Mayor Dave Bing, Where’s the Leadership You Promised?

Posted by on Dec 19, 2011 in Opinion | No Comments

detroit m1 rail

By Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac IX

Mark the day on the calendar. The moment Mayor Bing went from a businessman self charged with fixing Detroit’s financial black hole to a politician pandering to myriad, openly hostile obstructionists was the afternoon of Dec. 1, 2011. Never mind the detail of a turnaround plan — there isn’t one — the Mayor was content to stand with union activists, ineffective politicians, and religious leaders that day and declare, “Detroit needs to be run by Detroiters.”

Really? For a guy who lived in a gated community in Franklin Village for years, the Mayor has a short memory. The only reason he moved to Detroit from Franklin was to meet a requirement that candidates seeking the Mayor’s office live in the city. The press was camping outside of the gate in Franklin, watching his comings and goings, as well.

When you get down to it, the Mayor has trouble with the truth meter. He vowed during the campaign he was a one-term Mayor who was going to finally clean up the colossal financial and operational mess that is the city of Detroit. A few weeks after being elected, he was telling small crowds he was misquoted. Indeed, if the citizens of Detroit so deemed, he would run again.

Next up on the truth meter: Bing said he would never take a salary. That changed last summer. He also said he wouldn’t live in the Manoogian Mansion. Whoops, that pledge fell by the wayside. Then he wanted to be the Emergency Manager. Smartly, Gov. Rick Snyder didn’t warm to the self-appointment, or was it self-anointment?

Then it was the bombshell on Dec. 21, 2011. Word leaked the Mayor, without consulting the business and philanthropy community, had hatched a plan with state and federal leaders for a regional bus system while scrapping a light-rail system for Woodward Avenue. Supporters of the rail line, who had pledged $100 million to the project and had worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition, went nuts. In rare form, Cindy Pasky, a prominent business leader and chair of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, issued a scathing letter rebuking the Mayor’s callous act of self-interest and all but declared war.

Come to think of it. She is a much better businessperson than Bing. Soon after the Mayor took office, his steel company went belly up. Despite generous minority benefits, the Mayor’s business had been crumbling for years. Having been witness to the corporate destruction, is it any wonder then that the Bing Administration is now an embarrassment?

Chris Brown, the city’s COO, has been largely ineffective. One of the departments he oversees, public lighting, is in shambles. He makes lots of charts and lots of excuses, but hasn’t found a way to turn on the lights. He blames it on past mistakes, ill advised investments, and ignorance. So where is the plan to fix the lights? Brown also oversees transportation. Again, a department in worse shape then when he started (he came out of supposed early retirement last January to take the job, at the ripe age of 49?).

Then there’s Kirk Lewis, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, who spends a lot of time talking about how the city will improve. But with the city expected to run out of cash by April, the words ring hollow. Another ineffective leader more worried about his next career move than the city’s future. The City Council — the Mayor and the nine little Mayors — are openly hostile. It goes on and on. And this is the team that’s going to turn things around? It’s pure fantasy. The sooner Snyder moves in with an Emergency Manager the better.

The Democrats and their union cronies have no one to blame but themselves for the city’s financial and operational failures. After all, they’ve been running things for more than 50 years.

So when Snyder, a Republican, finally threatened to appoint an Emergency Manager, the Democrats and the unions attacked the Governor. Again, where’s the Mayor’s plan? Michigan’s largely ineffective Democratic leaders in Washington even sent out a letter urging Snyder to reconsider appointing an Emergency Manager. Really?

What the city needs more than anything is for the Mayor and his staff, along with the Council, to pop their collective “Me First” bubble and deal with the cold hard facts of economic reality. But we doubt strongly that will happen.

Bring on the Emergency Manager, immediately.