TROY (WWJ) - “Obviously, as Detroit goes, so goes the entire suburban area,” said Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, who was among the panelists at “The Mayors,” a WWJ Newsradio 950 Business Breakfast Thursday in Troy.
With the threat of an emergency manager moving in on the Motor City, what advice did neighboring mayors have for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing?
LISTEN TO THE MAYORS’ RESPONSE:
“I’m not happy with the possibility of an emergency manager. I’m not happy, obviously, with what’s going on in Detroit today. It is a very difficult situation,” said Fouts. “Bing needs to focus on, I think, two things: public safety and fighting blight. I have driven through Detroit recently, and I’m just shocked at what I see with the amount of decaying buildings.”
Fouts said that many Detroiters are fleeing the city and moving into Warren in search of a safe community. “A city is not a city unless people feel safe in the neighborhoods,” he said. “Detroit can still come back, but that’s where the focus needs to be.”
Also on the panel Thursday was Livonia Mayor Jack Kirksey, who grew up and was a teacher in Detroit.
“I don’t know of a situation that could be any more challenging than the situation in Detroit,” said Kirksey.
“They definitely haven’t been able to get their arms around the public safety aspect — too many people carrying guns, too many people using that gun to settle arguments and do all kinds of things,” Kirksey said. “I think, that if you take Detroit as an example, it sort of says [appointing an emergency manager] is not a bad way to do business. Is it a desirable way to do business? Absolutely not.”
“But, if you look at the Detroit situation, they have had all the opportunely in the world to attempt to solve insurmountable problems. And some of the insurmountable problems are because of classic dynamics,” he said.
Kirksey said the disagreements between Bing, the Detroit City Council and the city’s unions are what created the gridlock in the first place.
Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence disagrees. She believes Bing is in the fight of his life, working to turn the city around.
Lawrence said Bing and Detroit’s other elected leaders should retain control. “I feel very strongly that when you actually have policies that take away the right of the people to be ruled by their choice is unconstitutional,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said, fine, bring in some financial minds to help — but, she said leaders who are accountable to the public must stay in place. On the other hand, however, Lawrence did say major changes are needed.
“Detroit needs to figure it out, because it’s been years and years and years and layers of bureaucracy, that right now is not relevent or not working,” she said.
Also on hand at Thursday’s event was Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, who expressed hope for the future of the region.
“I’m very optimistic. I think it comes down to leadership being aggressive and willing to take some risks. And I think our community, larger community, has a strong history of that,” Barnett said.