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Bing: Speak Up or Lay Low?

There was a must read in Sunday's Detroit Free Press about Mayor Dave Bing. The article was a review of the mayor's first year in office (as part of his four-year term) and a preview of the work ahead.

I read it with interest partly because of a comment made to me a week or so ago. A source for the blog told me they think Bing is being too quiet, too hard to read. They wanted larger statements out of Bing – bold proclamations of who he is and what is going to achieve.

I'm saying the opposite: Lay low, Mayor. Be as quiet as a mouse.

I had a professor once who said: “People used to live lives of quiet desperation. Today, they're living lives of noisy desperation, and I wish they would just shut up.” (My apologies to the brilliant Gorman Beauchamp if I misquoted him.) And this was before reality television really hit.

To that end, this here noisy blogger says Mayor Bing is making the right moves. Words are meaningless in today's society. We are verbal miscreants – taking over television, radio, the Web with our endless blather.

Instead, let your actions speak.

The Mayor makes that point:

“I think I'm a person who has always planned well, but when you inherit the magnitude of problems and inefficiencies that are here, there's no way for you to make the long-range plans without doing it on a project-oriented basis,” Bing told the Free Press. “For the rest of the calendar year and into 2011, I'm not so worried about being forced to put a plan out there. I'm more interested in looking at the projects that I know we can complete.”

There are three more years to this term. The Mayor has to ride a fine line to get any work done in this contentious, sometimes angry city. We love when people start something, but we also love to tear them down when the project gets underway. I'd hate to see the same done to Mayor Bing this early. So lay low.

Yes, I criticized his State of the City address as being too short at 30 odd minutes. I do wish he had said more; I loved hearing his ideas. But he said enough. There is a wisdom in that.

Indeed, there is wisdom in taking the opposite tact of your predecessor. Kwame Kilpatrick seemed to love taunting the media, goading them to chase him down a la Gary Hart. (And he still seems to think he's done nothing wrong and the mean ol' media is giving him a hard time. Waaaah.)

Bing, it seems to me, will take his accolades when the work is done (if he takes them at all). He might be willing to smile and pose for photographs if he can get this city straight. Until then, let him be. He's got work to do.

Just to use a basketball analogy (forgive me), you have to ignore the shouts and screams. You just gotta get that free throw through the basket, ignoring everything around you.

"Everybody wants us to fix the problem overnight, and there are some things that we can do in the short term to help, but it's going to be a longer-term process," Bing said. "I can hold people accountable for projects much better than I can for a long-range plan."

Sheesh…the work load that man has – the last thing he needs to do is get drawn into an angry dialogue with his distracters. He doesn't need that. He needs a plan, he needs to implement that plan, he needs to keep his eyes on the ball (such a cliché, but so very true).

The man knows the game. He did fantastically well at that; let's see if he'll do fantastically well at this.

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  • 1

    Yes, He needs a plan and in order to do that he needs a fine Architect-Planner to help develop that and that is something that he hasn't got at this point in time.

    John Gallagher came up with a list of suggestions and showed a plan that identifies the housing areas by DDD.

    Now many overlays need to be created on that wonderful work.

    When will he get the Planner? To help him create the plan ... so that he can plan well.

    He can't do it alone.


  • 2

    Bing needs a plan alright. Only he needs a plan we can live with after he is long gone. He needs to be more open. The people of Detroit need honest answers and spoken plans they can understand. They need to be able to see that it can work. They need to be able to trust someone. Is Bing that someone? Or will he and his city council stir up...tear up...tear down and leave the city in a bigger mess?
    With Bing and his Robert Bobb tearing down houses and schools who will want to come to Detroit. No where to live and no schools for your kids. You won't go to Detroit or won't want to stay if your there now.
    Slow down guys, Detroit has been around a long time and survived all kinds of crooks. Be kind to you voters and think before you destroy what is left of Detroit.
    And above all.....Don't steal from the funds.

  • 3

    Bing was on Flashpoint this weekend discussing the "plans" for resizing, downsizing, rightsizing and reshaping the city.

    He said "he's never seen so many demographers and planners in his life" and everyone has a plan. He rightfully wants to get community input in addition to professional and that will take 6 - 12 months.

    I agree with him on this. You can watch the discussion 15 minutes into the link below.

  • 4

    Actually I don't quite like that Bing was flip about planning.

    To have fine planning you need Architect Planners and actually Al Cobb was right on as to what needs to happen.

    That was good to see.

    But the Michigan State Housing Development Authority has been in eclipse for too long and should be participating in the planned effort.

    And they have to insure that fine architects are involved, not the kid in the basement stuff.

    Look at Lafayette Park... The Mies Townhouses after 55 years are more modern than what is being put up today. And they will be fine for many more years.

    If there was ever a fine example of that S word that I cringe at using... "sustainable" this is it... despite having a manager who has no respect for historic procedures. More should be built and to the new standards.


  • 5

    Mayor Bing appears to be committed to the principle of managing for results and holding those in charge of various projects accountable for getting things done. He has decided to be a "walking around" manager who is visible to those working within the city's bureaucracies. He has argued for a change in organizational culture throughout city government from one of entitlement and cronyism/nepotism to one of ethics and public service. That's a good start from someone who knows how to be both a leader and manager.

  • 6

    I just hope that urban Detroiters don't fall back into the political schizophrenia that often times defines the voting patterns here.. wanting 'instant' results; Which candidate is more authentically "pro-black/anti-suburbs" than the other, who has a real grassroots following vs. heavy-corporate backing and/or out-state (lansing, etc.) financing, etc.; who secretly is beholden to Detroit-Renaissance/Business Leaders for Michigan, etc... Those who feel that Kwame Kilpatrick is blameless for his ongoing problems..

    I hope that Bing is given the flexibility to implement some programs and not heckled to death by the self-appointed gatekeeper activists/insiders who feel that anyone short of a Malcolm X is a sellout accommodationist..

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