Michigan mayors get time in spotlight at Dem convention

Posted at 5:14 PM, Jul 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-27 20:22:13-04

PHILADELPHIA — Ahead of speeches from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, two mayors from Michigan will got moments in the national spotlight Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver spoke Wednesday evening, representing two cities that—for better or worse—have earned national and even international reputations, each for their own unique and sometimes troubling reasons.

Duggan used his time at the podium to highlight Detroit's resilience and a city still coming back from the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation's history.

"I’m 58 years old and the population of Detroit has declined every single year I’ve been alive," Duggan said. "But that’s changing now as our city’s recovery is fueled by a renewed spirit of unity and a commitment to creating a comeback that includes all Detroiters.

Duggan, didn't shy away from jabbing at Republican nominee Donald Trump while talking about the city's bankruptcy.

"Detroit is 18 months out of bankruptcy, something Donald Trump knows a little bit about," he said. "But unlike Donald Trump, Detroit is only going to go through bankruptcy once, thanks to a great partnership with President Obama, Vice President Biden and the administration’s extraordinary economic record of creating 14 million new jobs, jobs that are returning to Detroit.”

In giving his endorsement of the Democratic nominee, Duggan said he believed Clinton is the best person to help create well-paying jobs and promote infrastructure involvement in cities across the country.

"Michigan Republican’s led the charge to create the 'Grand Bargain' to help Detroit reach a bankruptcy settlement," the state's Republican Party said in a statement following the speech. "These actions helped right our fiscal path and put the city on the road to a better future."

Earlier in the evening, the focus for Weaver's speech on Flint remained on continued efforts to provide relief to the city's residents, who still largely rely on bottled and filtered water for cooking and bathing.

"It's not the attention we'd like," Congressman Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, whose hometown is Flint, told FOX 17 this week.

But it's the attention they need, he said, after state regulators failed to oversee the use of necessary corrosion control chemicals when it tapped into water from the Flint River in 2014. The decision caused large amounts of lead to leech into the city's water pipes and out of faucets for more than a year unbeknownst to residents drinking and bathing in it.

"What I think we’ll hear from Mayor Weaver is her repeated calls that the state make it right," Kildee said, adding that pressure still needs to be placed on the federal government to offer financial support too.

"The Republicans in Congress have so far blocked support for my hometown and we hope Mayor Weaver’s message will be a strong one to help get the help needed.”

It's a sentiment that was echoed by Weaver.

“The help we need from our federal government to start rebuilding our drinking water infrastructure still sits blocked in the Republican controlled U.S. Congress," Weaver told the crowd. "I am a voice for Flint and we need your help."

Weaver said Clinton made a commitment that as President she would work toward a lead-free America, and "that’s why I’m with her,” she said with a smile.

For her part, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has made numerous trips to the beleaguered city since the water crisis became public. Clinton, following similar statements from rival Bernie Sanders, called on Gov. Rick Snyder to resign amid the crisis during a national presidential Democratic presidential debate broadcast from Flint in March.

Clinton visited the city in February and spoke to parishioners at the House Of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church.

Kildee said he believes the crisis will remain a priority for Clinton through the general election and into her presidency, if elected.

“She’s been very involved, even outside of the limelight," said Kildee, who claimed to have met with Clinton just weeks prior to "strategize... without fanfare or news coverage."

“Because she really cares; for those of us from Flint, we know if and when she becomes President of the United States, Flint will be on her radar."

And it's not just Flint; Kildee says he's hopeful the speech will elevate similar issues plaguing under-served communities across the country in need of infrastructure and education investments.

"It’s every place in this country that sometimes feels like its interests have been left behind," he said. "It’s about taking the message and the story of Flint and helping people understand it’s bigger than that. It’s not just about one city, it’s about the fact we’ve not invested in our own future.”

Former Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm is expected to speak Thursday night during the convention, capping off Michigan's large presence at the convention.

“It shows the important role that Michigan is going to play, not only in determining who the next president is, but talking about issues that matter to everyday people," said Brandon Dillon, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.

“Michigan is a state that a Democratic presidential candidate has to win to become president. It’s why Hillary Clinton has already put staff on the ground."

It's similar to sentiments heard last week during the GOP convention in Cleveland, where many local leaders expressed confidence that Michigan will swing Republican in November for the first time since 1988.

“Michigan is going to be a battle ground state, we have heard that from Donald Trump," Michigan Republican Party chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel told FOX 17 last week. "The Midwest is going to be in play.”

Clinton's vice presidential pick, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, will also speak Wednesday night.