Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has worked hard to develop a strong working relationship with the Obama Administration and has pressed hard for support, so much so that he got used to hearing that there are no additional dollars available. He told media gathered at a news conference at the New Amsterdam Lofts in Detroit’s New Center this morning that feedback from the White House always came down to how was the city using the money that had already been allocated?
So he changed his game plan. When he started asking for technical assistance instead of money, the tone changed. Today his efforts resulted in an announcement from HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan that the city is one of six in the country to be a part of the new Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative.
“Through a national resource network, Detroit will have a one stop shop for technical assistance at its disposal. While I believe this effort represents the most significant change in the way the federal government approaches our cities in generations, it won’t solve all of Detroit’s problems,” said Donovan. “But with the right kind of federal partner, I believe that Detroit can capitalize on the assets they have to begin transforming itself into a dynamic, diverse economy of the 21st century.”
Donovan noted that the administration feels there are four pillars to strong communities, supporting a city’s workforce, strengthening neighborhoods through infrastructure investment, better alignment between the federal government and local ‘rules of the road’ and the ability to support local leadership with institutional capacity building. The goals for Strong Cities, Strong Communities are to:
- Help local governments cut through federal red tape
- Encourage local communities to find local solutions to their problems instead of the federal government giving the direction, then helping reallocate existing funds
- Partner with key local stakeholders, including private business and private donors
“We chose Detroit as a pilot city because it’s clear that stakeholders have developed a comprehensive economic development vision and that the city has the political leadership needed to move that plan forward,” noted Donovan.
Through this initiative, a community solutions team of high level federal officials from various agencies will be placed in the city for up to two years. Once in place, the team will be helping identify barriers to growth and help reallocate federal dollars toward helping the city.
As State Representative Lisa Howze pointed out, the city has a long history of not fully utilizing available federal funds.
“Too often we’ve left a lot of dollars on the table and have been made to send them back to Washington. That’s probably the most exciting thing to me, that we will see the dollars fully utilized,” she said.
For Mayor Bing, this type of support is going to benefit Detroit greatly. And as the Mayor closed his remarks, he pointed out that, “they believe in us. We’ve got to start believing in ourselves.”