Mar. 10—DETROIT — Mayor Mike Duggan vowed a fight Tuesday to put an end to redlining in car insurance rates, tackle a gun crime backlog and amass $50 million over five years to “put into our people.”

Duggan, who is running for his third term this year, delivered his eighth state of the city speech with an overarching theme of removing barriers for Detroiters who have felt left behind in hiring preferences, training opportunities and outreach services.

“The city of Detroit is knocking on your door, saying ‘We’re here to help you, to give you a hand up,'” Duggan said. “We’ll be there, whatever your barrier is, to be on your side.”

The mayor gave his address from inside the new Mack Assembly Plant on the east side, leading off by touting the work Detroit put in to acquire the land in 2019 for the plant.

The site at Mack and St. Jean recently began production and is home to the Jeep brand’s three-row SUV, the Grand Cherokee L.

Duggan announced 2,100 Detroiters hired by Stellantis NV, FCA’s successor, through the city’s job agency Detroit At Work will work at the new Mack Assembly Plant also producing the new Jeep Grand Cherokee. They will be onboarded over the next few months, a company spokeswoman, Jodi Tinson, confirmed Tuesday night.

For 215 acres to expand the $1.6 billion plant and millions of dollars in incentives, Stellantis agreed to accept applications from Detroit residents first for the 3,850 jobs, recognizing its existing workers would have the first chance at the jobs in the new plant.

The company eventually made 4,100 offers to Detroiters with 3,800 opting to start early in lower-paying supplemental positions at other Stellantis plants in Metro Detroit. Another 1,100 jobs also will open after the adjacent Jefferson North Assembly Plant is retooled for the next-generation Grand Cherokee.

The facility is the first built in the city in the last three decades and Duggan said he proposed a condition to hire residents.

“Just once, I’d like to stack the deck in favor of Detroiters,” he said.

The Jeep plant, he said, is part of a “sea of change” and the city is focused on removing hurdles to transportation, expungement of criminal records, and bringing jobs back “is just a start.”

The city is facing a 30% unemployment rate based on the latest U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty data, “but progress, as far as I’m concerned, is not nearly enough. I’m interested in what we do the next five years,” Duggan said.

Duggan held up his “People Plan,” a series of skilled trades training and support programs to aid residents.

As Duggan reiterated his call for support of a campaign he launched in December to raise $50 million to fund and expand the programs, the City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield tweeted “don’t get it twisted … this is the real and first People’s Plan,” sharing links to news articles about a set of bills she unveiled in 2018.

Sheffield’s program, coined the “People’s Bills,” aimed to ensure community benefits from developments, water rates, affordable housing and Detroit-based hiring.

Duggan and Sheffield have clashed over how the Duggan administration should address an estimated overtaxing of $600 million for Detroiters over a six-year period through 2016.

Anthony Adams, a former deputy mayor under Kwame Kilpatrick who is challenging Duggan in the 2021 race for mayor, tweeted Tuesday night that it’s “an absolute shame” that Duggan “did not address reforming the unjust overtaxation of Detroiters.”

“I’ll have you all know, this is one of my key priorities,” he said.

Duggan rehashed the lengthy struggle for auto insurance reform in Michigan, saying “it’s been a five-year battle and I still have the scars.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the historic auto reform legislation in the spring of 2019 to put an end to the state’s unique requirement that motorists buy policies that guarantee uncapped lifetime medical benefits in the event of catastrophic crash injuries.

The state’s new law went into effect in July. Some who shopped around saved 20% to 40% and there will be more choices and even lower rates that will kick in in July.

But the fight for equity, Duggan said, is ongoing.

“We need to eliminate the geographic differences. You really want equity, there should be no redlining the state,” he said. “There should be a single rate in the state, and I’m going to make it my business the next five years to keep going back to Lansing until we get rid of redlining altogether. It’s a moral question.”

Duggan also outlined a plan to tackle a backlog in gun crime cases that have worsened amid shutdowns tied to the pandemic.

Detroit’s murder and violent crime rates rose last year even as overall crime declined during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city recorded 327 criminal homicides in 2020, up 19% from 274 the previous year, according to January police statistics.

Duggan said there are 2,200 gun charges backed up in Wayne County and to address gunfire, 36th District Court Chief Judge Bill McConico is going to handle the docket and ensure cases are prioritized.

“I want you to know this court system is going to reopen, there will be accountability and we will get this violence under control,” Duggan said.

The mayor also highlighted Project Clean Slate expungement, which provided lawyers to 700 returning citizens last year and aims to help 2,000 more this year, he said.

Within one year of expungement, the average wage of employees is up 23%, he said.

Duggan talked about doubling the city’s recreation centers by utilizing churches and rebuilding parks to give children more opportunities during the summer and expanding the alley clean-up program.

About 71% of Detroiters voted for Proposal N in November to address blight in neighborhoods, a priority for Duggan. The city bid $30 million for the first 1,300 demolitions from seven Detroit companies recently, he said.

“We’re eliminating the barriers; Detroiters go to work for Detroit neighborhoods that raise property values with Detroit neighborhoods, which make it that much easier for the next generation,” he said. “And you’re going to see a lot more rehab because the Land Bank just sold 1,000 houses last year, 70% of them bought by Detroiters.”

He also highlighted Detroiter and lyricist King Yadee, who started a construction company catering to training the youth to make “every house to be livable.”

“I’m an example of a Detroit kid that had nothing and I wanted to make a change,” he said in a recorded video showing block development on Archdale Street. “I see these houses as something that could be done while a lot of people see them as an eyesore … In two years, we saw less police and gang activity … and plan to partner with other neighborhoods to replicate.”

Duggan said he’s listening to the residents who are near development including the Gordie Howe International Bridge and Amazon’s distribution center at the former fairgrounds. He added that they are preserving the bandshell, where concerts were held for eight decades.

“They’re getting parks for their community and we’re being very sensitive,” Duggan said. “There’s a lot of emotion. I saw concerts at the bandshell … I’m very glad to say (with the help of) my partner, Roy McCalister, that we are going to move this bandshell to another park, McCalister is is suggesting Palmer Park.”

Vaccines

In the race to vaccinate its most vulnerable residents for COVID-19, the mayor said Detroit is making strides and on March 22, all Detroiters over the age of 50 will be eligible for the vaccine.

In May, he believes Detroit will be able to open up eligibility to all others who want the shot. To achieve that goal, the city’s Northwest Activities Center will open up later this month for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The mayor’s vow to provide the Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes after he received pushback over his comments about the vaccine and his decision to decline a shipment of 6,200 doses.

The mayor said Tuesday that the mixed messaging was “my fault” for “not having done more research than I should have.”

Just after the vaccine gained federal approval for emergency use, Duggan said he had no plans to offer it, saying it would be better directed to rural communities. Days later, he said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was good, but noted the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, both already being administered in Detroit, were “the best.” He said the city would accept future shipments of the vaccine, should there be a need to.

On Friday, Duggan appeared to walk back the prior comments, offering a more forceful endorsement of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The administration of President Joe Biden also weighed in, claiming Duggan’s earlier comments had been misinterpreted.

The mayor said Tuesday that research shows it is a “highly effective shot” and he’s going to give residents two choices. They can go to the activities center for one shot or the TCF Center downtown for two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

“Detroit led this country in dropping COVID infection rates. We are not leading this country in getting vaccinated,” he said. “If we don’t get vaccines done, we’re going to be going to funerals that just weren’t necessary.”

[email protected], Twitter: @cferretti_dn

[email protected], Twitter: @SarahRahal_

Breana Noble contributed

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