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Disappointment so far from Coleman Young Jr.'s campaign for Detroit Mayor

Jul 11, 2017

State Senator Coleman Young II unveiled his plan for Detroit yesterday. He is running for mayor this year, and the odds are that he and incumbent Mike Duggan will be the two top vote-getters in the September primary, and go on to face each other in the general election.

Actually, I had planned on talking to Senator Young Monday so I could tell you more about his campaign, and had scheduled an interview weeks ago.

But his scheduler canceled it yesterday almost at the last moment, because, she said, he was going to be too busy unveiling his plan for the city. Unfortunately, I couldn’t read about it on his campaign website, because the provider said the campaign didn’t pay the bill, and they took the site down. The campaign did say they hoped to have a new website by today.

Fortunately, Young’s mother emailed me a copy of his plan for Detroit.

Now, many years of covering government have taught me this. The best thing that could happen to the city – and Mayor Mike Duggan himself – would be for Duggan to have a strong opponent in this election with an intellectually challenging platform.

Duggan indeed has accomplished more in Detroit in the last three and a half years than most thought he could. The streetlights are on, the downtown and midtown areas are booming, and there is a new can-do spirit. But most neighborhoods have lagged behind.

... I was looking forward to what his challenger's plan would say. Sadly, most of it is a disappointment.

Nor is their evidence that the population decline has stopped, as Duggan vowed it would.

So I was looking forward to what his challenger’s plan would say. Sadly, most of it is a disappointment.

The 34-year-old state senator does have a few promising ideas. He wants schools to provide “wrap-around services,” by which he seems to mean turning them into community centers. The only problem with that is that the mayor of Detroit has absolutely no power or jurisdiction over the public schools.

Young does list a series of grants the city ought to go after, and he has some intriguing ideas for automated computerized control of the DDOT bus system, which then perhaps could be better linked up with the suburban system.

But beyond that, his ideas range from the unrealistic to the just plain nutty, and seem detached from economic reality. He proposes to bring down car insurance rates in Detroit by suing the insurance companies for their “racist, red-lining policies.”

He wants to “treat violence like a virus” and reduce crime by getting the federal Centers for Disease Control to study it. And he wants to solve the city’s transportation needs with something called “SkyTran,” that would use electromagnetic power to move two-person pods through the air as part of a “sustainable mass rapid transit system.”

I think I saw that on Star Trek.

Perhaps the most dismaying idea was to bring back the utterly crazy notion of something called “African town,” that would provide special benefits to black-owned firms to “monetize our culture and history for small businesses.”

Young may not realize this, but even Kwame Kilpatrick denounced that as being unconstitutional and racist 13 years ago.

The Duggan administration does need a tough-minded critique of its policies and some plausible alternatives. Unfortunately, his challenger’s plan, at least in its present form, isn’t it.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s Senior Political Analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.