After recently attending the “2015 State of the City Address” at the Redford Theatre in Detroit, one cannot help but feel the immense revitalizing energy that is currently surging through the city.
For the past decade, Detroit has suffered from much adversity and public scrutiny, with the 2008 Kwame Kilpatrick scandal and 2013 bankruptcy setting the heights of our unfortunate affliction. From high unemployment rates to completely decimated neighborhoods, Detroit seems to have gone through several plagues of disaster centering around poverty and crime that many thought would never end… until now.
During his “State of the City” address, Mayor Mike Duggan brought forth a plan of action to challenge many of the issues that have plagued Detroit for years, with land reconstruction, crime fighting, and the creation of new employment programs being a few of his top concerns.
One of the main focuses regarding land redevelopment in Detroit has been home ownership. Since his election in 2013, Mike Duggan and his cabinet have structured programs and policies to help home owners in Detroit to keep their homes and fight back against their property tax debts. According to the mayor, out of the 18,000 families that were close to being forclosed on and evicted, 6,000 of those families have signed a repayment agreement with the treasurer’s office to be able to stay in and keep their homes.
Besides from helping home owners to save their homes, Mayor Duggan has also worked with his cabinet to tear down many of the abandoned/damaged houses that are scattered throughout the city, with 200 abandoned houses being torn down weekly.
Since many abandoned houses are now being torn down, many vacant lots are now arising as well. Because of this, Mayor Duggan is encouraging all home owners who are currently up-to-date on their property taxes to buy the vacant lots next to their houses for $100 with a guaranteed deed to the land included.
Aside from this, since the amount of block club organizations have been increasing as of lately — 200 new block clubs have been registered this year — block clubs are now being presented with the opportunity to obtain the rest of the vacant land in their communities to use these vacant lots however they may choose — i.e for urban farming, recreational services, parking lots, and etc.
In addition to improving neighborhoods, the mayor has also made an initiative to improve the relationship between the police and the community.
According to the mayor, it is his goal to change the culture of the city. Initially, for years, the relationship between the police and the community has been grim. EMS response times used to be at an average of 18 minutes to an hour with police response times averaging at 37 minutes to an hour or more. Now, according to the mayor, EMS responses on now at an average of 11 minutes — which is close to the national average of 8 minutes — and police responses are now at an average of 17 minutes.
These improvements in response times are accredited to the fact that Mayor Duggan has acquired financial aid to help double the amount of ambulances available and hire 100 new EMTs and 200 new policemen. To help ensure even quicker response times, firefighting officials have also been added to the first responders list, which is a typical expectation in most cities and states.
Thanks to these improved conditions, car jackings are now down by 22% and the murder rate has been the lowest its been since the 1960’s. Repeating sex offenders are also being targeted and hunted to ensure that they get prosecuted and sent to jail. More and more police officers are now patrolling the streets, with the new 5th precinct being built in the Eastern district on Connor street.
Aside from improving response times, the mayor has also issued a proposal to the state to permit the issuing of body cameras on all police task forces. He is also encouraging police officers to patrol high schools and interact with the students. By doing so, the mayor hopes to improve trust and reliability regarding the police, so that better efforts of rebuilding relationships can take place.
Improving economic opportunities in the city of Detroit is another major goal on Mayor Mike Duggan’s list.
According to the mayor, employment programs are now becoming available for both teenagers and adults. To be more specific, DPS students are now being presented with the opportunity to enroll in EMS and firefighting classes to help ensure job security after high school. In addition to this, skill trade job programs are also being initiated, in which 3,000 people have already been trained in trades such as bricklaying, carpenting, electricianing, and engineering at the Focus Hope facility on Oakman blvd. Out of those programs, 900 people have already been hired to start new jobs with good pay and benefits (all employment programs can be found at opportunitydetroit.com)
Aside from creating employment programs, the mayor has also initiated a program that provides $500,000 worth of grants/loans — provided by both federal and foundational contributions — every quarter of the year to help small businesses with start-up costs. By doing so, Mayor Duggan hopes to increase business in the city of Detroit by encouraging entrepreneurs to set-up shop and help bring back the economies in many neighborhoods.
With all of this coming into play, Mayor Duggan also announced that this year will be the first year since 2002 that Detroit has had a balanced budget. If all things go as planned with the current budget, in three years, Detroit will again be self-sustaining and back on track to becoming a thriving city.
Though Detroit has struggled for many years to rebuild and reclaim its stability, there is no doubt — with the help of Mike Duggan, his cabinet, and other contributors — that Detroit will once again arise from the ashes and prosper as the new and improved city of big dreams and opportunities.
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