Motor City Mayor Gives Obama Mixed Reviews
By Carol Cain
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing gave Barack Obama mixed reviews as president in his first term when asked about it during taping of “Michigan Matters.” “I don’t give grades, but it’s been mixed,” said Bing, 68, a Democrat who runs a city with an 80 percent African American population on the weekly CBS 62 show. He added Obama came in amid high expectations but some issues now dogging him and his effort to win re-election against Michigan native son and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney aren’t all of his doing.
“He inherited a mess, just as I did,” Bing said of Obama. “The areas he has been good at are in healthcare, autos and education,” Bing said. When pressed on how Obama has treated his city, Bing said: “Certain departments have been helpful like HUD and Transportation and Labor.”
Of Vice President Joe Biden who was in Detroit on Wednesday and talked to Bing during his campaign visit, he said, “Joe was a few years ahead of me (at Syracuse University where they both attended college). I didn’t know him then. But over several years we have connected and built a good relationship.”
Bing, who played basketball at Syracuse and with the Detroit Pistons, is an NBA All-Star and was voted one of the 50 greatest players of all time. Obama made mention of Bing’s career during a 2009 campaign visit to suburban Warren where the mayor was among those sitting in the audience. “My game’s a little like Dave Bing’s, except I don’t have the jump shot or the speed or the ball handling skills or the endurance. I also don’t have the Afro — don’t think I forgot that Dave. I remember!” Obama said at the time. Since taking keys to the White House, Obama has visited Michigan 11 times.
One person hoping he will return to the Motor City and hopefully her organization is Detroit Economic Club President and CEO Beth Chappell. Every sitting president in modern history — except Obama — has graced its storied stage – which is second in prestige only to the National Press Club when it comes to rolling out the red carpet for world leaders, CEOs and presidents. “We’ve had every one of his cabinet members, but not him,” she said during taping of “Michigan Matters.” He appeared as a U.S. senator from Illinois when vying for the White House. Just not since winning, she added.
Bing’s Future Play
Speaking of his political tidings, Bing had this to say about his own future. “I have no plan for re-election at this point,” he said. “I’m going to do as much as I can over the next 16 months to fix some of the problems. If I do that, and do it well, then this administration will be looked upon favorably.”
“We’re trying to fix a broken system,” he said.
Bing, who suffered serious intestinal problems that left him hospitalized earlier this year, said, “I’m doing very good.” “Right now I’m only four to five pounds behind where I was before I was hospitalized,” said Bing.
Having been out of commission for several weeks, Bing offered advice to Oakland County L. Brooks Patterson – a fellow “Big Four” political leader who is recuperating from broken bones after a serious auto accident in which he was a passenger. “Do what the doctors and nurses tell you to,” Bing said. “I was fortunate at Henry Ford (Hospital) to be surrounded by unbelievable professions. In most cases, you don’t listen. But here, you need to.”
On the health of his urban city and woes with front page grabbing crimes, Bing said the only way the problem will be solved is to involve the entire community. “We’ve got to stop thinking that the only persons that can prevent crime are police officers,” he said. “It’s a community issue. A cultural problem.” “Most of the homicides in our city involve people who know each other and use guns to resolve conflicts,” said Bing, who doesn’t own a gun and never even held one.
Of ongoing prickly negotiations with city fire and police unions, where he is asking for 20-percent pay reductions, he explained: “If I don’t go in and treat them the same way as I am treating others, we are going to blow our budget. Then we have the potential of an Emergency Manager coming in (to run things).”
Bing talked about the city closing on a deal Thursday that allows them to borrow $137 million to stabilize its financial situation. It’s a follow up to a bond deal reached last March. “It will allow us to have cash flow to get us through the fiscal year,” Bing said. “What we have got to do internally to look for additional revenue. You can’t cut your way out of the situation,” he said.
University of Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon also appeared on “Michigan Matters” and talked of the Sports Illustrated cover featuring UM quarterback Denard Robinson. “I’m not concerned by it,” he said of the supposed curse some say appearing on the SI cover has.
“Denard is a pretty confident guy. He’s been here four years. He’s ready for the bigger stage,” Brandon added.
Of tough sanctions imposed by the NCAA on Penn State due to the former football coach Jerry Sandusky’s child abuse scandal, Brandon said: “The penalty they received is actually worse than the death penality (which is the ultimate they could have received as it would have barred them from playing football). “This will go on over a long period of time and keep the program alive and in a disadvantageous state.”
“The NCAA is run by members and presidents of the universities. They wanted to send a strong message about the horrific set of circumstances and that this will not be tolerated. “That message came out loud and strong,” he added.
You can watch “Michigan Matters” 11:30 a.m Sunday on CBS 62.
Carol Cain is the Emmy winning senior producer and host of CBS 62 “Michigan Matters.” She writes about politics and business in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.