May 6th, 2009
12:00 PM ET
12 years ago

Reporter's Notebook: Is Detroit's mayor crazy or courageous?

(CNN) - Dave Bing was the first pro basketball star I ever saw in play person. Back in the mid 70's, he wasn't flashy but he was one of the best sharp-shooting guards ever to play the game. He had a calming presence about him on the court, never in a panic, helping a downtrodden Detroit Piston basketball franchise raise to prominence. Fast forward to 2009, and patience is just at the top of his long list of traits he will need for his next job: save a downtrodden city in its darkest hour.

He is either crazy or courageous to want to be the mayor of Detroit.

Bing will soon become the mayor of the country's 11th largest city, and mayor of a city that arguably leads the nation in problems, including a Depression-like economy, double-digit rising unemployment, a shrinking tax base that is worsened with job cuts at Big 3 automakers, a city school system that is under state financial management, and a city that faces a $280 million deficit in this year's budget, trending to a greater deficit and possibly setting up a scenario where the state could intervene if the city doesn't make real progress on its budget in 6 months. No pressure there for the new guy.

He will become 3rd mayor for Detroit over the past 8 months. Disgraced Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick resigned after pleading guilty to felonies in the text message scandal. City Council President Ken Cockrel then became interim mayor, only to lose to Bing yesterday by less than 5,000 votes.

Traditionally, like many cities, the Detroit mayor's office and the city council don't always see eye to yet. It is Bing's first political job ever and he gets to deal first hand with a city council that for decades hasn't gotten along with who ever's been mayor.

One statistic hovers mightily over this once industrial mecca of the Midwest-22.8 percent unemployment rate, the highest in the nation. While the city murder rate has dropped slightly, non-violent crime is up. Many of the city neighborhoods are filled with vacant houses, and vacant lots covered in tall weeds, where houses once proudly stood, in productive, middle class neighborhoods.

"We will start immediately and try to attract jobs back into the city of Detroit. We will start immediately in trying to make sure our neighborhoods are safe," Bing said Tuesday night in his victory speech.

Bing's mayoral launch wasn't given a huge shot of public confidence. City officials estimate that only 15 percent of the registered electorate voted in the first mayoral special election in Detroit in 79 years, with Bing winning by a 4 percent margin.

Bing comes to this political stage needing to shed a label that he is an "interloper", as having only moved last September within the city limits of Detroit.
He also received crititicsm over his resume, which stated he had a master's in business administration when he didn't. But Bing 's business interests have been in the city for decades, including Bing Steel, the company he founded and lead to success after his NBA career, now a part of the Bing Automotive Group.

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Why not put Kilpatrick back in office so ya'll can blame all of Detroit's woes on him.

    May 6, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. Marilynn

    Next election, the council will be elected for various districts, not all "at-large" positions. Then, finally, they'll be held accountable for their actions and Detroit will finally begin to heal. Good luck, Mr. Mayor. I wish I could do something to help.

    May 6, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. Mississippi Mike

    He can't be any worse than the last one so I'd say it's a pretty safe move.

    May 6, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  4. Franky

    You know, "technically", the murder rate has dropped this year...well, that's according to the numbers we've seen so overall as a nation, doing good progress on that BUT non-violent crimes, is been rising in some, you could even say as a nation as a whole...maybe crimes like punching someone in the face, don't know what you call it but that's what we call it over here, LOL!!

    Yeah, he is gonna have it tough and I agree as well, Michigan is arguably one of the top states that are having it tough, even the numbers back it up. But yeah, that's not right...put down his Master's in business which he didn't have! LOL!! That's like me writing on my resume that I have an Associates in Accounting which in reality, I only went to school for one semester...hey, I think it helped me on what I do now, LOL!!

    Yeah, is gonna be tough and he has all this year, is a bit too little time, don't you agree?? But I like the fact some of our athletes are in the game of politics, they'll get my respect even more, I respect that, regardless who it is or how much they know but if they at least try or know what they are talking about, I appreciate that, I do.

    May 6, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |