Looks like the Motor City ain’t doing too well.
If he had wanted to, Mayor Dave Bing could have looked out his 11th-story window, at the Detroit River and the final vestiges of the boomtown he arrived in 44 years ago.
But his eyes were focused on the grim details of the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Page 25: The annual budget is in the hole by $155 million. Page 28: Long-term debt has climbed to $5.7 billion. Bing tapped the 237-page document with his index finger, number after daunting number.
“When I was elected, I thought I knew what was going on, but I got here and found out [that] in the short term, things were way worse than I ever imagined,” Bing said. “Financially. Ethically. From a policy standpoint. We were on the brink of a financial calamity.”
Twenty-one months into the job, that’s where the city remains. With no salvation in sight, Bing, 67, has embarked on a mission few in his position have ever had to take on: Dramatically shrinking a major American metropolis. To do so, Bing has issued an open invitation: Anyone with a proposal, plan, theory – a notion, even – is welcome to try to save his crumbling city.
Shrinking a city? Shrug.
Where’s Rick Moranis? Maybe his shrinking machine from Honey I shrunk the kids may help!
Oh, and wait, the feds are building a $400 light rail project to transport people who have no jobs to businesses that no longer exist. Wonderful!
Bing clapped ‘amen’ to that, but he continues to pursue federal programs that could benefit Detroit. “As much as we can get – always ,” he said.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was in Detroit last month to meet with Bing about a $400 million light-rail project, which will be developed downtown with public and private dollars.
On that same corridor, Bing is using money from neighborhood grants and $110 million in federal stimulus money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to knock down abandoned buildings and clean up the area, among other projects.
“He knows what he doesn’t know, and he knows where he needs help,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “He’s invited us in as a true partner to help him tackle those issues.”