Dave Bing was elected to fulfill the remaining year or so of Kwame Kilpatrick’s turn. For many this represents a turn for the better, given not only the competition (Ken Cockrel Jr.), but given other recent choices (Martha Reeves, Monica Conyers, Kwame Kilpatrick).
What Detroit needs is more than a single politician. To that degree they could have elected Freeman, they could have elected Cockrel. Hell, I think that Kwame Kilpatrick was the best neoliberal mayor Detroit had (better than Archer, better than Cockrel, better than Bing will be). If the text scandal hadn’t happened Detroit would still be in the shape it’s in now. Housing market in tatters, unemployment rate too high to measure accurately, city services weak. I’ve had conversations with my fraternity brothers about what Bing brings to the table. They think his business savvy will bring new economic development into the city.
- The economic development model they’re talking about doesn’t work for working class Detroiters because city services don’t increase as a result (tax abatements are usually used to bring businesses into cities) and because they don’t significantly lower unemployment levels (to the extent businesses like Compuware hire, they hire service professionals rather than manufacture workers).
- The economic development model they’re talking about isn’t sustainable. It’s obvious that such a move won’t work in this economy. But it doesn’t work even outside of this economy. It potentially increases a number of short term outputs, and makes the city appear vibrant and “on the move”. But that’s about it.
Now it is possible that Bing’s election will send some type of signal that Detroit voters aren’t on crack and this will lead to more resources. This too is doubtful. I do think that resources will flow into Detroit eventually, but this would’ve happened regardless of the mayor, because Detroit is so connected to the automotive industry and even as Chrysler and GM fail there’s a perception that something has to be done to soften the fall. (Whatever that means.)
(I don’t think Detroit voters are on crack by the way.)
(I do believe that Detroit needs a better quality of city councilperson–but even that’s a wash given that all councilpersons in Detroit are elected at-large (meaning that no individual on the council has an identifiable constituency that can hold them accountable).)
With all this said, what’s required?
I’ve got ideas. I’ll toss a couple of questions out. Politicians have finally begun to think seriously about high-speed rail. I thought it was too little too late…until I realized how much the housing market had tanked. If you could buy a brand new home in the best suburb for $90,000 and had the opportunity to commute, to Chicago on a train that would take 2 hours would you?
With housing stock cheaper than almost any other industrial city, with the largest available land mass of any of them….what populations could you attract?
What would you do with the land?