Mayor Mike Duggan
Mayor Mike Duggan speaks to reporters at a Jan. 5, 2023, press conference at a Detroit At Work training center on the city’s east side. (BridgeDetroit photo by Malachi Barrett)

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Democrats in control of the Michigan Legislature for the first time in a generation should prioritize affordable housing and water programs before taking on “controversial issues” like requiring police to live in the communities they serve. 

Duggan told reporters Thursday that he’s “always been in favor” of repealing a 1999 law that prohibited cities from imposing residency requirements for public employees. The decision is attributed to an exodus of city employees from Detroit into the suburbs, and some argue it makes police officers less able to relate to the communities they are tasked with protecting. Duggan, a Democrat, cautioned however that the idea would face significant opposition from labor unions and create blowback for Democrats in Lansing that could weaken their ability to govern. 

“If we go in on the hot controversial issues first, you’re going to derail Democratic leadership,” Duggan said.


Labor unions were major supporters of the Democratic candidates who dominated 2022 elections, winning all statewide offices and flipping the Michigan House and Senate. Union leaders expect the new leaders to prioritize repealing Michigan’s Right-to-Work law, which prohibits labor contracts from requiring workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of their employment. Republicans and business groups argue a repeal of the 2012 law is divisive, and urge Democrats to focus on bipartisan issues. 

Jonathan Kinloch, a Democratic Party official and Wayne County commissioner, said the Right-to-Work law and restricting residency requirements both “struck at the heart of the labor movement.” Kinloch said Republicans controlled both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office when those decisions on behalf of Detroit, historically the seat of union power in Michigan, “gutted the people’s sense of self-governance.” 

Kinloch argued that the prohibition of residency requirements was a result of “racial politics” meant to hurt Detroit’s tax base. Kinloch agreed that allowing cities to require public employees to live within their jurisdiction would likely face opposition, but said it’s a battle worth fighting. 

“Sometimes the opposition be damned because you stand on principle,” Kinloch said. “That would (address) years of injustice and harm that has been caused to citizens of the City of Detroit.” 

State Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit, told BridgeDetroit that he wants to revisit the issue. Carter was among a handful of Detroit representatives who in 2021 co-sponsored a bill to repeal the 1999 law, but it never received a vote in the last legislative session.

Carter argues the 1999 law incentivized city employees to leave Detroit, costing the city property and income tax revenue. He also suggested that it led to the decline of Catholic schools in Detroit, which once were a preferred option for city employees. 

“I know we’ll never put that genie back in the bottle, but the impacts of residency and that loss of tax revenue impacted services and deliverables for the City of Detroit,” Carter said in a December interview. “Those things have been done legislatively to impact the City of Detroit.”

Duggan said he supports the right for Detroit to impose residency requirements for police and fire department employees through a negotiated collective bargaining agreement, which is not an option under the existing law

“Whether the Legislature is going to repeal it or not, I would support it,” Duggan said. “We’d have to go to the bargaining table. We can’t just impose something. But that’s something we’d be interested in, certainly for police and fire in particular.”

Duggan said his top focus is on pushing the state to create an $100 million affordable housing fund, followed by a long-term funding source for the city’s new water affordability plan. Detroit’s Lifeline Plan, which began in August 2022, set a fixed monthly rate of $18 to $56 based on household income and usage. The funding will run out in February 2024.  

“We need long-term water affordability funding,” Duggan said. “Congress provides affordable funding for heat and electricity but does not provide it for water. Our congressional delegation has failed at getting federal money for water. I’d like to see the state of Michigan create a water affordability fund.” 

Incoming House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit, has said funding for road and water infrastructure, environmental protection and contamination cleanup and boosting job creation are at the top of his priority list.

Duggan noted that water and housing affordability are statewide issues that could be taken up by the new Legislature “right out of the gate.” The mayor said he’d also like to see a law enforcement revenue sharing fund to support police and fire departments across the state. 

“These, to me, are things that would matter to our residents and are passable, and so I’m going to be encouraging the legislators to adopt, as the first thing out of the box, a Democratic agenda that improves quality of life,” Duggan said. “There are a number of other issues that are going to lead to a major partisan fight, and those need to be taken up, but my hope is we get some really important things done first, before they move on to the bigger fights.”

Join the Conversation


  1. I do not believe this Mayor and his administation until we can actually see the $100 million toward low-income quality homes which Detroiters can afford,and affordable water not on the taxes. We want this Democratic Legislature to take care of business to benefits the Detroit residents/voters.

  2. duggan got it right this time. Fix the quality of life issues and dont start a big war that will burn energy without value added. No one would have left detroit if it was not a hot mess to begin with. The landbank continues to be the blight that is in total controll by the city. there is no reason for the land bank to continue. make up with the pulte group and get our city cleaned up. the residents have been abused viciously and deserve relief.

  3. Mike Duggan has never championed affordable housing or affordable water. He ignored, exacerbated and continues the illegal property overtaxing costing homeowners $600M and thousands of illegal foreclosures. And his cruel and insensitive water shut offs of thousands of residents caused a hepatitis “A” Epidemic which proceeded and exacerbated the current COVID 19 Pandemic despite the pleas, protests and evidence of the life threatening and life ending consequences. In all reality the Hepatitis “A” Epidemic (Henry Ford Hospital study) Mike Duggan caused and endangered not only residents he endangered people who worked and visited Detroit as a result. The “mayor” is a DINO (Democrat In Name Only).

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