By Patrick Keating
CHRONICLE STAFF WRITER
Mayoral candidate Mike Duggan has three major goals, which he believes will help stem the population loss from the neighborhoods and thus save the city: get the violence down, get the streetlights on, and get the abandoned buildings occupied, not just demolished.
Duggan, a write-in candidate in the Aug. 6 primary election, said the only way for the city’s population to increase is to stop the exodus from the neighborhoods; and that if people see police showing up, the violence decreasing, the streetlights on and the abandoned buildings dealt with, they’ll stay.
With respect to crime reduction, Duggan said the first thing he would do is cut police response time.
“We’ve given a lot of lip service to it, but we’re not executing it,” he said, adding that it starts with putting every available officer on the street.
“We still have officers in stations dispatching cars,” he said. “Kevyn Orr’s last report shows we have more than 50 police officers filling out payroll. On a pencil and paper payroll system; it’s not even automated.”
Duggan said those jobs are done by civilians at half the price in most communities.
In addition to putting every officer on the street that it can, Duggan said the efficiency of the officer’s time needs to be improved.
As an example, he said the way it’s supposed to work when the police make an arrest is that the officer in the passenger seat would use the onboard computer to type up a report and the officers would then take the prisoner to the precinct.
“Except in Detroit oftentimes the onboard computer doesn’t work,” he said. “So they get back to the precinct, they get out of the car, they go inside, they sit down at a computer. There are many things like that that are getting in the way of the officers doing their jobs.”
According to Duggan, who turned around the Detroit Medical Center as CEO of that organization, one of the tasks of a person who does turnarounds is to analyze the process. He added that when he came into DMC, it took three hours for a patient to see a doctor. That wait time was subsequently reduced to 29 minutes.
His administration would do the same type of thing with the police.
“We’re going to tear the processes apart so that we get the officers to respond to calls,” he said. “And then we need to go back to the coordinated strategies we had when I was prosecutor.”
Duggan served as Wayne County prosecutor from 2001 to 2003.
He said one agency doesn’t bring down violence; they all have to work together. As prosecutor, he was part of a team that also included the U.S. Attorney, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Detroit Police. These agencies focused on a single strategy on gun violence.
He also said that if a federal sentence would mean more years in prison, they’d turn a case over to the federal government.
“There was no ego,” he said. “We flipped the case to the feds and they took it. We drove the violence down until in my last year in 2003. We had the fewest murders in 30 years.”
Duggan emphasized that this was done by a team, not by one person.
“But when you’ve got five police chiefs in five years, nobody is driving a concerted strategy,” he said, adding that it’s not all about more money and more people.
“A lot of it has to do with leadership,” he said. “So I think we can bring the violence down. I do think we need more officers, but before we talk to the state about money for more officers we first have to prove we’re doing everything we can with the resources we’ve already got. And I don’t believe we’re doing that today.”
As for getting the streetlights on, Duggan said the issue is old poles and old wires.
“The Lighting Authority is going to sell bonds to replace those poles and wires over a five or six year period, but we can’t wait five or six years to get the streetlights on in this town,” Duggan said. “And this comes down to accountability. We’re going to establish a repair standard. That the typical outage is repaired in five days.”
Repair workers will be held accountable for that.
Regarding getting abandoned houses occupied, Duggan said far too many are being torn down. He also said that when he was prosecutor, he was seizing houses when they were first abandoned.
“There are an awful lot of abandoned buildings in this city that would be palaces in other parts of the world,” Duggan said.
As prosecutor, he sued the owners of abandoned houses and take the properties, giving them the opportunity to sign a consent agreement to fix it up themselves. If they didn’t, he’d sell the homes on the Internet.
“In my last years as prosecutor, we took 500 abandoned houses and got them fixed up and occupied,” Duggan said, adding that the rest of the neighborhood started to plant flowers and paint their homes.
He also said there was no reason the prosecutor should have been doing that. Instead, the mayor should have taken those steps.
“The program fell apart after I left, but we know what to do,” Duggan said. “And we’re not going to ever stabilize the loss of population in our neighborhoods until we take these houses when they’re first abandoned and move families into them.”
Duggan also believes a mayor should be judged by one standard at the end of four years: Is the population going up or down?
“By my fourth year, my commitment is that the population of this city will be going up,” he said.
Duggan counts among his influences former mayors Hazen Pingree and Coleman Young. Each did what he thought was right for the city and wasn’t deterred by special interests lined up against him.
He also said Detroiters are fighters by nature.
“They get knocked down, they want to get back up,” he said. “If you get a city administration that embraces that ethic, Detroit can be great again.”