As Mayor Duggan begins to set Detroit on a path to prosperity, based on my experience in serving as the Communications Director for the City of Detroit, here is what I recommend:
Create a process to resolve disputes
To facilitate change in the city, the city needs to be more responsive to its constituency and those that want to do business in the city. Therefore, it should have a system to resolve disputes quickly and efficiently.
While the city may have an administrative hearings bureau and an Office of Ombudsman, what it is missing is a process by which to resolve disputes with the city, within the city and between the city, its vendors and even with other governments or quasi-government entities.
The Mayor should work to create a process by which to help resolve disputes or facilitate change in the city. This also includes facilitating citizen engagement and working to find ways to leverage the public discourse to create sound policy for the city. This includes issues within the city’s neighborhoods, including dealing with vacant lots, code enforcement, abandoned property, parking tickets and other issues.
To address many of the underlying problems in the city, Mayor Duggan should designate someone to address poverty in the city and create an anti-poverty agenda, with the goal of ending poverty in Detroit. The anti-poverty agenda will include many issues the Mayor will most likely work on, such as creating new jobs, improving the public’s health (under the new authority) and enhancing educational opportunities (through Detroit Public Schools and the various charter schools in the city). But it will take someone whose full time job it is to think about ways to resolve the poverty issue to end poverty in the city. This includes focusing on families and early childhood education as well as integrated pediatric care to help break the cycle of poverty.
This is an area where I am confident the new mayor will have a leg up on. However, I hope that the Mayor and his administration will look at where there are redundancy in the systems and work with various organizations in the city, such as the Detroit Regional Chamber, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, New Detroit, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the Downtown Detroit Partnership and others and help those organizations support the Mayor’s efforts by eliminating redundancy allowing each organization to refocus on what made their organizations strong.
What about Canada
I also hope that whatever strategy they embark on that they include Windsor/Essex as a partner.
A final area that I hope will receive some attention is Detroit’s brand. There has been a lot of discussion about Detroit’s brand or tag line. Detroit has a brand and the Mayor should reinforce what has made Detroit a great city and why Detroit will forever have a unique place in America’s fabric. We are tough and resilient. Detroit build America’s middle class and we will rebuild it. We may sometimes find ourselves down, but never out. And the mayor should support that effort.