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Detroit Mayor Duggan hits highs and lows in 2016 state of the city

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan gave his annual state of the city address Tuesday night, and it was a mixed bag.

Duggan ticked off some notable successes of his administration: more working streetlights, a much-improved bus system, and a record-setting demolition effort that took down about 5,000 blighted homes as of last year.

But there’s also an unexpected, $491 million shortfall in the city’s pension system.

Duggan laid the blame for that unpleasant surprise squarely on those who guided Detroit through bankruptcy — namely former emergency manager Kevyn Orr, and an army of consultants.

It’s not totally clear what happened, but Duggan says they may have used outdated mortality assumptions. “They assumed people were not going to live as long as they were to make the numbers look more favorable,” he said.

Duggan talked about possibly suing some of the consultants. But Detroit has until 2024 (when the debts come due) to fill the gap, and in the meantime Duggan says the best plan is to “grow the city.”

But that will be difficult if state lawmakers don’t find a fix for the Detroit Public Schools.

Without aid, the district will go broke within weeks — leaving state taxpayers on the hook for much of its debt.

Duggan said the state needs to pay off the debt it ran up under four emergency managers, but Lansing shouldn’t take from other school districts to do it.

Duggan urged lawmakers to find a “compromise,” and everyone else in the state “to think about the urgency of this. We need the Detroit school legislation to get done.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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