Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s office has struck down any talk about selling city of Detroit assets such as Belle Isle, City Airport, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to right the decades-long financial wrongs of the city.
Talk about Detroit being possibly forced to sell its assets has been swirling around regarding how the city can salvage itself from the financial quagmire it is currently in. And a Bing spokeswoman, Naomi Patton, said late Tuesday afternoon that selling city assets is not on the table for conversation.
That is certainly welcome news for those who are hoping that Mayor Bing, who has reported progress in negotiations with labor, would not sell Detroit’s assets, protecting them in the midst of the financial turmoil.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the state’s leading conservative think tank, has long been supporting the notion of Detroit selling its own assets to make a financial headway. The Center’s reasoning is that Detroit could make a lot of savings from such a sale.
Now that the discussion has come up again, it is being treated as more than a notion by skeptics who say under a Republican administration anything could happen, even though Gov. Rick Snyder has made it clear numerous times that he is not interested in running Detroit.
But the problem in making the case for Detroit to give away all of its jewels in exchange for “a healthy financial future” is that there is no real guarantee that selling city assets is enough to make Detroit financially solvent.
There is no precedent to show that, in fact, when city assets are sold, those cities become eternally strong financially.
The issue is not about selling the city’s jewels which have long defined the identity of Detroit, the problem is that Detroit government must cut back on spending. It must begin to prioritize how it does business, and doing so should not put Belle Isle and other institutions that have added pride to the city on the line.
Bing is right in signaling that these institutions are off limits. That is why labor has no choice now but to step up to the table (which they have been doing) and make the necessary painful cuts.
“Mayor Bing has reached tentative agreements with AFSCME and the police unions in the past three weeks. He continues to negotiate with the Fire Department union and the Amalgamated Transit Union (bus drivers and mechanics),” Patton, the spokeswoman, said.
The cuts should be such that they should not extend Detroit’s problems to 2015. Instead, the problems should be tackled and dealt with once and for all.
Detroit cannot afford to extend its problems. Along with the financial crisis are the structural issues that include city departments and the need to consolidate those departments to save the city some revenue.
But more importantly, at the end of an agreeable solution to the financial crisis must be creative ideas to bring in revenue for the city. If Detroit cannot come up with ways to generate revenue for the next decade, and keeps reinventing the wheel, it will reach a point where the city would have no choice but to sell its assets.
As Gov. Snyder’s Detroit Financial Review Team prepares to hand over a report to the governor, Detroit should prepare to have an answer that would not create the necessity for an emergency manager.
It’s interesting that it had to take a credible threat from the governor — with the appointment of the Detroit Financial Review Team — before leaders of Detroit’s government saw that an emergency manager could be eminent.
The clock is ticking and we hope that labor understands what is at stake and does the right thing, which is to prevent the sale of Belle Isle and other important jewels that give people reason to continue to stay in Detroit.
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., on the “Obama Watch” program on WLIB 1190 AM-New York. E-mail email@example.com.