White Guy Wins Campaign for Mayor in Detroit. But That’s Not Really the Story

Judging by some of the recent headlines it appears that the big election day story coming out of Detroit is that Detroiters elected a white guy for mayor for the first time in more than 40 years. In a city where nearly nine out of ten residents is African American, this is understandably regarded as interesting stuff, especially given the ugly racial history of Detroit and of this country overall.

But that’s not really the important part of the story.

Sure, I get the fascination on the part of those looking in from the outside. Who is this white guy and what in the hell did he do to get that many black folks to choose him by such a decisive margin over a respectable black candidate? After all,  by just about any measure – at least on paper –  Sheriff Benny Napoleon had what it took to take the reins from Mayor Dave Bing in a relatively smooth transition. But that didn’t happen, and now a certain constituency inside the city limits wants answers to substantiate their unwavering belief that Mike Duggan (the white guy) bought the election using outside money. Otherwise no way could a white guy beat a black guy in this city. Right…?

But that’s not really the important part of the story.

The story isn’t that Detroiters chose a white guy because, well, who cares? The story is that this is the man Detroiters chose to negotiate their way through dealings with an illegitimate, all-powerful Emergency Manager appointed by a Governor who does not respect the voting rights of Detroiters or anyone else in his state. I won’t re-run my whole spiel on this since I’ve gone over it repeatedly in past posts and I’m sure some may start to view this as a broken record. We’re probably stuck with EM Kevyn Orr so it is what it is, at least for now.

Instead, I will simply say that the most important job Mayor-elect Mike Duggan  has now is figuring out how to effectively implement a workable agenda as this city slides into bankruptcy and Orr has the power to overrule any decision he or City Council makes. Outgoing Mayor Dave Bing has already been quite vocal and quite public about the fact that he was essentially betrayed by Orr who (he says) had originally indicated he wanted to work in partnership with Bing to run the city but then changed his mind and tossed Bing aside and ignored him.

Granted, Duggan will still be here and out from under Orr for at least several years after Orr’s term expires, but if he and Orr don’t come to a working agreement then what kind of Detroit will be left to Duggan to govern? Understand that Kevyn Orr has his $275,000 fee regardless of success or failure and he doesn’t have to run  for re-election so he doesn’t have to give much of a damn. If his policies work then they work, if they don’t then on to the next big payday. Duggan, on the other hand, has a whole lot more to prove.

Keep in mind that Duggan himself served as an appointee of Gov. Snyder’s to the Education Achievement Authority Board, which is essentially Snyder’s attempt to destroy public education in the State of Michigan through privatization and union-busting. Duggan eventually stepped down because it was a big red target on his back for detractors who questioned how he will fight for Detroit against the EM when he voluntarily accepted a post on the EAA? Can his relationship with the Governor actually be used to Detroit’s advantage or should we just all drop our trousers and bend over now and get it over with? Who is Duggan really working for, and can he really be the guy who turns the city around?

The man has a lot to prove, and Detroit’s future hangs in the balance. His skin color is nothing more than a distraction.

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