mayor promises more jobs, less blight for bankrupt city
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[February 27, 2014]
By Rachel Jackson
DETROIT (Reuters) - 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
"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 change.
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 auto insurance.
"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
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.
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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
"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 October 1, there is no
question that the city of Detroit will return to democracy," Duggan
(Reporting by Rachel Jackson in Detroit; Additional reporting by
Karen Pierog in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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