Minehaha Forman is a freelance writer living in Detroit. Born on a farm in Belize, Central America, she moved to the U.S. to pursue higher education and a career in writing. Forman’s work has been featured in many metro Detroit publications including Dbusiness magazine, Hour magazine and Corp! magazine. She has provided event coverage for Real Times Media and The Michigan Chronicle for three years, covering the popular Pancakes and Politics speaker series and other events. Prior to working with the Chronicle, Forman was a blogger with The American Independent News Network where she covered Metro Detroit politics and the 2008 presidential election. She will continue to provide commentary and coverage of Detroit politics as a blogger and feature writer for The Michigan Chronicle’s website.
Website URL: http://truthordarestories.blogspot.com/
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.
You don’t have to be a religious follower of local news to see that Detroit has been on the receiving end of plenty of gifts, donations or, as some would say, handouts.
Call it what you will, Mayor Dave Bing has been clear that Detroit has, at this point, no choice but to set pride aside and ask for help in any way, shape or form.
He’s a mayor that ain’t too proud to beg, and in fact admits he spends an “important” portion of his time as mayor seeking help from the state, the feds, and the private sector. And rightfully so. As a leader, you do what gotta do, you take what you can when the going gets excruciating.
Over the past two months alone, the city has received millions on federal grants, big-ticket donations and in-kind gifts of everything from community building to toilet paper. It's hardly enough to make a big dent in the city's financial issues, but every bit counts.
In fact, much of the good news the city has to share lately has been about a donation or grant to the city.
Take Ford’s recent $10 million donation which in part went to meet costs at a city-run activity center. Or the news that a long abandoned “eyesore” would be demolished with a 6.5 million grant from the feds. How about the good news that Detroit would reinstate 26 firefighters with a 5.6 million grant from FEMA? While the gift of money always pleases, in-kind donations to Detroit firefighters have been announced this holiday season, as Art Van donated more that 150 mattress sets to Detroit firehouses o Christmas eve. Last month firefighters got a donation of basic supplies that the city has not been able to provide—like soap and toilet paper—from Detroit Chemical and Paper Supply company and the Andiamo Restaurant Group.
That said, Bing said there are “quite a few” more donors lined up to help Detroit amble through this financially stricken time.
Perhaps one of the most interesting plea for support comes from a program to help beef up if meager personnel numbers.
Bing has consistently responded to questions from reporters saying ““We just don’t have the people to get this done as quickly as we would like to” regarding various initiatives he has laid out.
So how can Detroit get more management level jobs without paying the high price? Bing mentioned a program at a press conference recently in which the city would seek to get businesses to “loan” their management-level employees to the city. That’s right.
“Because of the cutbacks we have had from a personnel standpoint we are very stressed, we are very light at the management level so we are now reaching out to certain businesses around the state in particular to see whether or not they could loan us executives from anywhere from one to two years,” Bing told reporters on Monday. “We’re getting some positive feedback there.”
Aside from being an HR conundrum, who would be willing to lend a manager to the City of Detroit?
We shall see.
One day after Gov. Rick Snyder appointed a 6-member team to conduct a financial review of Detroit’s finances, Mayor Dave Bing rolled out a “revenue enhancement” plan estimated to bring the city $50 million in revenue.
But at this point, after years on financial insolvency, many are wondering if the city’s new collection initiative is “too little to late”.
City and State officials have warned that a wrong move at this crucial time in Detroit’s history could land the city in bankruptcy court.
But here’s the twist: Under state law, the city must first be appointed an Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) before being eligible to file for bankruptcy. Snyder’s review team’s findings could result in him appointing an EFM to Detroit, someone who would take away the Bing Administration and the City Council’s power to make financial decisions.
Just a month ago, city and state officials were squabbling over the release of $30 million in escrowed state funds. Now that the city has reached the milestones of an agreement that was contingent on the $30 million drawdown, the city is not in much better shape.
During the drawn out “milestones” tug of war between the mayor’s office and city council members, the mayor’s talking points made it sound like the $30 would stave off layoffs.
Turns out, layoffs are just one of the measures the city has to take in order to move not toward financial solvency but just to keep afloat.
One thing that’s different now is that City residents and business owners face tougher tax collection efforts now that the city has hired private collection agencies to go after delinquent accounts. No one is safe, not even the mighty Illitches who owe more than 1.5 million in taxes.
The city estimates that it could gain nearly $20 million in tax collection initiatives annually if stricter collection is enforced.
That begs the question: why were these collection measures not taken sooner?
The answer is a complex one that boils down to the fact that the city, until recent contracts with private firms, did not have the capacity to go after its debtors, Bing says.
As the city keeps skimming its payroll, there are less people doing work.
“Because of the loss of so many people—we had almost 14, 00 people when we came into office now we 9,700 people—we need some help on the personnel standpoint so we’re going to the outside and getting some outside firms to come in and help us. They are not going to be permanent.”
Meanwhile, the city plans to lay off 500 more workers in early 2013 mostly through attrition and retirement according to CFO Jack Martin.
Still, is this too little too late, Mr. Mayor?
“It’s too soon to say,” Bing said Wednesday. “We’re not throwing in the towel. Contrary to what a lot of people may believe there’s a lot of good things we have done. I think when we lay this plan out it’s going to surprise a lot of people. This is not a ‘get tough’ stance on anybody. It’s fairness and being correct.”
At this point Detroiters can only wait and see. Hopefully, people will get the surprise Bing looks forward to.
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