Reporting Carol Cain
Detroit (CBS 62) - With Detroit’s fiscal woes simmering and threat of an Emergency Manager looming, Mayor Dave Bing said he wishes the local media would stop focusing all of its attention on the negative and show the Motor City some love. “Absolutely not,” the 62nd mayor said emphatically when asked during taping of “Michigan Matters” if he thought the local media was fair in its coverage. “The national media has been better than our local media,” he added.
“People who have never been here are pleasantly surprised when they do,” said Bing, no thanks to local media which keeps piling it on when it comes to reporting the only the problems. “Despite our much-publicized financial issues, the picture is not all doom and gloom. Everyday there are more signs of hope and possibilities,” Bing said.
He mentioned things including huge investments in the city by Dan Gilbert, Mike and Marian Ilitch and others. He pointed to the Detroit Blight Authority, an organization started by Bill Pulte of Pulte Capital Partners, and his grandfather, William Pulte of Pulte Homes, which they launched to help tear down abandoned homes.
Bing is the latest to raise a flag about the culture of the negativity here and the toll it takes. Gov. Rick Snyder has talked more than once about the need to change the perception of Michigan by its residents who too often dwell on the glass being half empty.
Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, also has made changing the mindset of those living in the city and state to be more positive as part of his organization’s concern. But Bing is the first to single out the local media as part of the problem. “Do we really like ourselves?” said Bing. “People here are fighting change. People want to think about Detroit as it was 30 or 40 years ago. Detroit is changing and it will be very different 20 years from now.”
Bing also took issue with the state appointed Financial Review Team which said the city had a $100 million bill due by June. He said the city has been paring down what is owed and the amount will be less. Bing said the city’s current financial woes stem from a reduction in state revenue-sharing over the past 11 years, mentioning he inherited an accumulated deficit of $332 million.
Bing said the state’s reduced revenue sharing amount given to Detroit was $700 million less than what was owed. “It is clear that if Detroit had received its agreed-upon share of revenues from the state, our financial picture would not be as grim,” Bing said.
On the subject of an Emergency Manager, which Gov. Snyder is mulling, Bing added EMs in place in Pontiac and Benton Harbor are not the same as one in Detroit would be. “Those are quite different as the cities have 10,000 or 30,000 people. Detroit has over 700,000,” he said.
If an EM is ultimately appointed, Bing said “we will need to figure out how this will work.”
Of politics and Mike Duggan, former CEO of Detroit Medical Center, who threw his hat into the ring for Mayor this week, Bing added, “I worked with Mike and was on DMC’s board. We know and respect each other. Anyone who thinks they can help turn the city around is welcome.”
Bing said he isn’t thinking about re-election, adding the filing deadline is May 4. “I’m not thinking about that at all. My staff is coming to the office every day. We’re focusing on public safety, lighting, transportation, the recreation department, blight.”
Of Gov. Snyder, Bing said, “I have a decent relationship with the governor. He represents the state and I represent the city. We are not always on the same page but we are not enemies.” “Can the state be more helpful? Definitely. We need to work together.”
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano also appeared on the show along with Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. Ficano, the last of the “Big Four” regional leaders to give his state of the county speech this Monday night, said regional cooperation will be a big theme for him.
Patterson, who has maintained his county’s top bond ratings and operates under an enviable three year county budget, added he did not want to give Bing advice on what do to in dealing with his situation. Patterson and Ficano both said having a supportive board makes all the difference in the world in being able to get things done vs. Detroit’s city council where Bing had butted heads more than once.
For more, watch “Michigan Matters” Sundays at 11:30 am on CBS 62.
Carol Cain is Senior Producer and Host of the Emmy winning “Michigan Matters” that airs 11:30 a.m. Sundays on CBS 62. You can read her columns on business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. She can be at firstname.lastname@example.org.