DETROIT (Talk Radio 1270) The culture of victimization and entitlement is a real fight on the road to getting Detroit back on track, according to Sheila Cockrel, a 16-year veteran of Detroit City Council who visited Charlie Langton’s morning show Friday.
“This city has a lot of issues with entitlement, there are people who believe because I’m a business and I stayed in Detroit I’m entitled to this consideration, there are people who bring their businesses in and say ‘I came to Detroit so I’m entitled to this’ — special timing, special attention.
“There are residents who say we’ve lived with this for so long that we’re entitled. We have politicians who foster this culture of victimazation and entitlement, which is one of the political issues that really hurts this city.”
Cockrel, who left politics in 2009 to become a professor at Wayne State University, praised Mayor Dave Bing for not being part of the problem.
“I think Mayor Bing has set a standard for integrity, for changing the tone of city governmemt at the top that’s very important, I mean he does not in any way, shape or form condone a ‘pay to play.’
“That’s really the criminal part, what I think in many ways is almost more destructive long-term to sort of the political culture, is this kind of hook-up mentality.”
And that mentality was nurtured under the terms of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Cockrel said. Kilpatrick has been in and out of jail on a perjury conviction related to trying to cover up an affair with a staffer, and he and many members of his team face federal corruption charges.
“He (Bing) arrived in an era of really serious fundamental problems, really structural problems … The impact, the consequences of Kilpatrick running a criminal enterprise on the 11th floor are really, in my opinion, going to take many years to undo. What it did to corrupt the basic relationships between departments, workers, customers, staff and vendors, is horrific.”
She said she never knew the extent of Kilpatrick’s malfeasance until charges started coming down.
“I believed there was an environment that fostered pay to play… No one ever offered me a bribe and I’m proud of that … (It means) we conducted ourselves in a manner that that was never a possibility.”
Under Bing, Detroit politics has moved beyond criminal charges, but financial difficulties are a very real threat to his administration, many say. With a multi-million dollar deficit, Detroit faces bankruptcy this spring. The state has proposed a consent agreement that would put a nine-member board in charges of the city’s financial operation — but Bing and council are fighting it.
Judge William Colette recently issued a stay in the consent agreement plan to determine if some meetings violated the Open Meetings Act.
Despite her embrace of transparency in government, Cockrel said she’s against the stay.
“What deal is negotiated in public anywhere? The mayor is not bound by the Open Meetings Act, the governor is not. It governs legislative bodies. I think this entire piece with Judge Colette is an abuse of process, I believe the judge needs, I hope the Court of Appeals takes a very close look at it.”
What happens if the consent agreement failsl?
“That is crippling government and it is crippling, in my view, the city of Detroit and the governor’s ability to get something that is absolutely essential not only for the city of Detroit, but for the state of Michgian, all of this gamesmanship needs to stop,” Cockrel said, embracing the consent agreement.
Cleveland, New York City and Washington D.C., all needed financial oversight boards when finances were troubled — and all turned around, Cockrel said. And it’s wrong-headed to claim it violates the residents ability to vote on their own elected leaders, she added.
“We have all this conversation going on about people’s right to vote, in my opinion there’s a fundamental right in the United States of America that comes in the constitution to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When 12-year-old children are shot dead on their street playing basketball, that child has lost their constitutional right to life because they’re dead.
“That’s the fundamental American right as we face. For people in Detroit, in many neighborhoods, those rights are at
risk, in my opinion they need to have as much weight as all of this conversation about the right to vote. No one’s going
to take away the right to vote.”
She’s also against recent protests against the consent agreement by clergy, residents and council members.
“(Financial oversight) is how local units of government get out of trouble,” she said. ” Only 14 percent of (Detroit’s) general fund comes from taxes, Ann Arbor is at 51 percent, Dearborn is at 72 percent, you need jobs, you need business and assessing our strengths and weaknesses to get there (is necessary.) You need a tax base.”