OFF THE CHAIN OPINION
by Charlie LeDuff
DETROIT -- Everybody got their five minutes with Dave. Everybody got to pet the bunny. Everybody but poor ol' me.
After his Wednesday State of the City speech, Mayor Dave Bing's men passed him around to the media, each outlet getting a whopping five minutes to feed Hizzoner carrots -- five minutes is an old-school political way of keeping the q & a superficial. That's how you interview Hollywood starlets, not serious public servants.
My bosses nominated me for the chore. But Dave was a scared rabbit. Dave said no. Dave's guy told my boss: "This is not the right time."
Maybe some other reporter, they offered.
My bosses at FOX 2 told the mayor's man no. Nobody tells them how to run their newsroom. And so Mayor Hasenpfeffer got no added airtime on Channel 2.
In his speech, Bing talked about public/private partnerships to tear down buildings, federal grants to pay firefighters and cops, billionaires buying up downtown for a dime. We might be living on federal welfare, the mayor seemed to say. But don't worry, the future's gonna be swell.
He reminded me of Lennie Small, the oafish farmhand in the Steinbeck novella "Of Mice and Men." Lennie dreamed too, of a beautiful farm with rabbits that he could pet and puppies he could brush and an alfalfa patch he could rake. But Lennie killed a woman before the future ever arrived.
And so it seems with Bing and Detroit.
I do not challenge his integrity. No one should. He is an honorable man on the face of things. He does not steal. But his lack of attention to basic services has put Detroit down the rabbit hole. His lack of political skill and municipal expertise has led to infighting and gridlock. The future? Forget about it. We have to focus on the here and now.
What would I have asked Dave? What are you doing about crime? The cops have quit. Arrests are down. Murder and shootings are way up. Dave says all other violent crime is down.
I would not let him get away with that. Police precincts close after 4pm. People have stopped calling the police. So crime statistically goes down. Give us something better Dave. People were looking for hope. He gave them the hand.
Firefighters have stopped waiting for ambulances because they come late or not at all. This would be just a three million dollar fix by many estimates. But over four years Dave has overseen its collapse.
Public safety is job number one for any mayor and Bing has failed.
I would have asked him why.
How about some heads up on the emergency manager who is coming to take his and the city council's paychecks. How's that supposed to work? What can we expect? What will be his or her greatest impediments?
Dave said he does not know and has not been included in the loop on Lansing's discussions for the biggest city in Michigan. The city where Dave is supposedly top bunny!
That financial review paper is due to the state treasurer any day now and the emergency manager is likely to come any week now and Bing says he doesn't know anything.
I would have asked the mayor, if the emergency manager does come, is he planning to move out of the Manoogian Mansion and back to his cabbage patch in the ‘burbs?