Does Detroit Need A White Mayor?

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Detroit was once a jewel of the industrial era with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler making the Midwestern city a world force to be reckoned with.

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Now, in many respects, it is just a wreck.

And many are wondering if there needs to be a cultural change at the very top of its political power structure to turn things around.

Simply put: Does Detroit need a White mayor?

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Detroit News opinion writer Nolan Finley posed this question to his readers this weekend in his weekly column. As a native Detroit who grew up in the city up until age 18, I have heard friends and family  grumble about what they feel has been the disappointing performance of its Black politicians. Especially ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the past few City Councils. The most complimentary remarks many locals have of the current mayor, Dave Bing, is “at least he’s not Kwame.”

But as the city continues its rapid downward spiral with under Black leadership, some wonder if a White mayor can get the Motor City revved up again. The White man some feel can win the mayor’s office is Mike Duggan, CEO of Detroit Medical Center.

Here is a snippet of Finley’s column based on a few interviews he conducted with some of Detroit’s most influential personalities:

“The right white mayor can win in Detroit,” says radio host Mildred Gaddis, who stopped short of saying Duggan is that candidate. “I think he is masterful, he has a reputation as a go-to guy, and he’s skillful at locking down community support. He’s made a lot of friends in Detroit.”

At the barber shop Friday, I ran into state Rep. Phillip Cavanagh, whose father, the late Jerome Cavanagh, was Detroit’s next-to-last white mayor. He likes Duggan’s chances, saying his presence in the race will discourage many other would-be mayoral hopefuls.

“He’s a force to be reckoned with,” says Cavanagh, whose Redford Township district was redrawn deeply into Detroit. “He’s got the reputation of being a turnaround expert, and that’s what Detroiters are looking for. And he certainly knows how to put together a political organization.”

That’s for sure. Duggan was the underboss of the Ed McNamara political machine in Wayne County, and orchestrated his own election as county prosecutor. The outfit produced former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Attorney General Mike Cox. But it also gave us Kwame Kilpatrick and Azzam Elder.

When Duggan left politics to head the DMC, he took the guts of the machine with him. So it’s intact and available to help move him into City Hall.

What do you think? Would Detroiters be open to a White mayor? The metro Detroit area is one of the most racially divided communities in the country and a White candidate would have to possess an Obama-like persona to win over Black voters who have been lambasted by racially divisive politics of its past leaders.

Detroit has not had a White mayor since 1973, when Coleman A. Young was voted into the Manoogian Mansion. If Mike Duggan proves to be a truly serious contender, would Detroiters give him their vote?

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