Newly elected Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan pleaded with the city's residents to give him six months to turn things around before they leave for good.
"Give us six months to prove that we can turn things around," Duggan said during his inauguration ceremony last Tuesday. "Just push the pause button and don't leave that house yet. Let us prove to you what we can do."
Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July of 2013, becoming the largest municipality to file for bankruptcy in the United States. The city’s population has declined from a peak of 1.8 million to just 700,000 and there are an estimated 78,000-abandoned homes in the city.
Turning around the fading city will be a tremendous undertaking -- around one-third of the city is now abandoned or derelict, 60% of children in Detroit currently live in poverty and unemployment is well above the national average.
The government agencies and infrastructure of Detroit are also in shambles. Forty-percent of street lights don’t work, the average police response time is 58 minutes, the murder rate is the highest it has been in 40 years, and only about one-third of the city's ambulances are operational.
How does Mayor Duggan expect to fix all of this in six months? So far, he’s hired a new Department of Transportation director who will attempt to fix the city’s blighted public transportation system. He will also oversee the fire department and has implemented a 10-point plan to deal with Detroit’s abandonment problem that includes cracking down on businesses and homeowners who desert homes and buildings.
The city of Detroit is also putting a lot of effort into the North American International Auto Show which begins today and will contribute an estimated $365 million to the local economy. In an interview with The New York Times, Mayor Duggan explained that he saw it as a message to the rest of America that Detroit could once again thrive. The city is also building a streetcar rail system that should help the transportation problem.
“We’ve been working in Detroit for years,” says Ben Hecht, president and CEO of Living Cities, “and what we’ve found is over the last decade while there’s a lot of dysfunction on the surface, underneath there is a strong foundation that’s built.”
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