Dave Bing says tearing down thousands of dangerous and vacant houses, and dealing with Detroit’s shrinking population, are high on his agenda in his first year as mayor.
In a copy of his speech released just before Tuesday evening’s address, Bing said he expects to have 10,000 abandoned houses torn down by the end of his four years in office.
Bing adds that his administration is determining what areas of Detroit are “best suited for residential use, commercial and industrial businesses, parks and green space.”
He was elected in November to a full, four-year term as mayor. Bing completed ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s second term by defeating Kilpatrick’s replacement, Ken Cockrel Jr., in a May runoff.
Bing inherited a budget deficit of more than $300 million.
Read Mayor Dave Bing’s Entire Speech Below:
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said during his State of City speech that the city will demolish 3,000 abandoned homes and other structures in residential areas.(Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)
Thank you. Thank you Honorable City Council, City Clerk and all public officials from Detroit, around the state and the country. And thank you to those at home watching. It’s an honor to be joined here tonight by so many people who care so deeply about this city and its future.
There are those who believe the final chapter of our story has been written. They believe our city cannot come back. And the reality is…if we allow ourselves to be defined by the crisis we inherited, Detroit’s story will never change.
This administration inherited a city near bankrupt financially, ethically and operationally. A $325 million deficit and the threat of payless paydays by October of last year; unemployment approaching 30% and 50,000 homeowners facing foreclosure; a culture of corruption in city government and a mentality that we should continue doing things the same way simply because that’s the way we’ve always done it.
We could have listened to those who said our city was a lost cause. We could have allowed the statistics and stream of negative media coverage convince us that things would never get better. We could have continued politics as usual and promised change but continued down the same path that got us here.
But we decided that the old way of doing things was no longer good enough. And in my ten months as your Mayor, I see a city whose collective ideas, spirit and action are coming together as they never have before to turn the page and begin a new chapter.
We began with a mandate to restore trust in our city and city government with a tough new ethics policy that shows no tolerance for corruption, conflict of interest or abuse of your trust or your tax dollars.
We’ve set a new tone of cooperation, transparency and accountability in City Hall, working with City Council, reaching out to regional leaders and our friends in Lansing and Washington to find solutions that work for Detroit.
Within weeks of taking office, we closed the Cobo Deal once and for all which will save us $15 million annually and keep the auto show, 16,000 jobs and ownership of Cobo Hall right where it belongs…with the City and the people of Detroit.
Then news came that GM would leave the RenCen or cut their presence downtown from 4,000 employees to 2,000. But we didn’t stop negotiating and our commitment was rewarded in January when GM announced that instead of reducing employees, they would house 5,000 workers downtown.
Over the last 10 months, we’ve put a plan together to secure our City’s immediate and long-term financial future.
After years of best guess budgeting, my administration is establishing a new era of accountability to make sure we’re spending within our means and attacking our deficit strategically and surgically.
We’re going after every dollar we’re owed, bringing in nearly $6 million from debts that have sat on our books for years while our city’s deficit continued to grow.
We completed the Greektown Casino agreement, bringing in another $8 million and we are close to finalizing an agreement with DTE that will release $20 million of the City’s money currently being held in escrow. We’ve begun the process of centralizing operations in purchasing, IT and other departments along with considering the difficult but necessary consolidations and eliminations through our operations restructuring efforts.
We worked with our City Council and the state to go to Wall Street with a deal that will bring an infusion of $250 million to begin reducing our deficit immediately and provide us time to realize savings from all of the changes we’re making.
After years of short-term thinking that only put us deeper in the hole, this deal shows that we are rebuilding Detroit as a good place for investment and putting an end to the false promises and grandstanding of the past.
I learned long ago to let my game do the talking and focus on the bottom line, not the headlines. That’s why tonight I believe we must come together with one voice and one vision to make Detroit a city that works.
A city that works for job seekers and small businesspeople struggling to survive in a tough economy.
A city that works for seniors living in fear of petty criminals and scam artists.
A city that works for young people and prepares them to build a career and a good life.
A city that works for neighborhoods, businesses and churches.
A city that works for all Detroiters.
Together we can reinvent Detroit, bringing new jobs and investment, cleaning up our streets and getting tough on crime, finding solutions to improve education and schools and once again restoring trust and pride in our city.
We have an opportunity to reinvent Detroit like never before. Local, regional and state leaders are stepping up, working with us and showing their support for real change in this city.
The philanthropic community is getting behind us with a coordinated effort and shared commitment to the city. And in Washington, we have the support of President Obama who I visited last week in the Oval Office. His promise of support and cooperation should give all Detroiters hope that more help is on the way. In fact, President Obama has committed to come to Detroit to see firsthand the challenges we face and see what we can do together to deliver the changes our community needs and deserves.
We’ve already begun to work together to help our neighborhoods. Blight is more than an eyesore.
Abandoned and dilapidated buildings are hotspots for crime and a living reminder of a time when the City of Detroit turned a blind eye to owners who neglected their properties. Tonight I am unveiling a plan to demolish 3000 dangerous residential structures this year and setting a goal of 10,000 by the end of this term.
The Obama Administration has already committed $20 million dollars through the neighborhood stabilization program to fund this effort and we are making our case for additional support. We are also going after owners and developers who neglect their properties because they think it’s the city’s job to clean up their mess through board ups or demolitions.
But this is only the beginning. Eliminating the most dangerous structures that pose the greatest public safety threat to Detroiters is only the first step in this process.
Strengthening our city will take a longterm strategy for how we use Detroit’s 140 square miles more productively.
The harsh reality is that some areas are no longer viable neighborhoods with the population loss and financial situation our city faces. But instead of looking at our land as a liability, we need to begin to think creatively about how it can be a resource as we rebuild our city. That conversation is in its initial stages but let me take a moment to dispel some myths out there.
We’re not giving away or selling any neighborhoods to anyone. This is about determining what areas of our city are best suited for residential use, commercial and industrial businesses, parks and green space.
This is a long-term process that requires the support and participation of everyone. We’re not making decisions in a vacuum. Data alone is not enough. Any plan will involve direct participation from our community because that’s where our real strength is-in the commitment and connection Detroiters share with our city and each other. Every Detroiter has a voice and a role in this process.
When I imagine Detroit’s future, I see a city with vibrant neighborhoods, with retail and grocery stores, a city that’s home to thriving small businesses, better mass transit and community parks and green space. But it will take all of us to make that happen and it’s a process that will not happen overnight.
And that’s one of the reasons it’s so important that every resident is counted in the 2010 census. This survey determines how much funding we’ll receive for schools, roads, hospitals and social service programs like Medicaid. Every person counted will bring approximately $10,000 to Detroit over the next decade. Without full participation these critical funds will be lost and our influence in Lansing and Washington will diminish.
Detroit is still one of the nation’s largest and most important cities but we can’t take our future for granted. We have been hit hardest by what some are calling the “Great Recession”. But the economic crisis in Detroit didn’t happen overnight. It’s been building for years and by now it should be clear to everyone that we simply can’t afford to continue down this road.
All across the state, unions in the private and public sector are recognizing that times have changed and making tough but necessary concessions. That includes the 27 unions in the City of Detroit that have come to the table and done what’s right for the future of our city and for the employees they represent.
Unfortunately, one union continues to fight, delay and undermine our efforts to move Detroit forward.
Their refusal to recognize the fiscal realities we face costs the city half a million dollars every month; that’s half a million of your tax dollars and half a million less for your city services. Now is the time to end the gamesmanship and begin the real discussion about the future of our city.
We have lacked a true vision and viable plan in Detroit for decades. The truth is most of the manufacturing jobs lost in recent years are never coming back. The auto industry is once again moving in the right direction, but our economy has shifted and a shift in our jobs strategy is long overdue.
That’s why my administration’s jobs plan will focus on three priorities.
One. Aggressive job and business creation and retention focused on emerging industries and small business.
Now is the time for Detroit to recapture the spirit of ingenuity and creativity that made our city great. Detroit was once a world leader in innovation, a place where entrepreneurs like Henry Ford and Berry Gordy built thriving industries from the ground up, where small businessmen in the auto supply industry like me could grow from 4 employees to more than 500, and a place where local businesses thrived because we supported each other. I believe we can be that kind of city once again.
Two. Fixing the City’s business climate and making us more attractive to both existing and new businesses.
For too long, employers have had to deal with red tape, poor customer service and a pay-to-play culture that undermined our ability to attract new jobs and investment. Those days are over. If you’re looking to do business with the City of Detroit, here’s a piece of advice. The best bid wins. Period. I’ve made it clear to our city departments and contractors that the old way of doing things is unacceptable. We’re becoming more business friendly by streamlining the process for permits, making them available online and using universal language in our contracts.
Three. Preparing our workforce to enter industries and jobs that need workers today and will need more tomorrow.
We have a tremendous opportunity to create short and long-term jobs to upgrade our transportation and infrastructure. We project that over the next three years we can create 900 jobs through home rehabilitation, traditional demolition and deconstruction, a green process that saves raw materials and resources for future reuse or sale. And we have the country’s busiest international border crossing that transports more than $1 billion dollars of goods daily. There is room for job growth in international trade and logistics, particularly if we can put the politics and profits associated with the bridge debate aside and finally move forward. Light rail will also soon be available in Detroit thanks to landmark cooperation between the private and public sector. Construction will bring jobs, encourage investment and improve transit options for residents and visitors.
And as long as we’re talking transportation, with the investment in alternative energy happening in the auto industry-we have to ask where is the battery investment in Detroit? We have the labor force and land that can support your business. All we need is the opportunity.
One industry that has grown in spite of the economic crisis is the healthcare industry. In fact, the Detroit area is expected to add more than 9,000 healthcare jobs over the next three years, an opportunity we cannot afford to let pass us by.
The growth of the healthcare industry in Detroit is further evident in the recent $850 million dollar investment in the DMC that will mean jobs, and economic development within the surrounding neighborhoods. St. John/Providence and the Henry Ford Health Systems have also made clear that they share this same commitment to growth.
With these investments on the horizon, we must do more to make sure Detroiters are prepared to compete for jobs in this industry and others emerging in our city.
With that goal in mind, tonight I am announcing the establishment of two new public academies in the City of Detroit to prepare our youth to enter careers in public health and public safety. These academies will address critical needs in our community while preparing young people with the skills and training in areas of need for our city.
Wayne County ranked last in a Michigan survey of county health factors in February. We hope this new academy will lead more of our young people to good paying jobs that help make our city and our citizens healthier.
We can also make Detroit a safer city and provide good-paying jobs by preparing the next generation of officers and leaders in our public safety departments.
We have a responsibility to make people feel safe. And for too long, our focus has been downtown at the expense of our neighborhoods. I’ve asked our new police chief and fire commissioner to refocus resources, share data and work with our city departments and community to target areas of highest need.
We are beginning to see positive results, a 12% decline in fires over Angels Night last year; homicides down 20% over the last six months of 2009 and case closures nearly doubling.
I want to personally thank all of the hardworking men and women of our public safety departments.
You truly put your life on the line for us everyday and too often you do so without the manpower or resources of other cities.
That’s why tonight I am so pleased to announce that we are putting funding in place, and will announce a new DPD headquarters in 60 days. This is something past administrations promised but this administration will deliver. This is also an opportunity to reopen the shuttered crime lab and provide our officers the tools they need to get criminals off the street.
Like many of you, I was horrified by the gun violence committed on students this past summer traveling home from school. We have a responsibility especially to our children and seniors to keep them safe in their daily travels. Our Safe Routes to School program is making a difference thanks to the cooperation of the City of Detroit, DPD and DPS.
So far this school year we have knocked down almost 250 dangerous buildings, cleaned up more than 1500 tons of trash and coordinated public safety efforts between DPD, DPS and the City of Detroit.
Now more than ever, it is critical that our schools and our city work together. Robert Bobb is addressing the District’s financial challenges but that is only part of the larger dialogue going on right now about the future of education in our city. Once again, that discussion has focused too much on which adults should control our schools and too little on the needs of our children. We have to recognize that a crisis years in the making cannot be fixed overnight nor can it be fixed without the support and participation of our community.
I am committed to being part of the solution, not just for DPS but for all children, whether they attend a public, charter, parochial or private school. Every school in Detroit needs the same resources, books and technology available to schools in other cities. Every parent in Detroit deserves school options that work for their children. And every student deserves an education that opens doors to college and a successful career.
We must give young people a reason to believe in Detroit again. That’s why last summer I was so proud of the youth employment program that saw 7,000 young people receive jobs through a federal stimulus grant. We hope to receive additional funding this summer so that we can continue this successful program.
As you have heard here tonight, our challenges are great, but our opportunities are even greater.
But we cannot depend on the help of others alone to bring back our city. We have to set the tone and show that we won’t rest until we’ve changed the landscape of Detroit forever.
This administration is committed to working for you. I would like to recognize my Group Executives and my department directors, the people who get to work early and stay late every night to implement our plan. Please join me in recognizing them.
I would also like to recognize my family. I couldn’t do this job without you. Thank you for understanding the long hours and the commitment this job takes not just from me, but from you to make Detroit the city we all want it to be.
While I am confident that I have engaged a “team of change”, I realize that we cannot do it alone.
We need the support of everyone who has a stake in Detroit’s future from our residents and visitors, to businesses, faith, philanthropic and community organizations, our neighbors in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County and our leaders in Lansing and Washington. It is indeed, now or never. We need your input, your energy and your commitment to make Detroit “A City that Works.”