Week 7: Detroit Policy Conference Reflections – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 7: Detroit Policy Conference Reflections

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend the Detroit Policy Conference, held at The Aretha right on the river. There were big-name guest speakers, like Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilcrest, Head Coach of the Detroit Pistons Dwane Casey, as well as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. The keynote speaker of the conference set the tone by reinforcing that we would be discussing how to create policy that benefits the people, emphasizing that we need to “invest in Detroiters.”

In my honest opinion, that is not what was discussed. In actuality, the event was a corporate safehaven which failed to challenge the systemic racism and economic inequality throughout the city. Some speakers talked about investing into black-owned micro businesses, but the black-owned businesses that sell at the farmers market each week are not likely to ever see a penny of investment. Mayor Duggan talked about welcoming tech giants like Amazon into the city to recruit talent, but turned his focus away from the fact that thousands of Detroiters have water-damaged basements that need immediate attention. Although I enjoyed getting the chance to hear from all of these speakers, I was very disappointed in the outcomes.

To go further into Mayor Duggan’s interview (he was interviewed on stage by a local reporter, rather than giving a presentation), I was shocked by his unawareness; the best term I can think of to describe him was ‘social justice warrior.’ Here are some highlights from his speech;

  1. When asked about why he [a white person] is a good mayoral candidate for a mostly-black city, he responded “I don’t see color…”
  2. In reference to the BLM protests last year, he was “proud to say that the Detroit activists sided with the police and there was no looting or burning.”
    1. I know of many activists groups in Detroit who are abolitionists, so I really doubted this statement
  3. While discussing police violence, he said that “It will be a sad day when a police officer in Detroit kills a citizen,” and proceeded with this as though it is inevitable and there is nothing we can do about it except to hold the police accountable after the fact.
    1. This is super disturbing. To know that your police department is likely to kill a citizen and to say that there is nothing to be done about it.
  4. When asked if he thinks that we should protect Detroit talent/workers from being poached by tech companies like Google, he said we should welcome it and allow them to work from home…
    1. This response was just confusing, and the interviewer was caught quite off guard.

That’s all I can remember for now, but there were definitely more bad answers from Mayor Duggan.

2 thoughts on “Week 7: Detroit Policy Conference Reflections”

  1. Oh wow… I can honestly say I am a bit speechless after reading this! While it may have been a great opportunity to hear from these speakers, the lack of awareness is quite unsettling. It is unfortunate that time and time again, these events never focus on the real issues at hand, they never care about the people that are being hurt by what is going on, but instead care about the corporations. Thank you for sharing this experience with us!

  2. Tottionna Bushell

    I think it’s really cool that you went to the Detroit Policy Conference. I am surprised at some of the candidates responses to the questions. It just puts into perspective the kinds of individuals we want making the decisions. Great post!

Comments are closed.

lsa logoum logo