Wednesday, June 19, 2013

This Mike Isn't On

Well, lookie here---we have ourselves another "only in Detroit" moment.

Specifically, only in Detroit, when it comes to politics and city administration.

Mike Duggan won't be the next mayor of Detroit. If this was football, you'd say that he got waylaid by an end around. If it was basketball, you'd say that he got backdoored. If it was hockey, you'd say that he got caught with his head down. If this was baseball, you'd say that he got picked off third base while staring into the stands.

OK, enough with the sports analogies. But not enough with the mess that yanked Duggan from the August 6 mayoral primary ballot, for it has only just begun, and it hasn't even yet had an effect on the citizenry.

Duggan won't be mayor because he won't be on the ballot. He can't even be a write-in candidate.

Duggan, bidding to become the first white mayor of Detroit since Roman Gribbs was replaced by Coleman Young in 1973, has been bumped out of contention due to a technicality and his own malfeasance.

The bottom line is this: Duggan moved into Detroit officially on April 16, 2012. He filed for the mayoral race on April 2, 2013---some 14 days before a full year of his residency had gone by. He had until May 14, 2013 to file. So technically, Duggan was ineligible to be mayor because according to the dates, he filed while having lived in Detroit for 351 days, not 365. All candidates have to be full-time residents of the city for at least one full year before filing for the primary ballot.

Duggan unsuccessfully argued that his candidacy's official start date should be May 14, 2013 (the day of the filing deadline)---not April 2, 2013, when he turned in his signatures and formally filed.

Duggan screwed up. No question. The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld an earlier decision that knocked Duggan off the ballot, because courts have to go by the letter of the law. Words like "spirit" and "common sense" too often don't have a place in a courtroom.

Outraged folks are calling the residency rule "dumb." They are wrong. Rules aren't dumb---just the people who don't abide by them are dumb.


Mike Duggan


The rule is a good one. Why shouldn't a mayoral candidate have lived in the city for at least one year? That seems reasonable.

Duggan knew the rule, we presume. If he didn't, shame on him for not knowing. And if he did know it, then why did he file on April 2, when he only had to wait 14 days to do so, and still not be in any danger of missing the May 14 deadline?

Now, having said that...

It would be delightful if the courts were allowed to say, "You know what? We acknowledge that Mr. Duggan should have waited until at least April 16, 2013 to file for the mayoral race, but we'll let this one slide because there really is no harm, no foul here."

But courts can't really do that, nor should they. That precedence is far more dangerous than anything done in the Duggan situation.

Can you imagine if courts were allowed to bend the rules and interpret them at anything less than face value? No matter the intention, that would be a very slippery slope. If you don't like a rule, petition to have it changed. But in the meanwhile, just abide by it.

Mike Duggan didn't, and now here we are---a city devoid of one candidate who might have done its people some good as mayor.

Duggan was a frontrunner, according to polls. He was running neck-and-neck with Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, by all accounts.

I had a $20 side wager with my mother that Duggan would indeed become the city's first white mayor since Gribbs gave way to Young on January 1, 1974.

I also told her that the bet was off if Duggan was declared ineligible.

I was thinking ahead, you see.

Too bad Mike Duggan didn't do the same.

His is a dissolved candidacy, and it's too bad. He might have done some things. He might have been the city's saving grace.

Thanks to a silly mistake, we'll never find out.

Only in Detroit. Or at least it seems that way.

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