Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan delivered his State of the City address Tuesday evening. In his 8th address to the city, the mayor discussed pushing the city forward with jobs, affordable car insurance options, and diversity and inclusion. The virtual event was presented live from the $1 billion-dollar Stellantis assembly plant on Detroit’s eastside.
In its opening, Rev. Dr. Anthony Wendell, President of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP and pastor of Fellowship Chapel, spoke to the city’s residents’ tenacity, resurgence, and perseverance.
“We stuck it out through depression and the great migration. We stuck it out through white flight and urban blight. We stuck it out through government bureaucracy and a surgical bankruptcy,” Dr. Wendell says.
The mayor took the stage at the new Stellantis assembly plant, the first assembly plant built in a Northern city in the last 10 years. For Detroiters, in addition to providing over 5,000 new jobs, the plant is first built within city limits in more than 30 years. To ensure positions would be available to Detroiters, the mayor agreed to a 200-acre plant, providing the land to Stellantis, in exchange for priority in the hiring process for upcoming positions for the plant’s lifespan.
“There’s one thing I want: I want Detroiters to have those jobs. I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before. When FCA said ‘what does that mean’ I said ‘think about the people of the city of Detroit. We feel like the deck has been stacked against Detroiters for years. Just once, I’d like to stack the deck in favor of Detroiters,” says Mayor Duggan.
Re-establishing the city’s economy is vital to its continued resurgence, but barriers in the application process prevent more Detroiters from taking advantage of employment opportunities across the city. Facing numerous disparities, including race, criminal records, and the city’s transportation system, Mayor Duggan is looking to level the playing field and get more residents employed through various initiatives and partnerships.
“For years, we have not had the representation we should have of people of color in the skilled trades,” says Mayor Duggan. “We are eliminating barriers and bringing the training closer to home.”
Small businesses throughout Detroit continue to be ravished by the COVID-19 pandemic. For Black business owners and entrepreneurs, various access barriers, including capital, is a major factor. With 81 percent of businesses in the city minority-owned, highlighting Detroit Means Business and Motor City Match entities allows residents to see how these businesses are being impacted. The mayor wants to continue to provide Black entrepreneurs the financial support needed to impact the city.
“Motor City Match wasn’t enough. We needed more traditional lending,” Mayor Duggan says. “We went to JP Morgan Chase and the Kellogg Foundation and said there is a racial disparity. They put together an $18 million-dollar fund to loan to businesses, either to start or expand, that are men or women of color.”
Pushing education, Mayor Mike Duggan is offering residents the chance to attend college for free. On the heels of an initiative offered by Wayne State University, giving free four-year tuition to all Detroit students who apply and are accepted, The Detroit Promise scholarship offers city kids the opportunity to attend college without the weight of financial pressure. Through the program, children graduating from any Detroit high school can attend community college for two years free of tuition. Students looking to attend a four-year institution and still take part in the program are required to have a 3.0-grade point average and at least a 21 on the ACT.
“If you really believe that talent is everywhere, every child in the city has to have a chance for college,” Mayor Duggan says.
In 2018, Michiganders voted to legalize marijuana. A booming business, Detroiters had little stake in the cannabis industry. The city’s Legacy Ordinance, launched earlier this year, will ensure Detroiters can get in on the action.
“Fifty percent of all new marijuana business have to be owned by Detroiters,” Mayor Duggan says. “Every time a Detroiter is approved, somebody from the outside can get approved. But we are never going to be below 50 percent Detroiters having these license.”
Known for high unemployment and poverty rates, the mayor is tackling the statistics and attempting to make Detroit more inclusive for all its citizens. In 2013, the city’s unemployment rates were 21 percent but saw a significant decrease over the years, reaching just over seven percent pre-COVID. Similarly, the poverty rate stood at 40 percent. Over the last five years, the poverty rate dropped to 30 percent, seeing the largest single drop in America. Launching The People Plan, Mayor Mike Duggan outlined a 50 million dollar 4-part program, Community Health Corp, which will help the city’s most impoverished get back on their feet, high school completion, get paid to learn a trade, and the Friends and Families program.
“These are young men who’ve often been in gang violence and when you sit with them, what you see are smart people who don’t want to spend the rest of their lives doing this,” Mayor Duggan says.
To continue pushing the city forward, the mayor also outlined plans to refurbish several neighborhood parks for community children, clear out 2,000 of the city’s 7,000 alleys, double the number of recreation centers across the city through partnerships with Detroit churches, and continue blight removal to intensify the beauty of the city. In his address, the mayor is also looking to fight homelessness and evictions due to the pandemic.
Despite efforts to continue moving Detroit and its residents forward, according to the mayor, vaccinations will be key in restoring the city’s economic future and allowing the city to continue to thrive. The now-approved Johnson and Johnson vaccine will now be offered to Detroit residents at the Northwest Activity Center beginning later in March.