The New Year has barely kicked off but Detroit mayoral candidates are wasting no time getting straight to the politicking. Wayne County Sherriff Benny Napoleon and former DMC CEO Mike Duggan, both gearing up for a 2013 run, traded barbs this week over a very trivial issue: whether the city’s affluent Palmer Woods neighborhood was really “Detroit”.
What’s worse, political enthusiasts and social media armchair critics are eating it up. Long, rambling comment threads litter the web over whether Palmer Woods should be considered part of the Detroit experience.
Really? Is this what the Detroit mayoral race is going to be reduced to? This whole brouhaha is a prime example of how reader-hungry media outlets paired with exposure-hungry candidates dance to create a puffy election season cocktail of absolutely no substance.
Napoleon’s Palmer Woods comment blew up to the point where he felt the need to reiterate his comments on Facebook.
“Quality neighborhoods should be citywide in Detroit,” Napoleon posted to his Facebook wall. “The Palmer Woods experience far different than average Detroiter’s. But, Palmer Woods is Detroit and what we want all neighborhoods to aspire to.”
That’s what Napoleon had been saying all along, but a juicy quote was out of context and ran with like a football down the field. It makes for good water-cooler talk but not much else.
Still, the whole fluffy affair had to somehow be linked to race. After all, this is Detroit. Prevailing comments on social media threads have accused Napoleon of race baiting, claiming that his words about Palmer Woods and probable opponent Mike Duggan were somehow embedded in racial divisiveness. But these wed commentating people are obviously the ones with race on the mind.
If anything, it’s a class issue that Napoleon raised. Palmer Woods houses upper-middle class people in a city that is mostly sub-poverty line broke. Palmer Woods is a diverse neighborhood, not a white enclave in a predominantly black city.
So what’s the issue here? There really isn’t one; Except maybe a little media-candidate tailspin.
At best, this is the stuff soap boxes are made of.
Mayoral candidates Duggan and State Rep. Lisa Howze used this media-created spat as a campaign opportunity. They both immediately took to Facebook to declare the comically obvious: That the Palmer Woods Neighborhood is, in fact, part of Tha D.
Howze writes on FB:
“Palmer Woods is Detroit! When I walked this neighborhood in 2009, and as recent as last year, I encountered many great people. Residents were making repairs to their homes and planting flowers to beautify their properties. They care about their investment in Detroit and ask for no more and no less than any other Detroit resident who want value for their hard-earned tax dollars.”
Duggan Writes on FB:
Benny Napoleon unveils his campaign platform: "Hell no. Palmer Woods is not Detroit." Mike Duggan's campaign is made up of hundreds of volunteers who believe in his message of hope and unity. Now we know what this campaign will be like and what's at stake for our community in 2013. Please don't sit on the sidelines.
This has been a fun conversation but let’s keep it moving. If this type of thing keeps up it's gonna be a loong year. Detroit faces bigger problems than this sillyness.
Other than voting for the next U.S. President in November, Michigan voters will have a tremendous decision to make: Yay or nay to the State’s emergency manager law, Public Act 4?
Perhaps the biggest opponents to PA4 are unions. Under the emergency manager or financial board rule, they know what’s coming, and it’s not good.
That’s why as we edge closer to Election Day we voters can expect to be bombarded with advertisements, fliers and e-mails sponsored by unions bent on destroying the legislation that’s set to destroy them.
But there’s another side to the story. The other soldiers on the battlefield are supporters of the emergency manager legislation: Officials on a state and municipal level, business people who want to skip collective bargaining, and a host of citizens who believe the State’s struggling cities and school districts would be better off without collective bargaining contracts sucking up already sparse funds.
A coalition of businesses is gearing up to raise funds in support of the controversial legislation, while unions are shoring up support against it. In other words, a battle is brewing. And amid the spiky campaigns on both fronts, it may be tough for voters to come to fair, unbiased information on this highly polarized issue.
Meanwhile, there’s another ballot initiative unions and the state are battling over as you read this. Unions want to ensure their place in government and so the Protect Our Jobs project was created.
The Protect Our Jobs group have collected more than enough signatures to get a measure on the ballot that would mandate collective bargaining:
"Attorney General Bill Schuette and Gov. Rick Snyder are joining the battle to keep the union-backed Protect Our Jobs proposal off the November ballot, saying the measure as written doesn’t give voters “the basic tools” to know exactly what they are voting for.
...State and national unions have donated more than $8 million to support Protect Our Jobs, which would enshrine collective bargaining in the state constitution."
That’s a lot of cash. But if this passes, it’ll make things a whole lot tougher for union busters, even if PA4 gets the O.K. from the electorate.
Still, it raises the question: Are unions archaic? Is there a way to redesign labor agreements and keep fair work environments and wages?
And for those of us hitting the voting booths in November, how can we access unbiased factual information to make an informed decision about PA4 or the Protect Our Jobs proposal if we have been flooded with propaganda from both sides?
Is Mayor Dave Bing gearing up for another mayoral run? Or has Gov. Rick Snyder really crossed a line with his proposals for Detroit?
Up until now, Bing has been mostly supportive of input from the State of Michigan to support and control parts of the city that are failing under the financial crisis. He supported the consent agreement, he supported cuts proposed by the consent agreement's financial advisory board, and he condemned the city's Corporation Counsel when she tried to stall the consent agreement.
But at a meeting with Detroit NAACP members in Midtown Wednesday, Bing hotly expressed frustration with Snyder's proposals for the city using words like “hell” and “damn”, according to a report in The Detroit News.
Bing said of Governor Snyder:
“You can't come in here and think you can do any damn thing that you want.”
Bing added that he does not want the state to “impose” decision on Detroit:
"I have never in my 46 years in this city seen a governor of the state of Michigan involved in city politics like this one," he said.
But The state has been imposing a lot of things lately, so why has Bing turned on this one?
My first guess is that he’s lining up his ducks for another mayoral run and in order to get a good footing with his electorate he has to start standing up the governor.
I’m no political advisor, but I guarantee candidates who toss the term “union busting” around a few times and throw verbal zingers Snyder’s way are bound to rack up Detroit votes.
City Council President Charles Pugh, who also has expressed interest in a mayoral run, has essentially done the same thing. He supported the consent agreement up until now, when he suddenly is calling it “union busting” and blasting the state for wanting to take over Detroit.
Looks like Bing, Pugh and DMC front man Mike Duggan will be top mayoral contenders in 2013. And it’s clear that a successful run it will be a tight balancing act of who can keep in good with the State while giving Detroit voters what they want to hear.
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