Pancakes and Politics returned this morning at the Detroit Athletic Club … with fervor. The first in the Pancakes and Politics Forum series featured City of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans.
Addressing a sold out crowd the top two political leaders in Wayne County spoke candidly about major issues and what’s on the horizon for Detroit and Wayne County.
Co-moderators Dennis Archer Jr. and Vicki Thomas kept the discussion rolling with provocative questions for Duggan and Evans along with hot topic polls presented to audience members.
Here are a few of the highlight from this morning’s informative discussion.
A poll of audience members indicated that 43 percent of those voting felt that neighborhood development should be the administration’s primary focus, while unemployment and job creation received 34 percent of the vote, and 23 percent said crime was the city’s primary challenge.
“We’re working with the residents in planning the type of transformation they want to see in their neighborhoods,” explained Duggan. “We’re doing the same thing in West Village, and Southwest Detroit and we’re working with [these communities] to see how you can create communities where vacant land can become a thing of beauty.”
Duggan agreed that job creation is key to the city’s future but said there wasn’t just one strategy to address the issue.
“It’s going to take a layered approach [to address Detroit’s challenges] and that’s what we’re doing. Three years ago the unemployment rate was nearly 20 percent. Last month it was 9.8 percent. So, we’ve cut the unemployment rate in half … but still 9.8 percent is the highest of any city in Michigan. So, it just shows you how far we have come and far we have to go.”
Duggan pointed out the successful job creation of 600 jobs stemming from Flex N’ Gate development and the conversion of an abandoned, vandalized high school in Southwest Detroit to a manufacturing site for India-based auto supplier Sakthi Automotive.
And on the small business front, Mayor Duggan pointed out that the success of Motor City Match in helping to unite old and new residents by supporting business start-ups and existing Detroit-based businesses.
“Motor City Match is one of the great successes of this administration. … We have a lot of storefronts in adjoining neighborhoods … and every quarter we help support 10 new business start-ups and we try to get them to fill in vacant storefronts in neighborhoods. So, it’s not so much that people resent what’s going on in those neighborhoods, they just want to see more going on in theirs.”
Duggan did warn that Motor City Match and other city programs might be in jeopardy if block grant funding is cut by the Trump administration. He met with HUD Secretary Ben Carson during Trump’s visit to Detroit yesterday.
County exec Warren Evans addressed several hot topics including proposals for the stalled construction of a new jail and the possibility of a soccer stadium occupying the current construction site.
Pancakes and politics audience members voted 75 percent for a soccer stadium to be constructed at the site on Gratiot near Randolph and 25 percent voted for completing the jail project.
Evans said his decision was not one based on personal preference but one based on what is the least burden to tax payers.
“I think it is amazing that we are having this discussion now when two years ago [the county] didn’t have enough credit to buy a used car. Now we’re able to bond for $300 million. … but the reality is that Wayne County tax payers have already been fleeced in the jail deal before I took office and I think they ought to pay the least amount necessary to have a functional jail which is something we need,” Evans explained.
“We have two jails downtown now that are sorely in need or repair. One is almost 100 years old the other one was functionally obsolete the day it opened. It’ got far too many people in it than it was designed to have, so we have county employees working in conditions they shouldn’t have to work in and prisoners housed in a facility that is not conducive to what They are there for. So we need a jail, I just need one that doesn’t take any more money out of the pockets of the taxpayers than necessary.”
For information on Pancakes & Politics Forum 2 or to register to be an audience participant call 313-963-8100.