LeDuff interview with Mike Duggan

Charlie LeDuff interviews Detroit mayoral candidate Mike Duggan

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Charlie LeDuff  ask Detroit Mayoral Candidate Mike Duggan about his run for office. Charlie LeDuff ask Detroit Mayoral Candidate Mike Duggan about his run for office.
DETROIT (WJBK) -

Mike Duggan moved from Livonia to Detroit to run for mayor. But does Mike Duggan really love Detroit? Does he have a viable plan to turn it around? And what about his political skeletons? FOX 2's Charlie LeDuff went one-on-one with the former Detroit Medical Center boss last week.

Click the video player to watch the full interview.

Charlie LeDuff: Why does a white man from Livonia want to be the mayor of Detroit?

Mike Duggan: I feel like a Detroiter first. I was born here, I lived here as a young boy. I went to high school in the city and I've worked in the city every day for the last 32 years. Whether it was running the bus system or fixing up houses as a prosecutor or running the hospital system. But the city is at a point now where we're on the verge of going one way or another and I think the city needs somebody who has done turn-arounds before.

CL: But the politics are nasty. What's on tap now, a handwriting expert? We're still doing the voting fraud thing.

MD: Right. And that's the thing. You've seen what happened. They sued to say you couldn't write in my name. Then they found Mike Dugeon the barber. And then when 48,000 people spelled my name correctly, they said the hashmarks were wrong. They counted them again and I got 4,000 more votes than I did before. But the interesting thing is, when I'm in these living rooms nobody is asking about the recount of the handwriting. They want to know about the abandoned house next to them. They want to know why the cops didn't show up when the neighbor's house was broken into. They want to know when the streetlights are going to be on.

CL: Why do you want this stinkin' job? There's no real power. It's broken. You were making a lot of money over there at that hospital. Really? Why would a guy want to take the golden chair and trade it in for a pile of sticks?

MD: If we could go back ten years, a lot of people were saying why did I leave this great political career as a prosecutor to go run a hospital system that's going to be bankrupt and ruin my reputation. I went in to DMC, which is a true treasure in the city, we brought in a great team of people, we went from losing money to making money. We went from three hours in the emergency room to 29 minutes. And I think this city is better for it. And I look at the same thing city wide. There are a lot of good people working in city government. They have not had good leadership.

CL: Emergency manager (Kevyn Orr), he'll do the hard work on the balance sheet. He'll be leaving anyway in 15, 16 months. You will get your power back. Can you guarantee the people and can you tell me how you're not going to let the bloodsuckers back in that ate this city alive.

MD: Your point's the right one. No matter what Kevyn Orr does, when he leaves we still have a city with huge public safety and social services needs and a shrinking tax base. This is why you need someone who's done turnarounds. So we're going to do two things: We're going to have accountability on the spending and bring in new businesses and jobs. This permit processing is a nightmare. It is driving businesses out of town.

CL: Who is in charge of the Detroit? The people or the business?

MD: At the moment (Gov.) Rick Snyder is in charge of Detroit through his appointment of the emergency manager. And that's what we have to get away from. Until we get the elected mayor and the elected council back, the governor is in charge. When I get there, it's going to be a coalition. I'm proud to have the supports of (Dan Gilbert) and (Roger Penske), but the people are going to be in charge.

CL: Let's go over your resume. Deputy CEO of Wayne county for 14 years. Balanced budget every year.

MD: Yes.

CL: But there was also the federal investigation with the conviction into the airport at that time, 'Ficano-esque,' so that's a knock.

MD: I wouldn't say it's 'Ficano-esque.' We had one person charged with a felony in 16 years in the McNamara administration. That was a painful mistake that we still feel. It doesn't compare to what's happening today. When the federal investigation came, the U.S. attorney made a statement up front that I was not under investigation, that I was not suspected of any wrong doing and I was not part of that.

CL: You become the prosecutor. The Wayne County prosecutor. Your successes were?

MD: Getting the gun violence down was huge. The other thing was, more than a thousand times I took buildings from the owners of abandoned houses and sold them and got people to move in who fixed them up.

CL: But you left early, correct?

MD: I did.

CL: Why did you quit the job that people elected you to do?

MD: Well, I didn't mean to. I was running for re-election when the CEO of the Detroit Medical Center came and said they were about to close these hospitals. We're on the verge of bankruptcy and they asked me to leave the prosecutor's job and come run the Detroit Medical Center.

CL: So if you're elected mayor, you're not going to leave for a better job?

MD: No. This is my last political job, that's for sure.

CL: Is that right?

MD: Oh, yes.

CL: You went to the DMC, it was a mess.

MD: I came in in 2004, they had lost $100 million a year for five years. I made money for seven years in a row. We could've kept limping along with substandard facilities, but I wanted Detroiters to have the kind of first class facility that suburbanites have. And the only way to do that was to bring in an investor. The fact that somebody was able to spend $850 million, was because it was turned around.

CL: Once again, before that sale came through, the feds came in and fined you and the hospital $30 million for fraud.

MD: Actually, it wasn't fraud. We went to the feds because they have a process on self-disclosure for all kinds of advisory opinions. We said, would you please come in and look at this, we think we're clean. The feds said it's going to take a year. But under our rules the maximum anybody can be fined is their ability to pay. Which at DMC, with all our uninsured care, was $30 million. The feds said if you want to skip the investigation, make no finding of wrongdoing. You can pay $30 million and close the deal.

CL: It is really starting to boom here in midtown, in downtown, it really is, over here (pointing to northern neighborhoods). Let's go look.

MD: Yeah. Not so good.

CL: Midtown, downtown is great. But do you think this South African model of development with the nice well-to-do white center and black poverty on the ring is a solution?

MD: It doesn't matter how many people have been to downtown and midtown. People are moving out of the neighborhoods at a faster rate. So the whole focus of my campaign is the neighborhoods. If we can get the housing stock saved. If we can get the grass cut in the vacant fields and bill the owners who walked away from it. We can take the 60,000 pieces of land the city of Detroit owns today, and instead of the city sitting on them, I'll sell them to the neighbor who lives next door. Put them back in people's hands so they can make a garden and put a swing set on the adjoining property. Right now, city government has made no effort, as far as I'm concerned, that makes any sense.

CL: Word association: Benny Napoleon.

MD: Nice guy.

CL: That's it. Nothing else to say?

MD: I like him.

CL: Would you vote for him for mayor?

MD: No. If I would have voted for him for mayor, I wouldn't be running.

CL: Why should we not vote for Benny Napoleon?

MD: I'm not arguing to not vote for anybody, but what I would say is this: we are at a point in this city's history where we need somebody that can deal with financial crisis, can deal with bankruptcy and turn something around. I'm the only candidate in this race who's ever turned around anything financial in their lives.

CL: If you get this job and you can turn it around, when you're lying on your death bed, what are you going to say? That was one damn good life?

MD: Yeah, I am. And maybe people will remember that I did some good.

Watch FOX 2 News at 10 p.m. on Tuesday as LeDuff sits down with mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon.

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