Commentary
12:40 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

Tale of Two Races

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing couldn't have enjoyed reading his city's newspapers when he woke up on Mackinac Island yesterday morning. The Detroit Free Press splashed a story across its front page saying the business community wanted longtime Wayne County political fixer Mike Duggan as the city's next mayor.

The Detroit News's editorial page editor said the business community had decided that it is time for the mayor to go, and then called on the mayor to, quote "use the excuse of advancing age and poor health" to not run again next year.

Yesterday morning the mayor came out to face the press, and naturally, was asked about his own future. Standing on the Grand Hotel's magnificent porch, all the mayor would tell us reporters was that he had eighteen months left in his current term (it's actually nineteen), and he felt the need to "get as many things done as I possibly can." Now, I don't have an opinion on whether the mayor ought to run. He previously has said he was going to.

Frankly, if you know anything about how government works, the worst thing Bing could do would be to announce early that he isn't running. The moment he does that, he becomes a lame duck, and immediately loses much of his power and influence.

But beyond that, I am astonished at the business community's chutzpah in attempting to say who ought to be Detroit's mayor. Do they think our memories are that short?

Seven years ago, the business community was highly decisive in a Detroit mayoral race. Freman Hendrix was one of the final two candidates. He was a decent man with a finance background who had served as deputy mayor in the Archer administration.

Hendrix had grown up in a working class neighborhood. He had joined the Navy, and had put himself through college. I thought he had the potential to be a good mayor who had the ability to relate to average citizens. But the business community wanted the incumbent: Kwame Kilpatrick.

Now, the extent of Kilpatrick's criminal behavior was not yet known. But it was clear that he was a flamboyant womanizer living large at city expense, and there were all sorts of questions about his business dealings.

But top business leaders like Cindy Pasky and Peter Karamanos felt he was their man, and would look after their interests. Instead, Kwame cost his city millions, and did more to hurt Detroit and its image than any mayor in the city's history.

Dave Bing may not be the most dynamic mayor in history, but nobody questions his integrity. Frankly, given the current condition of the city, I don't see how Franklin D. Roosevelt and the world's best economist could turn it around.

For twenty years, Bing was begged to run by some of the same people who would dump him today. Now, they are dismayed, evidently because he has failed in the last three years to reverse and avoid the effects of half a century of corruption and decline.

I think Detroit would be better served if its business leaders saved their expert advice for the astonishingly slumping Detroit Tigers. And to Mike Duggan, I would say simply, be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.