Mayor Duggan dismisses divide between neighborhoods and downtown as ‘fiction’

Photo by Steve Neavling

Mayor Mike Duggan made a bold and outrageous claim that the divide between downtown and the neighborhoods is “fiction.”

Duggan made the comment after winning Tuesday’s primary with 67% of the vote, compared to 27% for Sen. Coleman Young II. They both advance to the general election in November.

“I really don’t want to talk about this narrative anymore,” the first-term mayor told the Free Press on Tuesday night. “It’s fiction coming from you. It really is.”

The deepening divide between downtown and the neighborhoods is anything but fiction. Under Duggan’s watch, foreclosures, water shutoffs and poverty reached new highs, while downtown has experienced an unprecedented boom. While neighborhoods have suffered, Duggan has demolished houses with money originally intended to save people from losing their homes. He’s championed the water shutoffs to more than 80,000 homes since 2014, despite serious health risks to neighbors. And the mayor’s administration is under investigation for its demolition program that has endangered neighborhood residents by failing to properly remove asbestos.

Downtown Detroit. Photo by Steve Neavling.

In the meantime, Duggan led the charge to give $34.5 million in taxes to billionaire Tom Gores to move the Pistons downtown. The mayor also allowed billionaires Dan Gilbert and the Ilitch family to skirt affordable housing requirements. And he’s raised a record $2.8 million for his re-election bid, courting big banks, suburban developers, corporate executives, political action committees and other deep-pocket movers-and-shakers, many of whom have contracts with the city or bought Detroit-owned property in the past three years. 

Neither Duggan’s office nor his campaign would comment on the mayor’s claims that there is no class or economic divide between the neighborhoods and downtown.

So let’s look at some of the facts:

  • The poverty rate in Detroit increased from 26% in 2010 to about 40% in 2015, according to the U.S. Census.
  • The median household income declined to $26,000 in 2015, from $29,000 in 2010.
  • Longtime residents and service providers in downtown and the Cass Corridor have been displaced by predominately young, white professionals because of escalating rent.
  • Tax-foreclosed homes also reached record levels under Duggan’s watch.

Detroit News columnist Bankole Thompson pointed out that Duggan’s predilection to lie or exaggerate sounds a lot like President Trump.

Young’s campaign manager Adolph Mongo said Duggan spends too much time on downtown to see the problems in the neighborhoods.

“The only place he sees is downtown,” Mongo said. “He might as join the Republican Party.”

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Steve Neavling

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.