown Detroit is leased out, there is a six-month wait list,” he said. “We caught this trend of the millennials who don’t want to live in the suburbs and drive a minivan, who want to be closely connected, who have creative energy, are moving in in remarkable numbers. We have a lot of initiatives going on in the arts side, the cultural side.”
For one thing, the city has launched a program called Motor City Match, which will give out $500,000 every quarter for the next five years to new businesses in the form of $50,000 grants. Last quarter, 370 people applied for one of 10 grants.
Business sophomore Emily Gorman, a Michigan native, said she is excited by the city’s continued improvements and will consider living there after graduation.
“I definitely can envision myself there,” Gorman said. “I love the city, I volunteered there a lot in high school. I think there’s so much more energy there than people see. You see the perceptions around campus of people who aren’t from around the area, or even who are from the area. But whenever I go there’s just such an energy to bring Detroit back to what it used to be, and I just think that it’s a really cool place to be.”
Rakestraw expressed similar sentiments.
“All the stuff that’s happening with Shinola, the recent tech investments, what Dan Gilbert’s doing with Quicken Loans, to me it seems like the next American town,” he said. “As a young person, why not go where things are exciting?”