Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan reflected Tuesday on the “tough time” the city has endured during the COVID-19 pandemic, but expressed optimism it will bounce back.
The mayor, during one of the first in-person conferences in Detroit since the coronavirus shutdown, said the city is climbing back from the devastation. Development and back-to-work plans are moving along and the city’s hospitalization rates have dropped.
“In March and April (2020), these businesses basically went to zero revenue and that lasted for a period of months, but we got grants, we worked with landlords, we got personal protective equipment in the hands of these companies and we were the first ones to vaccinate the workers at restaurants and grocery stores,” Duggan said during a one-on-one conversation with Fox 2 Detroit reporter and co-anchor Roop Raj at the Detroit Policy Conference. “It’s been a tough time but this is a resilient city.”
Duggan noted fewer than 30 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 in Detroit. That’s a significant decline, he noted, from just a few months ago, when it was closer to 200 people.
But the delta variant of the virus “is real,” he warned, and more than 60% of city residents still aren’t vaccinated.
Duggan, who is seeking a third term in November, said if he wins another four-year term he’ll prioritize efforts to curb crime and investments in the city’s public schools to bring families back.
The mayor suggested the city direct $1 million of the city’s $826 million in American Rescue Plan funds to bolster efforts of the Detroit Public Schools Community District and reiterated his support for quality preschool for all Detroit children.
“Certainly, we have to work on schools. Families with new children are still not coming into the city nearly as quickly as those without children,” he said during the event at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber.
But Duggan praised DPSCD Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti’s leadership: “I’m more optimistic about the Detroit Public Schools than I have been in a long time.”
Duggan also expressed confidence in the city’s interim Police Chief James White and the police leadership team following last month’s departure of James Craig, who retired after nearly eight years as the city’s top cop.
The police department, he said, is working to address 2,500 backlogged gun cases and to stem shootings with an investment in Shotspotter, an ariel sound system technology to detect gunfire.
“Chief Craig gave us a good base to build off in the city, neighborhood policing and bridging the relationship between the community and the police,” he said. “Chief White was a choice in the right direction and I think you’re going to see the next generation of the police chief’s team also advance.”
Craig is expected in the coming weeks to announce his candidacy for the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary. Craig delivered his first political speech last week, urging Michigan voters to declare “independence” from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2022.
Duggan, a Democrat and supporter of Whitmer, noted Tuesday that it’s vital for Detroit to have a police department that is supported by the city administration.
“I got along fine with Chief Craig until he told me he was a Republican,” Duggan joked to Raj. “Apparently being on the cover of NRA magazine should have been a clue.”
Duggan is being challenged Aug. 3 by Detroit’s former deputy mayor Anthony Adams and perennial candidate Tom Barrow, past challengers Myya Jones and Danetta Simpson as well as Arthur Tyus, D’Etta Wilcoxon, Charleta McInnis, Jasahn Larsosa and Kiawana Brown.