We should post the full transcript of the State of the City address and hyperlink it with Local and Big Wiki links. It will be a way of pushing us to update the larger site.
Mayor Duggan did his State of the City speech in the Redford Theatre which has served as an entertainment venue since it opened on January 27, 1928. Since January 31, 1985 the Redford Theatre was accepted into the National Register of Historic Places.
"I wanted thank the people of this neighborhood, the Old Redford community, for hosting us this evening. This community is fighting back like so many others, it started with entrepreneurs the Thomas family they started Sweet Potatoe Sensations etc
Detroit is now on the road of recovery!
The council President Brenda Jones who brought stability, leadership, and for the last eight years has worked to open the skill trails the people of color.
Council President pro tempore George Cushingberry, strong voice for bringing back the neighborhood in the second district.
Councilman James Tate, who has been a strong community leader and developing new uses for property in North-West Detroit.
Councilmember Scott Benson who is always making sure that Detroit’s redevelopment includes affordable housing.
Councilman Andrew Spivey who let the passage of the gas station surveillance ordinance, that create safer retail.
Councilmember Mary Sheffield who launch the occupied the neighborhood movement to bring peace to dangerous neighborhood and is now leading the Homeless task force.
Councilmember Raquel Castaneda-Lopez who has led the effort to make emigrants from all countries welcomed here in Detroit and she’s responsible for Detroit becoming a national leader.
And councilmember Gabe Leland who is working closely with the Wayne County Tresor, they helped the members of his district avoid taxes and remain in their home.
As I stood here a year ago, I said to you “I only want to be judge on one standard, is the population of the city of Detroit going up, or is it going down?” I think that is the one true gage of a success and so that’s what I want to talk about tonight and we’re going to start the conversation tonight exactly where we left it off one year ago, in the neighborhoods because that's when it all started.
For decades, this city has relied on one strategy for finding buyer, and we all know what is was, it was demolition, "you just keep knocking those houses down and the neighborhoods are going to come back", and we did it year after year. When I came in, there was a report from the emergency manager that said 80 000 houses in Detroit had to be demolished and I said to you a year ago that I didn't believe it. There are beautiful houses in the city, solid brick homes with architecture that can be saved then we can moved families back in, we don't have to knock everything down!"
And I outlined the plane that said we can go in the neighborhoods and we can sue the owners of abandoned houses - take an entire neighborhood at once - and when we sue them, say to these owners, you have two choices, you can sign a court order to get this house occupied and fixed up for the next six months or deal it to us and we'll sell it on the internet like eBay. I suggested there may be something like a land bank to get this done. Last February that was an idea, twelve months later we have filled 1200 lawsuits against owners against vacant property in this town. In 350 cases they signed a consignment agreement, they are fixing up the house themselves with us having to do anything, 350 houses being fixed up! In another 250 cases the court awarded the property to us and the Land Bank and in these cases, we have not lost a single one, we are making progress.
People didn't think we could sell theses houses but we are auctioning today on the website we have called Buildingdetroit.org and we have a 168 houses that have not only sold, but people are fixing them up and moving in, a 168 families in houses that people are giving up on just in the last six months! So what does it mean, for an individual community? We started in the Marygrove neighborhood, a beautiful neighborhood at one time of 700 houses and where 120 houses were vacant and scheduled for demolition. We went in and sued the owners of all 120 houses and an amazing thing happened, people started to fixing up their houses. The ones we took, we putted online and people bought it. We did have to knock about 20 or so down, and by the time we were done we gonna end up knocking 30 houses down. A year ago, they told us a 120 houses in Marygrove had to be demolished, now it is gonna be 30. 90 houses in one neighborhood are being saved and we are moving families in, and we will replicating that in neighborhood after neighborhood across the city.
What we're doing matters. One of the things that was helpful was last year, we did assessment reductions across the city which was long overdue, 5, 10, 20 percents reduction to all the homes in the city. And an amazing thing happened: people paying their property taxes went up significantly. When the assessments were fair, people started paying. And when we look now, at this year we would have cut the taxes again but there was something different, this time when we went to cut them we found that in 25 neighborhood in the city, the property value was actually went up from last year to this year, 25 neighborhood where they are growing - the neighborhood that you would hope for, it is Greymont, it is Rosedale, West Village, Bagley...but there were 25 neighborhood that weren't growing a year ago. What does it mean when property values are going up? It means more people want to move in in that neighborhood then move out and the question we have this year is how do we go from 25 neighborhoods in 2014 to 50 or 75 neighborhoods in 2015 and keeping bringing these neighborhoods back. And those are the things that I want to talk about. And so if you're gonna get to the next group of neighborhoods, the very first thing we have to do is that we have to stop de foreclosure.
You look at what is happening, and there is numbers throwing out the Wayne County Treasure, Ray Wojtowicz is doing a great job, 60 000 properties in foreclosure, most of them are vacant lots or they're land lords, people who are taking a rent are from tenants not paying their taxes but 18 000 of those homes are families who own that house, it is their home. It is probably their only investment and we need to find a way to keep the man and it's hard to see how we can grow this community of 18 000 families who leaves their home. And so the Treasure has done everything he could under the law, he offered repayment plans but the law of the State said that if you offer somebody a repayment plan and back taxes you have to charge them 18% interest a year...that wasn't doing anybody any good.
And so late last year I sat down with Governor Snyder over on West Outer Drive, I showed him that solid neighborhood and I said "it's neighborhood like this that are being decimated, good solid houses that people are being forced out of, so we got to stop. He says "what do you want to do?", I said "instead of 18% interest, what can't we have an agreement where the Treasure charge only 6% so we can make this work. And then for those who have just ridiculous amounts, if their back taxes are more than 25% of the house, let the Treasure write that down. There are people who think that Republics and Democrats should fight and that I should argue with the governor and not work with him. But the Governor listen to what I said and he said "I support you on this but you don't have very much time, there is only a few weeks in the legislature cession". With his support, we went to work, the Treasure and its deputy, Dave Shemenski one of the great public service in Michigan, they had to line up all the treasures of the state. We had to get 83 treasure to go along with it, and we got them on board and I will be forever grateful to Ted Wahby, the treasure of Macomb County who stepped in and helped us at a critical time. We went to the legislature and the Detroit delegation, the Republicans, the Senators, the representatives from Detroit who're just phenomenally being united. We've got bi-partisan sponsors Phil Cavanaugh from Detroit and John Walsh, a Republican, to put the bill trough with everybody's cooperation. We've got great leadership help from people like Tim Greimel and when it got down to the last couple of days and it looks like we're gonna run out of time Arlen Mekoff an outstate Republican who is now the Senate Majority Leader made it a point to get our bill on the senate floor right before Christmas and got it voted out. We got the bill trough in bi-partisan fashion, they thought it couldn't be done.
So how is it working? The law has only been in effect for about 3 weeks, I talked to the Treasurer this morning, he says out of the 18 000 families in that situation in the last 3 weeks, 6000 have already signed an agreement to be able to stay in their homes! You're seeing the TV ads, you can go to the Treasurer's office, go down the Wayne County Community College at the Downtown campus on Saturday, the Treasurer will offer you 10% down, the balance over 4 to 5 years at 6% interest, you've got a really high arrearage, he can do something about that but a whole lot of people went to trouble to create this opportunity, it's an opportunity that has never existed before and I urge the people in this community, if you're behind in your taxes you do not need to lose your house, we want you to stay here, please go to the Treasurer's Office and enter into a repayment agreement.
So, we're moving people into the houses that we can save and we're gonna hopefully keep people in their own homes but we do have to do something about the houses that can’t be saved, there is no question there’s a lot of them, we’ve all seen them, the burned out houses . But it's an interesting thing, we found that if we demolish the run-down areas around the stronger neighborhoods, the values of the rest of the neighborhoods come back. The problem was that this city has never knocked down more than about 40 houses a week, and at 40 houses a week it would have taken us about 10 years to get through this. So we've brought Dave Bernardo and a team from the Detroit Medical Center and said "we got to find a way to improve this". He came in with a stream line process and got from 40 a week to 50 a week to a 100 a week to 200 a week, he got to 300 but he found out we couldn't find dirt fast enough to fill them. So we stayed and we’re going at 200 a week and I didn't have any idea how impressive that was until now the city of Detroit is considered a national expert so I'm speaking at national blight conferences and I did the presentation and the city manager from an east coast city came up to me afterwords and he said "you know in our city, we're demolishing 200 a year and we complain all the time about how hard the logistics is". I'm gonna go back and tell ‘em that Detroit is doing 200 a week and they’re never going to believe it but we've demonstrated that we can execute and something I'm very proud of is the EPA has designated our environmental handling of this demolition as the highest standard in the country in the way we’re handling it.
We've knocked down 3500 homes in the last 6 months and we’ll get another 4000 from now through August. At that point, the federal funding is going to be at an end and right now we owe President Obama a debt of thanks for the funding that was there and we also owe Rick Snyder a debt of gratitude for allocating a hundred million dollars in the city of Detroit. And I want to thank Denis Muchmore and Richard Baird on behalf of the Governor who have been our advocates. But we are gonna run in August so last Tuesday I was in Washington D.C. with the treasury secretary Jack Lew and our Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters who are fighting very hard for us and we're going to keep working every day. But we are not leaving any stone unturned, we just found another 7 million dollars in fire escrow insurance that was left over with the assistance of the attorney general Bill Schuette who found a legal way to free up that money so we can get more of these burned down houses down. Everybody in the state is working together.
Shea Howell http://boggscenter.org/?p=6316