The Detroit mayor’s race is barely underway, but incumbent Mike Duggan is already picking up some key support.
Leaders of Detroit’s police and firefighter’s unions endorsed Duggan Thursday morning.
They say under Duggan’s leadership, their departments are gradually re-building from the devastation following years of cutbacks and the city’s bankruptcy.
Mike Nevin, President of the Detroit Firefighters’ Association, says his members were demoralized by years fighting fires with decrepit and outdated equipment, and firehouses that sometimes lacked heat and even toilet paper.
But under Duggan’s leadership, "we’re bringing the department out of the dark ages," Nevin says.
“Everyone’s working together collaboratively, and that starts at the top. They see us working together, and I think it’s breeding a new spirit of public safety in the city,” he says.
Nevin says the department is also getting much-needed new equipment, adding up to a huge boost in morale.
“We [firefighters] call it sad doggin’,” Nevin said. “We don’t have too many sad-doggers right now. The guys feel the spirit and they’re going again.”
Both departments still face some significant challenges, and Duggan admits as much. But union leaders say they’re confident Duggan understands the problems, and is doing what he can to fix them.
Mark Diaz, head of the Detroit Police Officers Association, says the city is now doing a good job of recruiting and training young officers, but retaining veteran officers is still a problem.
“Our senior officers are leaving, and we know the reasons why they’re leaving,” Diaz says. “The city of Detroit has not been competitive with respect to wages and benefits historically. But that’s a commitment that we’ve gotten from Mayor Duggan.”
Diaz said officers were encouraged when Duggan asked to re-open union contracts negotiated during bankruptcy, and gave officers a raise. He’s hopeful that can happen again before the contracts expire in 2020.
The unions’ announcement of support for Duggan came at the same time a challenger, State Senator Coleman Young II, announced he’s running for mayor. Young’s father was Detroit’s first African American mayor, and is still revered by some longtime city residents.
Duggan and the union leaders say the timing of their endorsement was a coincidence, and that they didn’t know about Young’s announcement when they scheduled their press announcement.