In 2009, the City of Detroit will have no less than four elections to determine who will be its mayor for (presumably) the next four years. The resignation of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in 2008 after pleading guilty to perjury and obstruction charges meant that Detroit City Council President Ken Cockrel, Jr. became mayor by default. A clause in the city charter states that any abrupt removal/resignation by a sitting mayor means that a special election must be held within 6 months to determine who will be mayor for the remainder of the term. The primary on February 24 leads to a face-off on May 5 to determine the sitting mayor for the rest of 2009. This being the last year of the current term, another primary was already bound to take place in August, with the final two candidates being placed on a November ballot for a four-year term. Based on the results from the February primary, Cockrel and former Detroit Piston & current steel-magnate Dave Bing will be the candidates to choose from in May. Incidentally, voter turnout was barely 15% of the roughly 650,000 registered voters in the city.
In the interest of full disclosure, this writer voted for Cockrel in the primary-- not that I necessarily think of him as "the ultimate", but for better or worse, I'd rather see him get the chance to "do something" for this remainder of the current term that he took over from Kilpatrick. Based on his state of the city speech, I do like the idea of merging DDOT and SMART bus systems, also the pro-greening/environmental initiatives, but he would have to be a lot more aggressive in this regard, and on other issues. I guess we'll see what happens in May-- of course, then, it's happening all over again in August, with the 'final' election in November.
Just for the sake of getting someone 'completely new' in office, I'm prone to lean toward Bing, but he-- and the other candidates (before the August primary) have to step up in a major way with some clear-cut vision for radical change in the city. Regarding the Cobo Hall controversy (http://www.freep.com/article/20090225/NEWS01/902250310/0/BUSINESS06), I felt it was a bad move for the council members who voted to squash it. Unfortunately, it is reflective of the subculture of territorialism and non-cooperation that has held back the city—and to a great degree, the region— economically, for decades. Regionalism—sharing public resources, sharing public services, is the key to the city & the region's future, not grandstanding.
I am incensed at the city leaders who insist that the state of the city is not as bad as it seems. Downtown redevelopment deals don’t trickle down to the neighborhoods. So there’s a new, expensive hotel that reopened. Hey, that’s nice. Meanwhile, I’m thinking no one who lost their house recently or was evicted from their apartment will get to stay there. Heck, I can't stay there, and I'm working. So Council President Monica Conyers said this vote was in the interest "of Detroiters". Okay. How many people in the city realistically go to Cobo Hall every day if they don’t work there? Or even every week? Every month? To imply that there is some super-windfall of money just waiting to come if Detroit holds onto exclusive control of Cobo is ludicrous. Already the interested parties of the North American Auto Show are talking about Chicago and other cities. Even the premise that Detroiters won't get "preferential" jobs at the facility is flawed. Even if, say, the janitorial contract were awarded to some group headquartered in Roseville, how much you want to bet that at least 50% or more of the people cleaning the bathrooms and buffing the floors will still be black & hispanic? Already, Detroiters are having to find jobs via suburban-based firms. The deal as structured was already giving Detroit board membership & full voting/veto rights; unanimous decisions would be needed to enact internal proposals. I'm not in Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's fan club, but if even he finally got on board with this.. well, anyway...
Detroit is in too desperate a state to continue to rely on the specter of ‘T.H.E.Y., Inc.’ (Terrible Humans Envying You) as the excuse for not enacting substantive changes in governing the city of Detroit. “THEY” want to seize Cobo; “THEY” want to take over the city water department (that recently raised rates on urban residents, hello); “THEY” want to take over downtown; “THEY” want to take over the Detroit Public Schools. But it doesn’t matter if “THEY” allegedly want take over an institution, when said institutions fell into horrendous disrepair and mismanagement under the control of “US” (Unadulterated Stupidity, or Unchecked Simpletons). Anonymous suburban business/political interests are nothing compared to the publicly-known business/political interests in Detroit that are directly making decisions daily that don’t contribute to the improvement of the quality of life in the city. Despite the pockets of redevelopment and moderately successful community initiatives that deserve to be uplifted, the city is still 'dying'. Children are not being educated. Adults who run the system are more concerned with personal perks than passing grades. You can't tell me that a 30% high school graduation rate is okay. You can't tell me that 48% adult illiteracy in the city is okay, or that it doesn't play a role when people try to look for work or maintain a job. You can't! There is no honor in being king, queen or provincial lord of a ghost town. There are no practical benefits in holding onto a proven drain on city resources, but insisting “well at least we control it, and not them!” Guess what? For the folks who want to hold onto 'Chocolate City' idealism, Black people are leaving, too! Local politicians depending on reflexive, divisive rhetoric to get people behind you just isn’t cutting it anymore. Despite what some folks are too willfully ignorant to acknowledge, there are other people besides hardworking black folks who live—and work—in the city, who are of good will, who want to see the city thrive again, and have no problem with fair cooperation. The current structure of city council needs to be totally dissolved. Ideally, the entire city charter should be rewritten (by an independent commission), but just for now I’d settle for a charter revision that requires the city council to have an aldermanic system, separating the city into distinct precincts (perhaps sharing precinct designations with police) and having one individual representing that area who must also live there! remove the power of city council to stonewall on projects like Cobo. Yeah, it's going to be a wild ride until May and beyond. Strap yourselves in... ;)