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A Few Thoughts On The Mayor's Q&A

Spent the weekend out of town so I nearly missed Sunday's interview with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing in the Detroit Free Press. It was worth catching up on and even encouraging in some places (although I think the man has enough on his plate without also taking on control of the schools).

My favorite part was this nugget about right-sizing Detroit:

Absolutely, we have to downsize. The land banking authority will enable us to get the data we need to make the decisions. There are areas in the city that are totally depopulated. For those people who are there, it's going to be a job trying to persuade them to move. But that has to happen. We can't afford to continue to give them the services they need.

I think the mayor is thinking right on this one, of course, and on his support for urban farming. Detroit has to handle its land issues more responsibly and with a clearer vision toward the future. I also agree that, when it comes to moving some people, it's going to be "a job." From Black Bottom to Corktown, municipal land management plans have often conflicted with ideas about homeowners rights in Detroit, and it will be interesting to see how the city handles relocating even those in some of the most desolate neighborhoods.

I guess it's good too that the mayor is announcing right off that the city is ready to "persuade" folks to relocate. I hope there'll be something like real incentives, "carrots," for residents to leave their homes, especially since "sticks" like eminent domain can turn things ugly. Of course, I'm sure he's also hoping that telling you straight out that the city doesn't really have the wherewithal to serve the three houses on your block where 25 others once stood might be incentive enough.

I guess the only part that I didn't think was that great was the last portion, where I thought he tip-toed around Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's shots at the city:

He, in the past, has been flippant and said some things that Detroiters thought were negative and derogatory to our city. I know him differently, and I have the ability to go to him, one-on-one, and have a conversation.

Mmm...No. It's not that Detroiters "thought" some things he said were negative and derogatory. It's that some things L. Brooks Patterson said were negative and derogatory (and, yes, flippant). You certainly don't have to hate the man for it, but cracks about owning Buicks vis a vis other human beings isn't a good look. And I'd like to think the CEO of Detroit can acknowledge that as straightforwardly as he can address other very real local issues as, say, the need for greater civic responsibility among Detroit residents.

Lastly, I suppose I get why contemporary Detroit mayors make a big deal about being able to "go to" suburban leaders, but do they really get much mileage out of that anymore -- on any side of 8 Mile Road? Whether it was Coleman or Kwame, haven't they all had access? And they've all crowed about it in one way or another -- even when they've totally misused it. I mean, I do appreciate the bridge building potential Bing holds out. The mayor certainly should be extending a hand to other metro Detroit leaders, irrespective of party affiliation. But since bridges run two ways, I also look forward to the day when many more political figures like Patterson are boasting about their ability to "go to" the mayor of Detroit for productive dialogue, too.

I don't want to sound more critical of the interview than I really am. Overall, I still thought it was a good read...and that the mayor showed some real foresight. It'll be very interesting to see how his right-sizing efforts unfold next year and beyond because, other than crime and schools, I can't think of anything more pressing.

Good to be back...Can't wait to hear you tell me your thoughts about the interview, land management issues, city/suburban political dynamics or whatever else. What'd you take away from it? Were you encouraged or not?

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