A major cornerstone of Mayor Mike Duggan’s blight remediation plan is facing a major roadblock. On November 19, Detroit City Council voted 6-3 against putting his proposal on the March 2020 ballot to sell $250 million in bonds to fund residential demolitions.
The vote took place one day after hundreds of Detroiters showed up to City Council, many to express their concerns about the program.
“I’ve been on council for six years and we really very rarely see that many people come out and actually support or are engaged in what council is doing,” City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield told the Detroit Free Press.
“I think the community spoke loud and clear and council listened.”
Duggan had hoped to use the funds to eliminate all residential blight by 2025. When it was announced in September, the city said that the money would decrease the time to complete blight removal by eight years and that a portion of the funds would be used to incentivize renovation of at least 1,000 homes that would otherwise be demolished.
After the vote, Duggan said the demolitions would have to slow down, but that “one way or another, we’re gonna find a way not to shut down demolitions.”
Many concerns of both City Council and residents centered around how demolition funds had been used in the past. Earlier this month, a Detroit Auditor General report concluded that the demolition program was terribly mismanaged.
In April, federal prosecutors charged two former employees of Adamo Group, a contractor that’s worked with the city on its demolition program, with taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from subcontractors to secure favorable bids. Other issues have included cost overruns that required a 60 day stoppage and a $5 million settlement, as well as using contaminated dirt with high concentrations of chloride as backfill.
It’s unclear if the administration will make a push next year to get the proposal on the November 2020 ballot.