There were filled seats and lined walls in the Mead Auditorium on Monday afternoon as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan discussed his background and current plan for restoring the city.
Duggan opened his speech with some light humor and talked about his nativity as a Detroit citizen. He then moved on to talk about his education at the University of Michigan, where he earned a law degree, before going on to work at a litigation firm located in inner city Detroit.
“Sometimes when you follow your own direction, things work out for you,” Duggan said, despite receiving resentment from his colleagues for going his own direction.
He was elected in the fall of 2013 and has had many successes in his position as well as a lot of controversy in different local media outlets around the city.
Duggan said it’s hard to describe how bad the city was prior to his election. He explained how nearly half of the streetlights in Detroit didn’t even function at one point and how the city’s parks were unkempt and posed safety concerns for neighborhood children.
He also elaborated on the old financial problems of the Detroit Medical Center and how he helped the hospital system rise out of bankruptcy.
According to Duggan, a lot of people, even some of his friends, doubted he could win the election in 2013 because he was white in a city with an 83 percent African-American population.
“I was pretty sure that if I sat down with people, I could get past the racial divisions,” Duggan said.
There have been many speculations about the old Detroit compared to the new Detroit, but one thing is certain according to Duggan: there are many college graduates and aspiring entrepreneurs moving back to the city because of the potential opportunities in store.
Detroit is currently undergoing a lot of demolition on many of its abandoned or blighted houses under Duggan’s effort to revitalize the city.
“There’s something about this next generation that wants to be in urban areas and be closely connected with other creative and talented people,” he said. “Cities around the country are doing well, but nobody is doing better than Detroit as far as attracting the next generation.”
Thomas Baldini, program chair of the Economic Club of Marquette, who had a part in bringing Duggan to Marquette, said that Henry Ford has a long family history in the U.P. This association with the automotive industry and it’s downturn in Detroit is what made him reach out to Duggan.
“When people talk about Michigan, the restructuring Detroit has gone through is important,” Baldini said.
Many NMU students who live in the metropolitan area feel like there have definitely been improvements in the political maintenance of the city.
Max Smith of Rochester said it’s interesting to see more people from the surrounding area feeling more comfortable in Detroit.
“I remember growing up in the Rochester area, you’d always hear bad “boogey-man” kind of stories, but that’s just not the case anymore. The city is full of life that it didn’t have before,” Smith Said.
The event was sponsored by the Department of Political Science Alpha Kappa Eta honor society and the NMU chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha.