Debate reveals little as Detroit's mayoral election draws near

Oct 23, 2013

 Detroiters will elect a new mayor in less than two weeks—but the candidates are being pretty tame.

Former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon found little to disagree about during a Detroit Economic Club forum Wednesday.

Both agreed that Detroit shouldn’t look to sell or regionalize city assets—although Detroit emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, could make those moves anyway.

And both rejected the idea of merging Detroit with another financially-distressed unit of government, Wayne County—an idea that’s been floated among some in the business community.

Both agreed that emergency management is bad and that Orr should go, though they differed on how to deal with his presence in Detroit. Duggan says he’ll try to send Orr packing by assembling a convincing turnaround plan, going to bankruptcy court himself if necessary.

Napoleon calls Orr a “dictator” and says he simply won’t work with him. And he’s suggested before that Duggan is too cozy with the Snyder administration and was even involved in Orr’s selection process—possibly even a candidate himself.

Duggan acknowledges that Governor Snyder’s aides approached him about possible involvement two years ago.

“And I told them flat-out no,” Duggan insisted.  “That I did not think the Governor had any right to pick the leader of the city of Detroit, that I thought it would be a terrible mistake if he did it, and under no circumstance would I consider it.”

A rare difference of opinion emerged when Duggan says Detroit needs to do everything possible to attract “global business.” But Napoleon says the city should look to local entrepreneurs first.

“I would give my focus first to the folks who are doing business in this area…so that we can make money here,” Napoleon said.

Duggan defeated Napoleon easily in the primary, even though he was forced to run as a write-in candidate. Most polls show show maintaining a double-digit lead.