You know how the saying goes: when life gives you pork, revive the McRib… Or was it something about lemons?
My point is, it’s when commodity futures dip, not soar, that investors dig in. And while Detroit isn’t exactly a commodity like pork, it is at what some believe is the bottom of a 60-year dip, prime time to plant the seeds in this fertile economic garden.
If Detroit is teetering on the edge of some humbling realities, it also is propped at a precarious tipping point that could define its future. But one giant fear still lurks in the not-so far-off shadows: Municipal bankruptcy.
Such a catastrophe, even if welcomed by some, would fit nicely onto Detroit’s crisis-driven timeline. Which, since the city’s boom in the 1950’s, has included widespread blight, severe population decline, startling crime rates, sluggish basic city services, pitiable poverty rates and an ever-looming financial boogeyman (aka an EFM).
This rattling list woes has inspired some to label the city a national basket case. Yet, if despair is in order, most Detroiters didn’t get the memo. In fact, many are projecting another ending altogether, one in which the hardships of the past give rise to a powerful hope. For all of its troubles, Detroit is a place where adapting to the whupping of post industrialism actually seems doable, and creative and bravely speculative investment ventures in the city are on the rise.
Supported by state, federal and private sector boosts, these upticks are actually gaining credence, so much so that moguls like Quicken Loans headman Dan Gilbert, longtime Detroit investor Mike Illitch, and financial guru John Hantz are racking up investments and beginning to build on long-term investments in the city. In other words, Detroit is the Place To Be. That’s not only a hip and speculative reality but also the title of a new book that's getting national buzz.
Perhaps Dan Gilbert knows it best. He is adding to his Detroit skyscraper collection.
The Detroit News today reports:
This would be the 16th purchase of a downtown property by Gilbert and company since January 2011. Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, relocated the headquarters of the nation's largest online home mortgage lender from Livonia to Detroit in August 2010. Gilbert's portfolio of companies has since moved more than 7,000 people to work in downtown.
.... "Our focus in 2013 will be on the three R's — residential, rail and retail — all of which are vital in creating the vibrant, thriving urban core that we all envision," Gilbert said in the statement.
Detroit stocks may be in the crapper but who cares? It’s the futures that count.
Whatever happens with suspended Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, will play out in time.
But in the meantime, the Detroit Police Department (DPD) is in good hands. That’s the message from Detroit Councilman James Tate.
The former deputy police chief only had positive things to say about now interim Police Chief Chester Logan, who he has worked with in the past. "He's someone who is highly regarded by the men and women of the Police Department," Tate told the Detroit Free Press.
Logan is a lifelong Detroiter with more than 38 years of experience with the Detroit Police force who also served the U. S. Army in the Vietnam War.
Godbee Broke Trust, Not Rules
After sitting through hours of the Kwame Kilpatrick federal corruption trail, the difference between unethical and illegal is still ringing in my ears. While no one thinks what Godbee did was illegal, it is certainly believed to be unethical to have an interdepartmental affair.
Fair grounds for suspension, many have said. Obviously Mayor Dave Bing thinks so.
According to the DPD’s employee policy, there’s nothing that prohibits interdepartmental relationships, according to a Detroit police spokesperson.
But Bruce Miller, an employment lawyer and president of Miller Cohen told The Free Press that there’s a reason for a lack of specific rules: "An organization can't have a rule that defines everything it does," Miller said. "The rule book would be awfully thick."
Detroit Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said Godbee should resign and to clear the city of any scandal or perceived ethical breach: Just because a decision is not illegal or against the rules doesn’t mean it’s not wrong.
The bottom line is that the DPD is in good hands with Logan and one Police Chief’s digressions are small compared to the big picture of keeping the city safe. Knowing this we can all calm down on the Godbee topic.
Ballot Chameleon: Events Change, Constitutions Don’t
When we go to the polls this fall and we get to the ballot proposal section, we can’t make our decisions solely based on current events.
These constitutional amendments and city charter shifts could hold for decades, through all sorts of conflicts.
In Detroit, there are four ballot proposals for people to decide on in addition to six statewide proposals. These city proposals are mostly clarifications and amendments to the city’s governing document, the charter.
An example of current events affecting city laws came during the charter revision process that started in 2010. People were caught up on the Kilpatrick scandal, they wished, at that time, that the law department had more power over the scandalized mayor.
The decision to give city attorney’s independent power was supposed to provide some sort of insurance to make sure this never happened again.
But that backfired when a new situation arose. The State and the City entered into a consent, or turnaround, agreement and when the city’s top lawyer, using her new found power, tried to stop it, there was nothing the Mayor or the Council could do about it.
Now the question on the ballot is whether the charter says that city lawyers have this power or not. It’s a clarifying question that has been seen through current-event shades.
That goes to show us that the amendments proposed this November can’t be changed on an issue by issue basis. They have to stick through all sorts of police weather and economic shifts. They have to be versatile.
Just because it’s unpopular for a city attorney to have power right now after the Crystal Crittendon consent fiasco, the scene may change next year.
So when we vote on these long-term decisions this on Election Day, we have to keep in mind: things won’t always be like this. These people won’t always be in power. Times change. Are these laws versatile?
If the city of Detroit was a business, and Mayor Dave Bing was the President/CEO, and Corporation Council Krystal Crittendon was said businesses’ top lawyer, Crittendon would have been fired months ago.
But the city isn’t a business, and the mayor isn’t a President or CEO and able to call all the shots. There are many reasons one could argue that municipalities aren’t like a business, and alternately, many reasons why one could argue that they are.
Bing has said many times that the city aught to be run like a business. And in his letter to Crittendon yesterday, he cited how she had hurt her client, the City of Detroit, in her lawsuit challenging the consent agreement. As a direct result of her actions, bond ratings dropped, along with the already low public opinion of the city.
As much as Bing would like to run the city like a business, there are instances, like this one, where the two are distinguished. The city council has to vote on this one and six of them have to agree with Bing in order to remove Crittendon from her post as the city’s leading lawyer. And the council doesn't work for Bing.
It is unlikely that the City Council will vote out Crittendon for two reasons: First of all, there are not six city council members who agreed with allowing the consent agreement in the first place. That vote rattled through at 5-4. Secondly, Bing has already asked the city council members to remove Crittendon: just last week. They said “no” and no major external shifts have taken place since then, unless they are under some more, less public pressure from the state to get rid of her, the vote isn’t likely to change.
The question of weather a city should be run like business has intrigued me for some time.
But now is not the time for more philosophical debates and back and forth within city government. Could Crittendon’s removal turn into another city circus?
That’s what Bing is trying to avoid, and yet it almost seems inevitable.
One of the definitions the Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives for the word “business” is:
“Serious activity requiring time and effort and usually the avoidance of distractions "
Under that definition, Detroit is definitely a business and needs to avoid as many distractions as possible in order to stabilize not only the city’s reputation, but its finances.
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