He Doesn't Have A Clue
by David Rambeau
I used to go to Detroit City Council meetings to listen to and then analyze their deliberations on our program, For My People. I gave that process up because their discussions were simply too boring, too filled with superficial rhetoric, too painful to to sit through silently and endure.
But this evening, after watching a Saturday football game, I was switching channels to find something interesting to watch and caught the government channel which was showing a rerun of Mayor Dave Bing's presentation to council about the fiscal crisis in Detroit. I stopped to watch; it was pathetic. The mayor presented his usual platitude-filled script, which he knew by heart, punctuated regularly by the mumbled comment, "I don't know." to a range of easy questions from council any informed elected official should have been able to handle.
One of his lines urged the council to follow his lead. Why should they? He's been mayor for just over 100 days; they've been on the council from 4 to 12 years. During that 100 days council has voted against his position on turning over the Cobo Convention Center to a regional authority, voted against his position on layoffs of bus workers, challenged his position on operating the city’s incinerator. Doesn't he get it? They neither agree with nor intend to follow his political path.
When questioned about taking over the Detroit public school system, he said he would if it was offered to him, that mayoral control of the local school system was working well in other cities, that he'd appoint someone qualified to handle the job. Unfortunately it isn't working well in other cities: New York, Chicago, L.A., New Orleans, Washington, D. C., which cursory research online would reveal. Moreover, the Detroit electorate soundly rejected mayoral takeover of the schools by a landslide when the attempt was made by the last full-term mayor.
Bing said the mayor and council should present a unified public front, that not doing so hurt Detroit's "image". Let us understand an elementary principle of democracy. Democracy in not about unanimity; democracy is about political differences. Despotism is about unanimity. Even monarchies aren't absolute, and when royalty tries to impose absolutism, they provoke revolution, as in eighteenth century France.
(For more information on this topic access Francois Furet’s, “The French Revolution 1770 - 1814”. I mention this book only because of Project BAIT’s support of the September Is Black Reading Month project and the reputed 47% illiteracy rate of adults in the city of Detroit.)
Bing hinted that investors and businesses don't or won't come to Detroit because of political corruption. Absurd. The fiscal crisis in Detroit is caused by centuries of economic and social racism, by the collapse of the housing market and the U. S. auto industry, by the deindustrialization of the U. S., and the financial manipulation of the economy by bank fraud and speculation. I wish a mayor who wants to takeover the school system would freshen his study of American history, economics, education, sociology and political science.
Bing indicated that his 50 member crisis advisory team would have their "answers", their "solutions" to Detroit's problems next week. Really? Who are these people, where do they come from, what do they know? Do they ride the bus? Whoever they are, they will project their own class and cultural perspectives, unless, like black folk they've been indoctrinated to reject their own identity and interest, like our conservative, Republican mayor.
Supporting the mayor at the session were two aides, Norman White and Charles Beckham. White, the chief financial officer, articulated a spate of bureaucratic gobbledygook worthy of Ponzi, Madoff, or any snake-oil salesman. It should be remembered that White once headed with gross incompetence the Detroit Department of Transportation during a previous administration, so that his support of layoffs in that department may be more than coincidence.
During the discussion councilwoman Martha Reeves inquired about and commented on the mayor's position regarding the second bridge project for the Detroit River. Not surprisingly virtually everything she introduced about the issue was incorrect or irrelevant. At first I was somewhat incredulous, then bemused by her concepts. Then Bing replied as if everything Reeves said was gospel. I was stunned. Could Reeves have been slyly setting up the mayor to look stupid, ill-informed? The mayor concluded his remarks to her by affirming he would support building both bridges as long as they would bring jobs to the city. Would you also support slavery?
Another councilperson set him up as well when she inquired about the decommissioning of the only fireboat on the Detroit River and the layoff of its captain. The mayor fell for it totally. He indicated that the fireboat was a very low priority, and that the city didn't have any money for it. Not two minutes later, after the mayor's portion of the hearing was concluded, did the captain of said fireboat, lurking in the audience, come to the table to present, again in two minutes, an in-depth analysis, based on his seventeen years of experience, as to why the only fireboat in the Detroit area was needed, but, in addition, where abundant funds were available to underwrite it. Touche'.
When no other representatives of the public interest were available to comment, the meeting was adjourned, and I was free to switch channels to another football game, and begin to put together the words for this article.