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Heard on All Things Considered

Detroit City Council Narrowly Approves Duggan’s Blight Bond Proposal for Nov. Ballot

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Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

If approved by voters, the proposal would pump funds into city’s blight removal program after the COVID-19 pandemic drained the city’s reserves.

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The question to put $250 million of Detroit taxpayer dollars towards home demolitions and renovations will be on the ballot during the Presidential election.

Proposal N” would extend taxpayer funding of home demolitions and renovations in the city’s neighborhoods. Detroit’s existing tax rate will remain the same under the blight bond plan, instead of dropping by three mills. Mayor Mike Duggan says Detroiters should vote to pass the proposal because, with the exception of emergencies, there’s no funding for demolitions after the city’s reserves were hit by the pandemic.

I want to see Detroit contractors thrive. I want to see people rehabbing. I want us to rebuild our neighborhoods.” — City Councilperson Janee Ayers

It’s basically a decision by the people of the city of Detroit that the condition of their neighborhood is something they are willing to live with,” Duggan says.

The blight bond proposal passed Council by a slim 5-4 vote, after previous efforts to put the question on the ballot failed. Previous proposals to fund home demolitions failed amid federal investigations and public scrutiny of the program.

I want to see Detroit contractors thrive,” says City Councilperson Janee Ayers, who voted to put the plan forward to voters. “I want to see people rehabbing. I want us to rebuild our neighborhoods.”

Many council members wanted more time to examine details of the plan, which calls for more oversight and prioritizing the rehabilitation of homes and the awarding of contracts to Detroit companies.

I know that people are wanting to see blight remediation. But that must come with equity.” — City Councilperson Raquel Castañeda-López

This is a very complex issue,” says City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield, who voted against the proposal. “I think it warrants additional time and more engagement.”

The council’s decision follows the indictment of current City Councilmember Gabe Leland, who voted for the plan. Leland is accused of taking cash bribes for votes by prosecutors in Monroe County.

I know that people are wanting to see blight remediation,” says Councilperson Raquel Castañeda-López, who voted against placing the proposal on the ballot. ”But that must come with equity at the forefront always and us doing everything we can to get the strongest proposal to actually go on the ballot.”

If the proposal passes, Detroit housing officials estimate 8,000 homes would be saved under the program. Another 8,000 would be demolished.

Detroiters will be able to vote on the blight bond proposal on November 3rd.

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Eli Newman, Reporter/Producer

Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.

eli.newman@wdet.org Follow @other_eli

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