Duggan Delivers 2015 State of the City Address

February 11, 2015

By J. Carlisle Larsen

“I believe one thing with my heart: That talent in this world is distributed equally. No matter what community, no matter where you are. What isn’t distributed equally is opportunity…”

—Mayor Mike Duggan

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan delivered his State of the City address to a capacity crowd at the Redford Theater last night (Tue). Duggan tackled a number of issues, ranging from the management of the Detroit Public School system, to emergency response times improving over the last year. But Mayor Duggan began his speech talking about blight. He says his administration wanted to move beyond a demolition-only system.

“There are beautiful houses in this city," he says. "Solid brick homes with architecture that can be saved. That we can moves families back in to. We don’t have to knock everything down."

Duggan says within the past year, the city has filed lawsuits against negligent homeowners and has reached agreements with many to fix up their properties. Additionally, his administration established the Detroit Land Bank—which auctions off houses in need of repairs at a deep discount.

Duggan also paid special attention to Detroit’s transit system—which has been in the news lately because of how poorly it runs. But the mayor says while the bus system is not perfect, it is getting better. In addition to hiring more bus drivers and mechanics, the federal government is providing grant money to pay for 80 new buses.

“We’ll be adding ten a week from now through August," He says. "And by the middle of this year—for the first time in nearly 20 years in this city—we are going to show up according to the published schedule that we give you.”

Duggan says the city will also continue to work with regional partners—such as the SMART bus system—to improve transit options in the city. Raquel Casteñeda-Lopez represents Detroit’s sixth city council district. She says she’s glad to see transit as a top priority for the mayor’s administration, but she'd also like to see some newer bus technology in the city.

"It was great to hear that we’re going to have more buses on the road," she says. "I’m a big advocate of bus rapid transit, so I would have loved to have that be a part of the speech.”

Duggan announced in his speech that, ridership has grown over the past year.

Throughout his State of the City address, Mayor Duggan spoke about plans to improve the city’s crime rate and the challenge of balancing the city’s budget. But the climax of his speech was his call to make Detroit more inclusive.

“I believe one thing with my heart: That talent in this world is distributed equally. No matter what community, no matter where you are. What isn’t distributed equally is opportunity,” he said to the crowd.

Duggan argues that a major tenet of his administration is to help raise up all Detroiters—not simply the people living in the revitalized corridors of Midtown and Downtown. In his address he outlined plans for zero-interest loans for city residents to make repairs to their homes, economic opportunities for entrepreneurs to get seed money for businesses, and job training for residents in the skilled trades. He says economic inclusion doesn’t include “hand-outs”. He says it's crucial that the city’s future is put on the right track.

“I’ll tell you what economic inclusion means to me," Duggan says. "It means that these bright, brilliant, hard-working eight and nine year olds growing up in the city of Detroit have every great a chance to succeed in their life as children growing up in Ann Arbor, Farmington, and Grosse Pointe.”

Mary Sheffield represents the city’s fifth city council district. She says the Mayor’s talk about inclusivity resonated with her.

“I’m excited to see some of the programs and also funding that’s going to assist with making sure that long-term Detroiters are benefiting from the revitalization of the city of Detroit,” she says.

In the end, Mayor Duggan re-iterated that his top priority is to slow Detroit's population loss and to eventually reverse it. To attract more people, Duggan says Detroit will need to improve services, such as reducing the city’s crime rate, improving educational opportunities, and reducing some of the financial challenges residents face--like high auto insurance rates.