On Tuesday morning, when 25 former cabinet members and appointees of the late Mayor Coleman A. Young came together for a press conference to announce that they were all supporting the re-election of Mayor Mike Duggan, the elephant in the room was called out near the end when a reporter asked the obvious question, namely what did they think Young would say about their decision to not endorse his son in favor of his son’s opponent?
There were several answers given, all of them more or less the same; Sen. Coleman Young II is not ready to be the next mayor of Detroit. And although all but one respondent made sure to say that he/she believed Young’s son had a bright future when speaking into the mic, at least one indicated during an earlier conversation that Young’s qualifications for leadership were nowhere near those of his famous father.
A fairly large number of groups and individuals have already stepped forward to announce their support of Duggan, which isn’t much of a surprise. Duggan is an extremely skilled politician who knows how to put together a strong team and, more importantly, how to establish and maintain a strong base of support. But what made Tuesday’s announcement a bit more significant than the others was that it was the first endorsement that appeared to be taking direct aim at the man whom Duggan and his team apparently consider to be the biggest threat. Which means that although most of the safe money remains on Duggan’s re-election – and not by a small margin – there is obviously enough of a concern about Young’s potential to catch fire that they felt the need to stomp on that match like sasquatch.
In other words, that was a considerable amount of firepower to launch against a candidate who wouldn’t seem to stand much of a chance except for the remaining power inherent in his gold-plated name. Concern was also expressed about the importance of moving forward with Duggan’s agenda, and it was obvious that the issue of neighborhood revitalization – as opposed to Midtown and downtown – has been identified as possibly the key issue in this campaign. Because no matter how much doubters are urged not to buy into the Midtown/downtown vs. The Rest of Detroit narrative (otherwise known as White Wealthy Newcomer Detroit vs Been Black and Poor for a Longtime Detroit), it just keeps popping up.
One expected criticism indirectly leveled at Young was that he lacks the experience to do the job, and that now isn’t the time to switch administrations and hand the reins over to someone who may not be ready.
“We were all fortunate enough to have been asked by Mayor Young to help him move this city forward, and that meant we got to see what it takes to bring effective leadership to the office of mayor,” said Bob Berg, Mayor Young’s former press secretary and one of his staunchest defenders.
“I see the same qualities of leadership and courage in our current Mayor Duggan. Both men were 55 years old when they became mayor, which meant that they had a track record of achievement in a number of areas that they brought with them with that experience to be mayor. Mayor Duggan has shown the value of that experience in his first term.”
Shahida Mausi, who served under Young as his Executive Director of the Detroit Council of the Arts from 1982-1994, and is now in charge of Chene Park Amphitheater through her company The Right Productions, agreed that Duggan is on the right track. She joined the other supporters in the front of the hall at the Laborers International Union on West Grand Boulevard to add her voice.
“This is a group of people who have tremendous experience and tremendous demonstrated commitment to the City of Detroit. And we are joined by numerous of our colleagues who were not able to be here, but who have lent their support to endorse and see Mike Duggan re-elected to the office of Mayor of the City of Detroit. I am really privileged to say my family has been in the City of Detroit 100 years, and we have owned property that is no in what in what is known as Midtown. It wasn’t always that. We have owned property and seen it go down and now come up. And it is that resurgence that we see continuing … because of the focus and strategic development effort of this man.
“We are committed to working with him to support that effort.”