DETROIT Feb 26 Nearly two months into his
tenure as Detroit mayor, Mike Duggan outlined a plan for adding
jobs and removing abandoned buildings in the bankrupt city
during his first state of the city address Wednesday night.
The mayor's speech came just days after a state-appointed
emergency manager filed his roadmap in federal court for dealing
with the city's debt and investing in its future.
Duggan, seeking to find an agenda of his own while operating
in the shadow of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, is doing what he
can with the bankrupt city's limited resources to make headway
on some of its most visible problems: decreasing urban blight
and creating safe neighborhoods.
"These problems are not unsolvable," he said.
And he said that his promise to make a difference in the
city in his first six months in office has already produced real
The new mayor traced the city's problems down to jobs,
outlining plans to attract and grow more businesses and get
people to work through an improved and expanded bus service or
by making car ownership less expensive through city-sponsored
"In my mind, everything starts with a job," he said.
Duggan also took aim at the abandoned buildings on 18.5
percent of the city's 377,000 parcels of land by tapping unused
insurance money for targeted demolitions and filing lawsuits
against owners of abandoned properties.
The mayor reached out to Detroit's 9,000 city workers,
noting they continue to do their job despite pay cuts and the
prospect of reductions in their pensions.
"The greatest experts in how we improve our service are not
the consultants we hire. It's the men and women doing the job
every day," Duggan said.
The debt adjustment plan, which was crafted by Orr and a
team of consultants and filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court last
Friday, calls for reductions in retiree pensions that could be
as much as 10 percent for public safety workers and 34 percent
for general city workers.
"As you might expect, the plan of adjustment made everyone
unhappy," Duggan said. "I know the challenges are going to be
difficult in court, but I join with the majority of Detroiters
in saying...that every effort will be made to honor the pensions
of the men and women (in the city)."
Orr, who controls Detroit's finances, reached a deal in
December allowing Duggan to run most of the city's day-to-day
business. Orr has been pushing for fast-track treatment of the
city's historic bankruptcy case filed in July as his 18-month
appointment as emergency manager ends in seven months.
"When the emergency manager's term expires on Oct. 1, there
is no question that the city of Detroit will return to
democracy," Duggan said.