The Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes and Politics, Forum 3 made history Thursday morning at the Birmingham’s Townsend Hotel, when it convened one of the most impressive panels of Michigan politicians in the event’s history. Political developments in Detroit and Southeast Michigan over the past several days regarding Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficanno have created hot debate and immnse speculation in political and economic circles. Joined by Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Pancakes and Politics patrons had front row seats to a history-making discussion.
Mayor Bing, who announced only days ago that he did not intend to seek reelection, but stated that he would remain in politics and would consider a county position told audience members, “The system is broken, no doubt about it. And what we have done during the course of my administration is make some cuts. But we are at the point where we can’t cut anymore. … We have to figure it out and grow.”
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficanno emphasized that Detroit and Wayne County were not the only communities with financial difficulty. “There are 180 distressed communities and school districts across the state; it’s not just southeast Michigan. If you go to Grand Rapids they are facing the same types of pressures that we are.”
When asked about the primary challenge facing Oakland County, L. Brooks Patterson responded, “We are doing fine. We have paid off all of our debt … I am not bragging, but I don’t have the same pressures as some of the other [executives] do.”
Macomb Executive Mark Hackel urged the regions residents to reserve judgment regarding the area’s demise. “For the first time ever in Macomb County’s history, a sitting mayor, came out to Macomb County and sat in the audience to hear the State of the County address we were excited about that. … Look at the downtown area of the City of Detroit and look at what’s happening there. If you haven’t, take a walk downtown … my hope is that that that type of [revitalization] will spread into the neighborhoods.”
The region’s political leaders turned their attention to the looming issue regarding Detroit’s solvency and the possibility of bankruptcy.
“I am the last person advocating bankruptcy. If Detroit goes bankrupt the whole region loses. … In fact that’s why I was nervous when the governor appointed Kevyn Orr .”
“The reality is Kevyn [Orr] was not hired by the City of Detroit. He was hired by the State of Michigan, so he is getting a lot of direction form the State. But at this point I don’t think that Detroit is getting what it needs from the State. We want to be partners.”
Ficanno added. “We are all concerned about bankruptcy. It will drive investment away from this area. … I am with the mayor. We need a good partnership. If the state would have just lived up to their commitment for revenue sharing with Wayne County and city of Detroit you wouldn’t see an Emergency Manager here now.”