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Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence

Representing the 14th District of Michigan

President lunches at Jolly Pumpkin while visiting Detroit

January 20, 2016
In The News

President Barack Obama arrived at Detroit Metropolitan Airport at about noon Wednesday to spend the afternoon touting the revival of Detroit and the automotive industry.

He waved to a small group waiting for him as he bounded down the steps of Air Force One. U.S. Reps. Brenda Lawrence and Debbie Dingell joined the president as he de-boarded Air Force One.

Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and U.S. Rep. John Conyers were among a small group that welcomed Obama and shook his hand on the tarmac. He talked briefly with the group before getting into the motorcade,.

The president arrived in the Midtown neighborhood just before 1 p.m. for lunch at the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery on Canfield Street. Others at the table include Mayor Mike Duggan; Tom Kartsotis, founder of Shinola; Dr. Tolulope Sonuyi, an emergency medicine physician engaged with Detroit youth through violence prevention and intervention programs that are part of My Brother’s Keeper; and Teana Dowdell, autoworker at General Motors Co.’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant.

He is scheduled to head to the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center, and later deliver remarks at the United Auto Workers-General Motors Center for Human Resources on the Detroit riverfront. He is also expected to tour a Detroit neighborhood and speak to residents.

While in Detroit, Obama will tout the federal government’s bailout of the automotive industry.

In late 2008, access to credit for auto loans dried up and sales plunged 40 percent. The industry shed over 400,000 jobs as both General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC were only weeks away from running out of cash and collapsing.

The Bush administration began the aid, extending loans to both automakers. Ford Motor Co. was able to save itself by mortgaging nearly every part of its business, including its iconic blue oval. The Obama Administration eventually offered $57 billion in additional taxpayer support, all of which has since been repaid.

According to press pool reports, White House Deputy Press Secretary told reporters on the flight to Detroit that because of the administration's efforts, “The American auto industry not only avoided a deeper collapse but bounced back and is stronger than ever.”

In 2015, the industry recorded record sales of 17.47 million new cars and trucks.

Obama will likely tout the federal government’s role in helping the city of Detroit, as well.

After Detroit filed for bankruptcy restructuring in July 2013, Obama created a federal coordinator and an interagency Detroit Working Group to help 20 federal agencies assist the community. The federal government has since invested $300 million in Detroit through grants and programs involving blight demolition, transportation and public lighting.

Among the federally supported projects tailored to Detroit’s needs has been $130 million in federal funds for blight removal, allowing the city to demolish more than 7,500 blighted buildings in fewer than two years. It was a Treasury Department redirection of unspent money from the 2009 Hardest Hit Fund mortgage aid program.

To begin illuminating Detroit’s dark streetlights (nearly half its inventory), the U.S. Department of Energy provided technical assistance to the Public Lighting Authority to install LED lights, with an estimated $3 million in annual cost savings for Detroit.

In addition, a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation allowed Detroit to purchase 80 new city buses so Detroit could run on a full bus schedule for the first time in decades.

Without the additional buses, the city could not have offered 24-hour bus service on some routes this week, including the No. 53 Woodward and No. 34 Gratiot, said Alexis Wiley, chief of staff to Duggan.

Federal advisers were instrumental to helping the city secure a Department of Labor grant for the city’s prisoner-reentry program and $8.9 million to invest in green infrastructure projects from the Department of Housing and Urban Development after the August 2014 floods.

Wiley said White House and agency staffers are in Detroit at least three days a week or constantly on conference calls with city employees.