Friday, October 23, 2015

Charlie LeDuff and Mayor Duggan duke it out on Let It Rip

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 1:14 PM

Last night journalist — and official thorn in Mayor Duggan's side — Charlie LeDuff joined the mayor on Fox's Let It Rip. The goal of the evening? Figure out what's up with the rising price in demolitions in the city. 

For a bit of a recap: earlier this month LeDuff hosted a WJBK-TV report on the city's blight removal efforts — and its overseer the Detroit Land Bank. In the segment LeDuff came down hard on the DLB and mayor, saying that the numbers associated the demolition just "don't add up." 

Following the segment Detroit City Council called for an audit of the DLB, and in response Duggan met with the council to try to quell suspicions. In addition to saying LeDuff's report was erroneous and that he felt confident in the job being done by DLB, Duggan tried to explain the rising costs of demolitions in the city. 

According to Duggan at the DCC meeting, demolition costs have risen from $14,000 to $16,000 since 2014 largely because of new environmental standards. 

Ok, so that brings us to last night's episode of Let It Rip. LeDuff and Duggan sat side by side as Duggan was grilled about the rising costs of demolitions.  Cutting right to the chase host Huel Perkins asked Duggan why  the cost of tearing down a house has risen by 60 to 100 percent — alluding to the fact that under Mayor Bing it cost only $10,000 to demolish a house, versus under Duggan the price has gone as high as $20,000 in some cases. 

Duggan's answer was sort of longwinded — I started transcribing but there were a lot of tangents, so I recommend just watching the whole thing here. For the purpose of the piece, however, here were the main points from Duggan: 

He started by saying the price had gone up because "we are knocking down a lot more houses," saying that prior to his administration Detroit was only knocking down about 25 houses a week, and now that number has jumped to about 100 houses a week.

For viewers at home, at this point you may have been scratching your head asking yourself, 'But wait why does more houses being torn down mean a rise in price?' Scratch away, folks. The same question was raised by anchor and attorney Charlie Langton, who tried using a "buying in bulk" metaphor, pointing out that buying a six-pack is cheaper than buying one single beer. 

To this Duggan honed in on two things. First he brought up new environmental standards, saying that when Detroit was tearing down only 25 houses a week it wasn't removing asbestos from buildings, however, now that there are so many buildings coming down  the state is mandating they take extra precautions. According to Duggan it costs $3,000 to remove asbestos from a building before it can come down — according to data aggregated from Home Advisor the national average cost for asbestos removal is $1,112 to $2,556, but we'll let that go. The second point raised by Duggan is that with so many houses coming down there is not enough dirt to fill the demolition site, and so a lot of the cost increase centers around trucks having to drive 30 to 40 miles to get dirt — unfortunately, I cannot provide you with a national average for dirt fill costs at this time. 

In the between questions for Duggan it was brought up that Pontiac is able to do demolitions for only $11,000 to which Duggan brought up the extra environmental and fill burdens he associates with so many houses coming down in Detroit. And while yes, Pontiac has demolished far less homes in a year — in 2014 it tore down 305 homes — it's dealing with far less blight (they originally identified less than 1,000 blighted homes that need to come down). As an aside — business man Bill Pulte, who is in charge of the successful (and cheaper) blight removal in Pontiac, had previously been in charge of blight removal in Detroit under Mayor Bing. In a February 2015 interview with WXYZ, Pulte told the station that Mayor Duggan pushed him out because he wanted to take credit for the blight removal, indicating that it was all about ego and control. 

So what was Pulte's track record under Mayor Bing? Well, that brings us to another confusing aspect of the math brought up yesterday — and raised in the original LeDuff piece: under Mayor Bing 3,000 homes were demolished between 2010-2011. On the show, Duggan kept touting that last year the city demolished 3,500 homes. That's only a 500 home difference? Yes, that's only a 500 home difference.

The segment is interesting — if anything for the uncomfortable tension between Duggan and LeDuff. 

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