Detroit Elects First White Mayor in Four Decades

Detroit’s Mayor-elect Mike Duggan appeared at his first press conference yesterday to discuss his plans for the bankrupt city. During his remarks, he expressed his frustration at the discussion of his skin color during the mayoral race. 

“I resent it. I’ve resented it from the beginning,” Duggan said. “People in this city got past it almost a year ago, as people got to know me and we started to relate as individuals.” Duggan, a former Detroit Medical Center executive commanded a 10 point lead over his opponent, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napolean. Napolean is black.

The outgoing Mayor of Detroit, Dave Bing decided not to run for re-election after expressing his anger that state officials did not give him enough time to solve the city’s financial problems. Bing was elected in 2009 to replace felon Kwame Kilpatrick.  

During Bing’s own term, government bailed-out General Motors cancelled their plans to leave Detroit and move to Warren, Michigan where they could reduce operating costs.  A 2010 Auto Week story indicates the decision to stay in Detroit was designed to help Bing and came straight from the Obama administration. 

…senior White House officials rejected the proposal–saying it would be devastating to Detroit, even if the automaker donated the RenCen to the city.

“It’s over for Detroit if you do this,” Michigan native Gene Sperling, a U.S. Treasury Department official, yelled in a meeting, the book says. “Don’t do this to (Detroit Mayor) Dave Bing…. He’s a good man trying to do a good thing.”

“The White House eventually determined ‘the move would be a bridge too far,’ according to the book [Overhaul by Steven Rattner]. ‘Fortunately, this unique intervention into a specific GM matter was never leaked to the press, saving us from having to explain how it comported with our policy of letting GM and Chrysler manage their own affairs.’ “

General Motors denied the move was at the behest of the White House to help Bing, instead claiming “It came down purely to a business decision. The move was going to cost tens of millions of dollars and the decision was made that right now the best thing to do was spend that money on product and on efforts to support our dealers and reach customers,” said GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson.

The move angered the Mayor of Warren, MI who fired off an angry letter to the White House “I’m disappointed in President Obama because President Obama, I’ve always thought, is a strong believe in transparency and open government.  In this case, it was really a back room pressure deal that prevented General Motors from coming to Warren.  They wanted to come to Warren.”

Despite the GM’s decision to stay in Detroit, the city is burdened with $18 billion of debt and is awaiting a judges ruling on their bankruptcy filing.