I don’t have inside information about whether Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s taking out petitions is an indication that he actually plans to throw his hat into the ring. I’m not convinced that if he seeks re-election he can win. I am certain of this: his potential candidacy makes a lot more sense than that of Tom Barrow. Bing’s flirtation with running was unexpected. He now says he’ll huddle with close advisers and family members before making a decision by the May 14 filing deadline. Come to think of it, his candidacy might be a healthy sign that the 2013 mayoral campaign will be more vigorous and dynamic.
Elected to a full four-year term in 2009, Bing inherited a city with devastating bureaucratic, fiscal, economic and social problems. The environment was so severe, the problems so deep-seated, they were beyond his ability to manage. So while he can be criticized for not finding the creative energy to fix high taxes, high crime or burgeoning deficits that would eventually lead to an emergency manager, the lack of solutions wasn’t entirely his fault. The mayor received no help from a generally weak and recalcitrant City Council, which seemed more intent of perpetuating its high-priced, high-perks existence than providing a high level of services to the people its members claimed to represent. With appointment of an EM, the council has been effectively, albeit temporarily, neutered. Going forward, any mayor might be more effective if the EM gets runaway spending under control and removes restructuring obstacles in the City Charter that gives the council veto over needed reforms.
That Mayor Bing has never stopped fighting for the city is reinforced by corporate giants who seem to be descending from the heavens to assist Bing in rescuing the city from the brink of insolvency. New firms and retail stores are slowly but surely relocating to downtown or Midtown. Young gentrifiers, apparently believing that Detroit has a brighter future, are quietly making their presence known. Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert and partners are on a downtown building-buying spree. Other business leaders are supporting Bing by chipping in millions for the purchase of 23 new ambulances and 100 new police cruisers in the fight against crime. Some 50 city parks will open this summer in part due to millions in corporate donations. Community groups, businesses, churches and block clubs will adopt more than 100 other parks. I think it’s folly, but a multimillion dollar streetcar system is about to be built — partly by private dollars — to shuttle passengers from the downtown area to Midtown.
Don’t think for a moment that the mayor’s contemplated entry into the race won’t present a challenge to contenders Mike Duggan, Benny Napoleon, Fred Durhal, Krystal Crittendon, Lisa Howze and Tom Barrow. At some point, the major media will get around to focusing on the foibles of Mike Duggan, considered at the moment to be the man to beat. I’m sure he’d prefer that some things in his political/business life remain buried in history. Sheriff Benny Napoleon is generally thought to be a finalist. But questions also surround Napoleon’s prior and current management styles. But then, voters will find something to criticize with everyone in the race. It is inconceivable that perennial candidate Tom Barrow believes he will be taken seriously. Twice he challenged the election outcome against Detroit Mayor Coleman Young and later mayoral hopeful Dave Bing. In both cases, Barrow claimed hanky-panky, rather than voter rejection, caused his defeat. He’s tried, but Barrow also can’t deny his conviction for bank fraud, tax evasion and filing false tax returns. For that, he served 13 months of a 21-month sentence.
So don’t count the votes yet. The mayor, through the power of incumbency, has time to redeem himself. And once the hyperbole surrounding the race is replaced by reality, Dave Bing could be the dark horse that overcame the odds.