The Mike Duggan Interview: 'I Expect To Raise Expectations'
November 11th, 2012, 10:44 PM
On October 31, Detroit mayoral candidate Mike Duggan, who is in the midst of 90-day a self-described "listening campaign," sat down with Deadline Detroit to discuss his mayoral prospects and what needs to be done to fix the city. We hope to sit down with every viable mayoral candidate as the 2013 election process moved forward.
Deadline Detroit: Youre about halfway through your 90-day trial period, are you leaning one way or the other?
Mike Duggan: Im a political professional. Well assess everything, get the team together at the end of December, but certainly things have gone extremely well.
DD: The race question continues to pop up and I want to ask it this way: You have a long history in local politics, and what Im wondering is if you were running a prospective opponents campaignrunning against youwouldnt you advise your candidate to hit hard on the race issue?
MD: Its interesting, when I ran for prosecutor I was against two strong African-American candidates, Sharon McPhail and Virgil Smith, and it was an odd situation. In that prosecutors race, I was endorsed by a majority of the African-American city council members and state legislators. Sharon McPhail was endorsed by a majority of the white city council members and state legislators and I think weve made progress even since then. So, all I can tell you is Im in a different living room in every corner of this city. Obviously the great majority of residents of this city are African-American, and the great majority of people in these living rooms are African-American, and Im being welcomed in every neighborhood in the city and its going very well.
DD: But just to follow-up, Freman Hendrix was tagged as not being black enough to be mayor of Detroit and I think that hurt him in 2005
MD: That was a different day and a different time.
DD: How does a race in Detroit differ from a race in Wayne County?
MD: The services are very different. The mayor is far more immediately relevant to the peoples lives than the county executive is. And so the level of knowledge people have on city services is completely different from the level of knowledge they have on county services. The county takes care of the roads and runs the airport, but the citythe police, the garbage pick-up, the streetlights. Its far more immediate to peoples quality of life, and the questions people ask are far more knowledgeable and sophisticated.
DD: And what do you estimate it will cost to run a viable campaign?
MD: Its going to be a $5 million campaign and the commitments in fundraising are going very well.
DD: So youre confident if you go in full bore, youre going be able to compete?
MD: Right nowwere going to make that decision at the end of Decemberbut right now the fundraising commitments are going very well. People seem very excited.
DD: When Mayor Bing came into office and, I think, Kilpatrick and Archer before him, they kind of came into office with this almost savior aura. Do you worry about having to manage expectations if youre elected?
MD: No, I expect to raise expectations. I dont know about the whole savior thing. Im a person who recruits a team. When I came into the Detroit Medical Center I didnt have a hospital background, but I recruited a very talented group of leaders. Im confident I could recruit a very talented group of leaders who could turn the city administration around.
You know, when I came into DMC, DMC had lost $500 million in five years and was six months away from running out of cash. We didnt have time for this nonsense of three-year plans and five-year plans. We wouldve been out of business.
So, when I hear conversations about its harder than I thought, its going to take longer than I thought, people have to be very patient, it just makes me very angry. We dont have that kind of time in the city, and theres no reason we can make very quick improvements in the police department and response time and the affect on the violence. Theres no reason we cant make quick improvements getting the streetlights to work and in dealing with abandoned housescertainly, targeting areas, and moving quickly and then progressing from area to area.
People who dont have high expectations of me they shouldnt be voting for me.
DD: But I see a difference between the DMC and city in that, even though it has traditionally been non-profit, there is a revenue stream that comes into the hospital. The city has a declining tax base. Is the turnaround process different for a government than for a hospital?
MD: Ive been through a lot of them. When I came in as deputy county executive, Wayne County had a $130 million deficit and a $200 million budget. We balanced that and kept it balanced for 15 years. In the early 1990s, I became general manager of the SMART bus system when it was out of cash, and its still operating today. We turned it around and ran it profitably. The principles are the same. You need to operate efficiently. You cant afford to waste dollars. You need to prioritize your services. On the government side, the public will trust you with a buck if youre running the services well. What the public wont do is pay taxes for services that are poor. The complaints I get out of the city is that people see their taxes as highwhich they arebut theyre not saying to me Lower the taxes. Theyre saying to me, Get the police to show up and get the streetlights on for the taxes Im paying. I think thats doable.
DD: You mention your experience with SMART, so what needs to happen with DDOT?
MD: The same thing we did at SMART. We prioritized the routes, we put in an efficient scheduling system, and we reorganized the way work was done in the garages. We didnt hit people with wage concessions, but we fundamentally changed the work rules. SMART had 800 employees. I think 770 were union members. We did it with union-management cooperation. No one stuck a gun to somebodys head. We sat in the room and worked things out together. The same thing needs to happen at DDOT. You have to get the drivers and mechanics bought in to the direction and to the commitment to excellent and timely service. Its what Ive done every place Ive been.
DD: With DDOT specifically what needs to be done that hasnt been done?
MD: I know exactly what needs to be done. At SMART we had the most expensive maintenance operation in the countrythere were national benchmarksand we had continual breakdowns. The riders were very angry and looking for other forms of transportation. You have than happening in the city today. People are taking cabs they cant afford because they cant rely on the buses.
I went into the [SMART] garages with the UAW mechanics and they had, Im going to say, 15 different job classifications from transmission to steering to oil change and the like. We structured a deal for a single general mechanic classification, so everybody could work as teams to repair things and I gave them a two-year no-layoff commitment. Two years later we had one of the most efficient garages in America and all the jobs were protected.
That kind of cooperation needs to be done. The last time I looked at DDOT, they had the old inefficient structure. Its not something where you stick a gun to somebodys head and threaten them. You sit down together and say oknobody knows the inefficiencies of city government more than the workers doing the jobs. They know exactly whats wrong. What they havent been shown is the way out of it. If we can show people how they benefit on the upside when you help us redesign the service, you can get people to cooperate.
DD: Is that something that transfers to the police department, the fire department?
MD: Sure. Absolutely.
DD: How so?
MD: Well, I sat with the fire fighters union. They have very specific ideas on how to change staffing on the rigs and the like. They think it could save the city significant money and would love to talk about that as an alternative to a 10% forced wage cutthe conversations we should be having.
The Detroit Police Department has significant inefficiencies in the way calls are handled. They are also significant inefficiencies in the number of paid officers who are doing jobs that civilians could be doing back in the precincts.
But heres the most fundamental thing. You can say whatever you want about you dont have money. Weve had four police chiefs in four years. You cant have a concerted strategy to fight crime when you dont have consistent leadership. That has nothing to do with a lack of money. There are a lot of problems here that are a lot deeper than, you know, we dont have enough money.
DD: If youre elected, do you use a nationwide search for police chief or do you look inside the department or do you look at both?
MD: You look at both. If you can find somebody from Detroit youre better off. If you cant, then you have to take the top talent nationally. You have to get the person who will change the culture of the organization. I thought Warren Evans was doing a lot of things right. I would have preferred to see them build on his success as opposed to terminate him the way he was.
The strategies he was pursuing were the right ones and if we could find someone who was from here and could pursue those strategies that would be preferable. If you cant, then we have to look nationally.
DD: What about the school system? Do you touch that or do you leave that alone?
MD: I think the job of the mayor is to support the school system. We should get the abandoned properties cleaned up near the schools so the kids are safe going to and from school. We should encourage businesses to do what DMC has done with a program we call Project Genesis. We hire 100 DPS high school kids every summer to do $10 an hour jobs so they can see what careers look like in the medical and science field. We ought to be doing things like that.
I dont see taking over the school system. The next mayor has a huge amount on his or her plategetting the police to respond to calls and getting the streetlights on and getting the abandoned houses fixedbefore he starts telling the schools how to run the school system.
DD: What is your relationship, if you have one, with Governor Snyder and the folks in Lansing?
MD: Its cordial. The state of Michigan is a huge funder of indigent medical care in the state and a huge funder of DMC. Governor Snyder and the Republican legislature have treated us very fairly in the last couple years. We have a good working relationship.
DD: What would be your top priority, your day one task if youre elected?
MD: Get the violence down. Its all about safety. If this city is not safe, people will not want to live here, they arent going to want to open businesses here, and they arent going to want to visit here. So safety is the overwhelming priority.
DD: Without expecting you to get into the nuts and bolts of law enforcement because thats maybe not the jobor would be your job as mayorbut how do you strategically go about doing that?
MD: I was the prosecutor for three years. I understand the nuts and bolts of law enforcement extremely well.
DD: Ok, then give me the nuts and bolts.
MD: You do two things. The jobs that can be done in the precincts by trained civilians ought to be done by trained civilians, and we need to maximize the number of officers on the streets. That has got to be the first priority. We need to get the trained law enforcement officers responding to calls and solving and preventing crimes. Second, we need to bring the prosecutor, the sheriff, the U.S. Attorney, the DEA, and the Detroit Police Department together in the single, concerted strategy to get the gun violence down. Places that have had great success reducing violenceNew York, Los Angeles, Richmond, Bostonhave had coordinated efforts between the city, the county, and the federal government. I think thats essential. That means I have to be an advocate for the prosecutors budget, even though thats not technically under the city. I think we need a more global approach than what weve had.
DD: Are there some services the city could be sharing with the county or maybe with more regional authorities? Going from the strong home rule structure to like you see in Indianapolis with Unigov, do see somewhere in there that Detroit needs to go?
MD: I dont see anything in the short-run that has value. I think if anything its getting too fragmented. Im really troubled by all these authorities that are being created. I think its the working in the wrong direction. Whats happening is people see government isnt working and the solution is to create a bunch of authorities. Thats not the solution. The solution is to get competent management in place.