Friday, July 11, 2008

Businessman Dave Bing: I may run for mayor of Detroit

Perhaps happy days will return to Detroit with this man running for mayor. Detroit Free Press:

"I don't think most of us that live in Detroit or call Detroit home feel real good about it right now and that's so unfortunate because there are so many good things happening right now," said Bing, the 64-year-old founder and president of the Bing Group, an automotive supply company and a real estate developer whose latest project is a condo development on the city's waterfront. "All of this overshadows that. We've got to get back on track to turn this ship around, and I think it will be with new leadership."

If Bing decides to run, he will face several opponents who have circled the bloody water created by the mayoral scandal. And whoever the new mayor is would face myriad problems, including lost trust in the business community, lost tax revenue as the city's residents who can afford to move are moving, the failing schools and investigations into every main body of government -- the mayor's office, the council and the school district.

It is not a job for the faint of heart. Bing is far from that. Angered by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's persistence in staying in office while fighting perjury charges, Bing said the mayor is splitting the city between the haves and the have-nots.

"The unfortunate thing for those of us who are strong supporters of the city is that it becomes more and more difficult to circle the wagons and be protective," he said. "It's just a matter of time for those people, regardless of how much they love the city, to find options to move, and we could see an outpouring of whatever middle class we still have here, and that's a death knell because we've lost so much of our middle class. You can't just have all poor people and think the city's going to do well. And that's what happening right now. We've got to change that."

The mayor's office declined to comment.

From 1990 to 2000, the city saw a drop in the percentage of the population below the poverty level -- to 26.1% from 32.4%. But by 2006, the percentage of Detroit's population below the poverty level was back up to 32.5%, and as residents who can afford it relocate out of town, they are taking their tax dollars and Detroit's future with them. Soon, the city will not be able to survive on the tax revenue that is left.

Bing said that, if he runs, it would be for a single term because the next mayor needs to be a short-termer who can make unpopular choices, get the city back on track and then leave it to other Detroiters to continue.

"Do we have capable people in the city who can change things? I think so. But what we don't need to happen is to split the community more than it is split right now. It's not about black and white. It's not necessarily about city and suburb. It's about credible leaders right now and unfortunately, we've got a problem there."

And Bing places the blame for that squarely on the shoulders of Kilpatrick, who he said is literally trading the city's future for his own.

"I don't think we can prejudge the legality of what the mayor is going through," Bing said. "But whether he's guilty or innocent is not the issue to me right now. It's the harm that's being placed upon the citizens. And I don't think anybody can deflect that. I just think some kind of way, the political leadership, the business leadership, the educational leadership have all got to sit down at the table and figure out a model that works for everybody, and tough decisions have got to be made. We are not going to be the city that we were 10, 20 years ago."

As I would have imagined the "hip-hop" mayor figures. I talked to a guy who's into the political scene in Detroit. Mayor Kilpatrick was said to be playing politics. To me that means that nothing much is getting done although one does have to play to get something done, but you can't just play.

I wonder when the next election is. I'd like to take an interest in what's going on up there in Michigan. Via Newsalert.

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