When Mike Duggan was running for mayor of Detroit last year, he took a decidedly anti-emergency manager position, saying he will work “to push the emergency manager out on the first day I am in office and return Detroit to its elected officials.”
As mayor, Duggan has done anything but. Most recently, the mayor’s administration secretly lobbied Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to use his unprecedented authority to abolish state-mandated Citizens District Councils just before Orr relinquished his powers last month, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
And when asked about it, his office suggested the mayor wasn’t involved and has no influence over the emergency manager’s orders, which can suspend laws because of the city’s financial condition.
Duggan “accepts reality as it is and moves on,” mayoral spokesman John Roach said in an email.
But since being told that sources confirmed that the mayor was in fact involved, Duggan’s office has declined to answer any questions about the issue or discuss the extent of the mayor’s involvement with the emergency manager.
This isn’t about the effectiveness of the CDCs, which required public input and transparency on private development at a neighborhood level. It’s about a mayor misleading the public.
Duggan has tried to distance himself publicly from Gov. Rick Snyder and state intervention, but e-mail records from 2011 show Duggan privately advised state officials on how best to handle the financial takeover and said he’d be a supportive partner of an emergency manager, if elected mayor. Duggan testified Monday that he was asked by Snyder to be the city’s emergency manager several years ago.
One of the mayor’s closest friends and former classmates, ex-Treasurer Andy Dillon, was the top state official in charge of the state intervention process.
Since taking office Jan. 1, Duggan has been tight-lipped about private development. Now with the elimination of the CDCs, the mayor has fewer transparency requirements.
“Our city has lost a quality instrument for ensuring residents have a voice of any kind regarding development in their neighborhoods,” said Rev. Dean P. Simmer, vice-chairman of Corktown Citizens District Council.
Under the new charter, the city is required to have Community Advisory Councils, which on the surface are similar to CDCs. But they represent much larger areas and aren’t as stringent with transparency.
“Citizen District Councils are much broader,” Jeniece Mitchell Ford, who served as chair of the Charter Commission, told HuffPost earlier this year. “They are two different creatures. There is no competition.”
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.