Detroit mayor takes city's plight to lawmakers

AP News
Posted: Dec 02, 2009 5:14 PM

Mayor Dave Bing has spent the past few months bringing stability back to Detroit City Hall.

Now the first-term mayor is on the road, pleading Detroit's case to state lawmakers and participating in a White House forum Thursday on jobs and economic growth.

On Tuesday, the 65-year-old Democrat briefed Michigan legislators on Detroit's financial woes and precarious future while mending political fences damaged by past mayoral administrations.

"They understand there is a new day in Detroit, one of cooperation, respect and opportunity," Bing said following his meetings with Republicans and Democrats in Lansing. "I look forward to working with the Legislature during my upcoming term on behalf of the citizens of Detroit and for the betterment of the state of Michigan."

Bing wants the state to raise the cap on the amount of fiscal stabilization bonds Detroit can sell from $125 million to $250 million. State revenue-sharing funds would pay off the bonds within 20 years.

The money is needed to help pull Detroit out of a massive budget deficit of more than $300 million.

Bing has made it clear the city is not seeking a handout, something Sarah Hubbard, senior vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber, appreciates.

"It's never a bad time for Detroit to development relationships," she said. "Developing the relationships that are needed when he does need something are so important.

"Dave Bing has a lot of good will and positive political capital."

Since his election in May to complete ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's term, Bing has restructured city government operations, instituted layoffs and brokered a 10 percent pay cut with some city unions. He was re-elected Nov. 3.

Among the Michigan-based executives joining Bing at the White House will be Dow Chemical Co. CEO Andrew Liveris, Dow Corning Corp. CEO Stephanie Burns, Automation Alley executive director Ken Rogers and CEO Noel Cuellar of Primera Plastics. University of Michigan Public Policy Dean Susan Collins also is attending the forum Thursday.

That summit will focus on combating chronic joblessness and encouraging more businesses to hire _ two issues Bing, a former owner of steel supply and manufacturing companies, knows all too well.

Detroit's unemployment rate is nearly 28 percent, compared to 10.2 percent nationally.

Detroit must become more "business friendly" if jobs are to be created for the thousands of people without work, Bing told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

"That's not going to happen overnight," he said. "We've got to change attitudes. If we are deemed not to be a business-friendly city we're going to continue to lose businesses that are here, and we can't afford for that to happen."

Bing has said it was the city's stagnation during the tail end of Kilpatrick's tenure that prompted him to run for mayor. Kilpatrick resigned in September 2008 after entering pleas in two criminal cases.

Kilpatrick had been charged with perjury stemming from a text-messaging sex scandal involving his former top aide.


Associated Press Writer Kathy Barks Hoffman in Lansing contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS Bing's meeting with Michigan lawmakers to Tuesday in the third paragraph.)