Show us the plan

Dave Bing_Who cares about how big your ego is at City Hall? 

Keep that for Kanye West and sing it with him the next time you go to one of his concerts. 

I don’t, and I don’t believe those waiting for needed services after investing their tax dollars care about your oversized egos. 

After all, they hired you to work for them, not to let your importance get in the way of service delivery. You are the servant. 

And what the bosses (Detroiters of every stripe) who hired you want is services — and they want it now. 

So as I watch the drama unfold at City Hall and the imminent tug of war between Lansing and Detroit over the possible  appointment of an emergency financial manager unfold, I wonder if, in fact, those who have been charged with demonstrating fiscal leadership over the finances of this city understand the magnitude of the crisis the city is in.  

Perhaps they do. They are privy to information that I nor any other person will ever be. But maybe what is really keeping them from a sense of urgency is the fat checks they receive from taxpayers. 

How about letting go of the fat checks for two months and let’s see if they’d show a sense of urgency now that they would be hit in their pocketbooks and wallets? 

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing does not own the city. The City Council does not own Detroit, and AFSCME Local 25 does not own the city either. 

The city is owned by those who hired these leaders to go to City Hall and work on their behalf. In doing so they expect that they will put aside their egos, and work diligently  for them as any employer would expect of their employees.  

In any job, your relevance is tied to your level of production and the day you cease performing for those who hired you, you are out the door and the next person comes in. 

No one is irreplaceable, and that includes those at City Hall. 

In the last couple of weeks I have heard some leaders from City Hall say either the mayor has not reached out to them, or they are waiting to be called, or haven’t decided yet when to meet with the mayor. 

One labor leader was initially quoted in very casual terms as basically saying they expect to meet with the mayor. But his remarks carried no sense of urgency. 

In pure political parlance, ring kissing is the name of the game that is being played. You have to acknowledge the power of those you need to be your allies. You have to show deference to how important they are, and in most cases say what they want to hear. But that’s politics. 

Detroit’s fiscal crisis does not need political gamesmanship. Take the politics out of it. It needs leadership that is tenacious, honest and pragmatic in tackling the crucial issues facing the city. 

City Council, check your ego at the door of the planning meeting and get to work with the understanding that you were sent there to do the people’s business. 

Don’t wait for the mayor to be the first to reach out. If he doesn’t reach out you are obliged on behalf of those who sent you to work for them to reach out to the mayor and address this financial tsunami that threatens to forever alter Detroit as we have known it. 

If the mayor doesn’t respond, then hold a press conference and tell the inform the citizenry of your effort to meet with  the mayor. 

The lives of so many thousands of families are on the line daily as political posturing, power playing and egocentrism take the place of real brainwork on the life and death issues in this city. 

Thousands more continue to hang in the balance every time our leaders come out to announce they haven’t hashed out a plan yet. This is even more painful in this holiday season when many families don’t even know what to do, keeping their fingers crossed and bracing for that painful and dreaded news: “You are laid off.” 

I opposed the council plan of just laying off 2,500 employees, which means putting thousands of families in hardship and complicating their ability to deal with the foreclosure crisis, and more. I don’t believe this plans makes sense. In fact, I doubt if the plan was clearly thought out. I believe the plan offered by council was just a way to counter what the mayor was offering and show for the record that council is not standing by idle. 

Bing opposed laying off 2,500 employees because he believes it won’t solve the budget crisis without opening up the labor agreements and having labor members make significant concessions to help save the city financially. I agree with the mayor. Adding 2,500 more people to the unemployment lines in an already precarious city is not the answer to the fiscal crisis. 

There have many comparisons of the city to the auto industry crisis by those supporting the “cut, cut, cut” mantra. Some have argued that the automakers and the UAW have made many concessions to help the auto industry make a comback. That is true and, in fact, they had an equivalent of an emergency manager appointed by the Obama administration to oversee the restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler. 

But let’s also remember  that both automakers also received billions of dollars in taxpayer loans to get back on track. 

Detroit is not expected to receive a dime when it gets into the hands of an emergency manager. The analogy does not fit Detroit’s current fiscal crisis because the Obama administration is  not going bail Detroit out with a billion-dollar loan. 

Egos aside, leaders at City Hall need to come together and look within the structural bureaucracy of city government, trim the fat and save money. The city’s chief labor leader, Al Garrett, was present at the press conference last week as a show of solidarity. He talked a
bout being hopeful. Garrett understands that he holds most of the cards in this crucial time. History will judge how he handles these negotiations. 

It’s one thing to display the kind of fiery rhetoric we heard at the press conference. There is nothing wrong in reasserting the right to self-determination. That philosophy has always guided how different communities  have operated to position themselves for forward mobility. 

But beyond the rhetoric and the refrains lies the challenge of putting aside differences, political posturing and get down to business. The common agenda should be saving Detroit. 

For once, let’s show that Detroit’s elected leadership has a united plan. Show us that you understand that this city’s long and often troubled political history beckons you to step up and do something meaningful. The people have heard enough talk. They want action, immediately. The city’s leadership should also be looking at ways to enhance revenue for the city and create jobs.  

With the city’s dwindling population and declining resources, we cannot be in denial about the grim socioeconomic realities. We either face up to the facts or we’ll be run over. 

Bankole Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle and the author of a six-part series on the Obama presidency including “Obama and Black Loyalty” published last year. His latest book is “Obama and Christian Loyalty” with an epilogue written by Bob Weiner, former White House spokesman. His upcoming books in 2012 are “Obama and Jewish Loyalty” and “Obama and Business Loyalty.” Listen to him every Thursday, 11:30 a.m. on WDET 101.9 FM Detroit and every Sunday 9 to 10 p.m. “Obama Watch” program on WLIB 1190 AM-New York.  E-mail   


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