It was my sincere honor and pleasure to serve as the Chairperson of the Mike Duggan for Mayor of Detroit campaign. I still remember sitting with Mike in his office with our dear friend Floyd Allen and our other dear friend David Katz as he announced to the three of us his desire to be a candidate in 2013 for the office of Mayor of the City of Detroit. We spent a lot of time with Mike that next month thinking about the possibility. Could a white man successfully run for Mayor of a city 95% African-American? Could Mike Duggan inspire the people of the City of Detroit and cause the vast majority of voters to overlook the color of a man’s skin and instead examine deeply, the content of his character?
I can say with no hesitation that over the course of the last six months Mike proved that a singularly qualified hard-working candidate no matter his or her color will be able to convince voters to examine only the quality of their work and the content of their character. As Mike Duggan made the decision to leave the field of battle, he did so aware that he had overcome all of the barriers to winning except obviously one.
I took the last 24 hours to recover. To me, the loss of Mike from the mayor’s race is significant. No matter what, his presence in the arena forced all contenders to compete vigorously. The race now frankly is more important than ever. Kevin Orr will only ever be an effective administrator. He will never be able to bring any political authority to his position. In the absence of political authority and community wide agreement, how will solutions to our great cities problems ever be crafted?
The next mayor will have to find a way to get the labor community, the business community, the religious community, and the progressive nonprofit community focused on the singular set of objectives associated with an agree upon plan. The agreed-upon plan must be presented to the state legislature and state legislators convinced to support the creation of a new revenue stream for the City of Detroit. This same coalition must come together to stabilize and then thrust forward the Detroit Public School system.
I heard even today a person say the most important problem facing the City of Detroit is crime. Who could disagree? However, does anyone really believe that the crime problem is solely a function of ineffective policing? Would not a more complete answer include the necessity to help Detroiters find jobs even in an economy that requires advanced technical training coupled with a good academic foundation? Would not the Mayor have to be able to deliver smarter policing as well create and effectively manage a low skill jobs program? Would not the next mayor have to be able to shape a holistic response to crime that it least at included a jobs readiness program?
I point all of this out only to support my belief that Mike’s absence raises the stakes for all of us located here in Southeastern Michigan and across the Midwest region. Mike’s absence requires more citizen focus and not the less. I wish all of the remaining candidates—- save Tom Barrow well. I will be listening carefully and watching closely the race for Mayor as well as the races for City Council and Police Commission. My fervent hope is all of the candidates present programs that by any measures demonstrate creative intelligence and rigor upon which voters can make sound judgments.
There are a number of bright spots from this experience that we cannot ignore. For the last three months, Duggan team members have not been required to address questions based on race. It was apparent to me voters decided that qualification not skin color was the most important decision-making factor in their calculus. Detroiters proved that while race and class bias remain significant problems at least in this City what some one has done is more important than any other qualifier. I remain hopeful about our great city and I hope that everyone who reads this message will take heed and focus more directly upon the elections occurring in the City of Detroit or where ever it is that he or she may live. This makes not seem like it but this actually, is a good news story. Pass it on.