The changing face of Detroit government

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By Bankole Thompson
CHRONICLE SENIOR EDITOR

Gary Brown, the man whose battle with political leaders inside Detroit
government led to the downfall of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, is the latest
member of the Detroit City Council to announce he is not seeking re-election to the legislative body.

Brown is leaving at a precarious time in city government when many Detroiters questioned the competence and effectiveness of the Detroit City Council as the check and balance of local government.

Brown now joins members Charles Pugh, Kwame Kenyatta, Kenneth
Cockrel Jr., and JoAnn Watson who will not be returning to council.

That opens wide the field of candidates for council at a time when districting has made the race more competitive. Some council members are facing stiff challenges from other known candidates who are also running in districts for council.

But Brown’s departure also signals the changes coming to city hall after Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced Tuesday he won’t seek re-election, which also sets the stage for an electoral showdown this summer.

Despite what the outcome of the races for council and mayor might be, it still won’t change the reality of Detroit’s financial crisis now being managed by
Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

This week Orr released a financial report that found the city insolvent and
unable to borrow cash.

“We are in the first steps of a very long journey. I believe the Chinese say a trip of a thousand miles starts with the first step. I think that’s what it is,”
Orr said in an interview with the Michigan Chronicle before the report’s
release.

“This just means that the numbers are going to be bigger than have previously been discussed. It means that the challenges and negotiations with the interested parties are probably going to be a little bit more intense because there’s more at stake. There’s more money on the table. There is more attention.”

Orr said the city’s revenue projections are precarious because historically when the city is budgeted and takes on a debt to try to make a balanced budget, it always deferred payments with some obligations that are due.

“We’ve done some borrowing to make some shortfalls. When I say it’s worse than expected, if the city were to try to run and meet its debt obligations on a going forward basis, based on what it takes in revenue fees and other incomes and balance that against what its obligations are paid in the ordinary cause, that would be very challenging,” Orr said.

Orr also named Cincinnati police chief James Craig as Detroit’s newest top cop, another development that marks the power shifts at city hall.

Craig, who is excited about his new assignment, is already saying he would focus on crime, the top issue for most Detroiters.

His Detroit assignment comes on the heels of brand new ambulance trucks and police cars donated to the city by members of corporate Detroit.

But even as the Detroit Police Department ushers in its new leader, it still faces many other issues that include the morale of officers and the ever present Justice Department Decree.

Read more http://www.michronicleonline.com/index.php/prime-politics-original/11471-the-changing-face-of-detroit-government

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