Well Said, Mayor Bing
Gotta say it: Dave Bing gave a good speech.
Also gotta say it: It was too short. It was so very vague. And it left more questions than answers for many of the people who watched, listened to and read it.
Tuesday night, Mayor Dave Bing offered his first State of the City address: a wide-ranging, newsworthy and largely realistic yet optimistic look at Detroit. He gave great quotes, needled those who needed it and praised those who deserved it.
But a half an hour to outline how he and his administration are going to turn this ship around? Please. That's not enough time or words to completely tell the story of what has happened, what is happening and what needs to happen in Detroit over the next three or so years.
Still, I was satisfied with Bing's speech for the most part. Although he stuck to the talking points, he hit on all of the major issues in this town: Jobs, schools, transportation, recreation, reclamation, downsizing, crime, unions, manufacturing.
I love that some 3,000 abandoned homes will be knocked down over the next year with a goal of getting rid of 10,000 by his term's end. I also love the idea of reclaiming some of the materials that will come out of these houses and structures. I love that he asked President Obama to come tour the city. I love the new educational academies and the commitment to schools and student safety.
Read through the speech if you have a moment. Nearly every paragraph was a little snippet of what he sees as the city's priorities – and a short sentence or two or how he's going to solve or improve upon them. They're like little gems, perfectly packaged.
The challenge comes in how Bing keeps these promises – and whether the city has enough stakeholders to make sure he does all that he promised.
I watched the event live at the Majestic Theatre, where a group of like-minded individuals got together to go over the Detroit Declaration and talk about where the city is headed over the next few years. It was a who's who of the youngish movers and shakers in this town. I'm impressed with the folks who wrote up the Declaration, and I'll be blogging more about what they had to say on Thursday (aren't you salivating?).
One of the most enjoyable parts of the evening was watching people Tweet about what they were seeing and hearing during the speech. Granted, it was kind of distracting, but it also was so much fun to get the immediate feedback from people at the event and elsewhere. I felt connected to Detroiters in a way you could not be sitting at home with your feet propped up on the La-Z-Boy.
The crowd there was mostly impressed with Bing's effort. There were plenty of questions about how Bing plans to rightsize Detroit, and whether his team will step in and take homes from Detroiters to consolidate city services. But there also were informed citizens there who noted that the actual process is years from happening, so there will be time and space to hear more about the plan and how the community is going to be involved.
There were concerns about regionalism: How is Detroit going to connect with its neighboring communities and counties to garner support? I for one was cheered to see L. Brooks Patterson in the audience at the Max M. Fisher auditorium, where the speech was held. I hope that means Patterson and his fellow governmental officials are going to play nice-nice together in the years ahead.
Some wondered if Bing is going to be transparent enough and let us into his plans for the bidding process, about corporations purchasing Detroit land, about how the charitable foundations are becoming more involved in the city's business.
All worthy concerns. I'm sure Bing is going to address these issues and more during his Wednesday morning media blitz, and I'll be listening to the local television and radio stations to see what Bing has to say about these and other related topics.
All in all, Bing was smooth. He was calm. He was dynamic in a button-down kind of way. Most of all, he seemed worthy of the job. I feel for Bing: He has an enormous task ahead of him. But praise be offered – he is the right one for the job.
The Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley said it quite well:
No, Dave Bing is no Kwame Kilpatrick. Thank God.
Graphic from Mayor Bing's office: Each dot represents an abandoned structure that has been identified as "most dangerous" and/or has been on the demolition list for many years. The identified structures will be demolished by the end of 2010.