Lengel: With no Detroit mayoral debate, everybody loses

September 16, 2021, 9:30 PM by  Allan Lengel

Mayor Mike Duggan’s decision to forgo any debate for the mayoral election may be a no-brainer. Debate or no debate, he’s assured of pummeling opponent Anthony Adams on Election Day. Why bother doing the prep, securing the venue and picking out a tie?

Mayoral candidate Anthony Adams (File photo)

But it’s Detroit voters who are losers.

Campaigns are meant to address issues that matter to us. It’s not happening this time around.

Duggan’s opponent four years ago, Coleman A. Young II, had little chance of winning. Yet he went on the attack and raised questions that needed to be asked. Duggan wasn’t pleased, but was forced to speak to them, one regarding the development of neighborhoods outside the then-thriving downtown.

Thanks to Young, and the debate that followed, it was an issue that resonated far beyond November 2017. It was a win for all.

This time, we’re hearing crickets from both sides.

Duggan tells WDET he wants to avoid the debate because “Adams’ campaign has been 100 percent hate and divisiveness, and I’m not going to give a platform to that kind of hate.”

Adams tells Deadline Detroit’s Violet Ikonomova he’s not buying that:

"I'm talking about things impacting Detroiters but he views that as hate speech because he’s thin-skinned and he’s a coward."

Ikonomova notes that Adams wants to talk about things he "hates" about Duggan's Detroit, including the overtaxation of homeowners and the loss of tens of thousands of Black residents.

Beyond that, there’s plenty more we need to hear about. Crime is stubbornly high. There are far too many shootings, too much violence, too much craziness on our freeways.

Debate? Why bother? (File photo)

Our infrastructure to accommodate the savage rains of summer is woefully inadequate. Basements are flooding, residents fed up. Businesses still struggle with the pandemic. Covid is on the rise. And too many neighborhoods are still swimming in blight.

Where are the campaign promises? Where are the assurances that these problems will be addressed? That’s what campaigns are about.

We, the voters, are getting shortchanged. A debate isn’t the end-all answer. But it’s certainly a good forum to discuss what ails a city with much poverty, but equally, much promise.

With less than two months to go before the election, Duggan really doesn’t have to break a sweat. It’s up to Adams to make a race of it, find a way to make Duggan squirm a little, to make him defend his work so far and convince voters why he’s worthy of a third term.

So far, this race has been a snoozer.

The media can play a role in spicing it up.

Some news outlet, or consortium of them, needs to set a debate time and invite both candidates. If only Adams shows up, fine. Give him the hour to answer questions about how he would handle Detroit’s problems. Let him make a case why we’re better off if he dethrones Duggan.

Duggan shouldn’t, by virtue of being heavily favored,  be allowed to suppress the spirit of this election.

Yes, Duggan will win. I’ll bet a few pizzas on that from some of my favorite Detroit pizza joints --  Supino, Buddy’s or Mootz.

But voters will be cheated out of hearing about the issues. And that makes us all losers regardless of who wins.

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