The following is from today's edition of The Detroit News and tomorrow's edition of The Morning Sun.
Detroit is on track to emerge from federal bankruptcy proceedings later this year, but the ability of those in city hall to competently oversee municipal governance is questionable at best.
Mayor Mike Duggan’s intentions are without a doubt good, though the past failures of city hall should give pause to those naïve enough to think Duggan has a magic wand he can wave to solve the herculean challenges facing Michigan’s first city.
Detroit’s political class has done nothing to make Michiganians end their skepticism and adopt a glass half-full orientation. After all, Duggan predecessors Dave Bing, Kwame Kilpatrick and Dennis Archer were all touted as transformative change-agents.
In the end, all failed to bring back Detroit from ruin.
One recent development of concern is the Duggan mayoralty assuming responsibility for blight eradication — arguably the most important portfolio outside the police and fire departments — from the Detroit Blight Authority, the non-profit, public-private partnership established by Bill Pulte.
City hall failed for decades to put an end to blight — an epidemic that has resulted in too many neighborhoods resembling Mogadishu and other war-torn cities of the third world. Yet Pulte’s Blight Authority did a lot more than the city ever did.
The same can be said for most of the other positive signs happening around Detroit. It’s innovators and entrepreneurs, as well as state-appointed leaders, who are getting things done, not Duggan or disgraced politicians like George Cushingberry.
Sure, there have been laudable reforms to come out of the bankruptcy process, but in reality this is nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic.
The time has come to admit the city’s ruin is a direct result of its structure and system of government. The fundamental transformation so desperately needed in Detroit can only come if the slate is wiped clean and the city starts anew.
This will require radical reforms that do away with the established order in very much the same way as Margaret Thatcher abolished London’s dysfunctional government back in 1986.
Possibilities range from merging the city and Wayne County into a new metropolitan government to decentralizing today’s Detroit into smaller, more accountable and more manageable governments, based upon historical townships or villages long ago lost to history.
Much of this could be carried out by either federal Judge Steven Rhodes, overseeing Detroit’s post-bankruptcy restructuring, or state-appointed emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr.
Both Rhodes and Orr are in the unique position of having broad authority that doesn’t require petty political considerations, unlike those in Lansing who are under the influence of taxpayer-funded lobbyists wanting to preserve the status quo.
Michiganians from Ironwood to Temperance, Michiana to Port Austin and everywhere in between are too vested in a new Detroit to give the keys back those who ruined it.
— Dennis Lennox