There can be no new day in Detroit without a new and improved city government. The only way Detroit will experience a new and improved city government is when we have a government where the mayor and city council (finally) put aside childish things and work shoulder-to-shoulder rebuilding the long overdue city we all deserve.
For far too long the relationship between the mayor’s office and the city council in Detroit has been strained at best and mutually destructive at worst. The result has been a desperate city caught in the middle trying to hold itself together in the midst of a storm created by those who were supposedly elected to offer them shelter from such destructive forces – or at the very least some instructions on how to build such a shelter.
But all we have seen year after year is an ongoing sideshow accompanied by a sickening tragicomedy of errors and misguided intentions. The good things that our elected officials in city government have managed to accomplish – and there have been some high marks despite the unending negative coverage – may as well have been accomplished in secret because the excessive drama hanging over them regularly overshadows all else. You can argue that perhaps the media has often been too one-dimensional in its coverage, and that would be accurate to a degree. Nevertheless it’s pretty hard to complain about taking a beating when you hand your assailant the stick and tell him exactly where and when to strike.
The council is the legislative branch of Detroit city government and is the check-and-balance for the executive branch/mayoral administration. Our city council is one of the few full-time types of council in the United States. As such that means they should have much more time and resources available to devote to the betterment of Detroit, not to its embarrassment.
The mayor appoints city department heads, such as the Police Chief, Fire Commissioner and the head of the Water Department and then set policy. Meanwhile, similar to the state and federal legislative branches of government, the council is heavily involved with the City’s budget, setting ordinances (laws), and approving the purchase and sale of city assets.
According to the City’s website, the council’s primary tasks are:
1. Approval of contracts involving city business.
2. Approval of changes in the City’s budget.
3. Approval of the sale or disposition of city property.
4. Approval of the settlement of civil litigations involving the City.
5. Receiving complaints, petitions and reports affecting the operation of the City or the well being of its citizens.
6. Advocating for the City’s and Detroiters at other levels of government via resolutions, testimony and statements for the record.
As an at-large body, each Detroit City Council member represents every single Detroit resident. It is imperative for council to work closely with the mayor’s office to move the city forward while keeping in mind its role as the legislative body. The mayor has a vision and each council member has their own vision of what needs to be accomplished. This is exactly where distractions can take place.
A dysfunctional relationship between the city’s chief executive and its council members is a certain recipe for a dysfunctional city, which is what we have right now. But with a new mayor in place who is committed to doing his part in restoring this necessary cooperative relationship and a newly elected city council committed to the same goal, Detroit stands a much better chance of emerging from this devastating crisis whole and intact. Without the restoration and repair of this very critical relationship, we as citizens stand very little chance at all. Put simply, we depend on our leaders to do what’s right, namely to lead.