Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Donald James
The days of Mayor Dave Bing’s administration are winding down. In less than six weeks, Bing, after serving a four-and-a-half-year stint as Detroit’s mayor, will pass the baton to Mayor-elect Mike Duggan. The transition of mayoral responsibilities will turn yet another page in Detroit’s long and sometimes controversial political history book.
Most will agree that the city of Detroit was in dire straits when Bing took office in May 2009, compounded by the prolonged trials, tribulations, and missteps of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, followed by the eventual appointment of an emergency manager and the filing for bankruptcy, all punctuated by rising crime, a steady loss of population, an eroding tax base, and escalating blight.
What did Mayor Bing accomplish during his tenure to improve Detroit?
In an exclusive interview with the Michigan Chronicle, Bing talked about his administration’s mission, goals and accomplishments during his time in office.
“What anyone would say is that my administration brought integrity back to the office of mayor,” said Bing. “I think it was important and was difficult. I think what my administration does not get is credit for the many other things that we’ve done.”
After taking office, Bing said that his administration’s strategies were to focus on stabilizing the city’s finances, improving the quality of life for all citizens, as well as repopulating Detroit. His mission centered on five key areas: public safety, public transportation, public lighting, neighborhood blight and recreation.
Public Safety — The mayor points to his administration’s role in opening the $60 million, state-of-the-art Public/Safety Headquarters that consolidated police, fire, Homeland Security, EMS and IT operations; the donation and deployment of 23 new EMS units and 100 police cruisers from the corporate community; the addition of 100 officers on street patrol or in investigations; and the opening of 14 police mini-stations.
Public Transportation — No city or region can be great without a great public transportation system. Thus, the mayor advocated for the outsourcing of city bus management operations and identified the team to manage related initiatives; Bing played a major role in obtaining $31 million in federal funds for a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and the future 3.3-mile M1 Rail system that will run along Woodward Avenue from downtown to Midtown.
Public Lighting — According to Bing, his administration pushed for the state legislature and Detroit City Council to approve his proposal to create a Detroit Public Lighting Authority to finance $160 million in new lighting and system upgrades; the plan to light Detroit is being implemented under the city’s emergency manager.
Neighborhood Blight — The Bing administration is on target to demolish 10,000 vacant houses and commercial structures he promised to take down by the end of this year; Bing’s quest to take down the dangerous structures was bolstered by funding solicited from HUD and other federal agencies. Bing’s team also released Detroit Future City, a bold and innovative strategic plan for transforming neighborhoods through the best use of city land. The plan also provided ideas for powering job growth. The strategic framework plan, published in 2012, is laid out in an impressive 347-page book.
Recreation — Bing created the Detroit Recreation Foundation to raise funds to keep city recreation centers and parks open; his Active and Safe Campaign has garnered $14 million from businesses and foundations to upgrade, maintain and operate recreation centers and parks.
In addition to the aforementioned accomplishments, Bing said that his administration was instrumental in keeping General Motors in Detroit when the automaker was threatening to move its world headquarters out of the city, and spearheaded a regional deal involving investing in Cobo Center to the tune of $300-plus million in upgrades and expansion, which paved the way to keep the coveted North American International Auto Show in Detroit and at Cobo for many years to come.
Bing also touts his administration’s proactive involvement in assisting the police department to reach 92 percent compliance with two federal consent decrees; the compliance rate was around 29 percent when he first took office. Bing spoke about his role in forming and maintaining a great relationship with regional political leaders in three surrounding counties, as well as forming an alliance with the Obama administration that was instrumental in delivering needed money to invest in Detroit.
“It’s important for my administration to get the credit it deserves,” said Bing.
“As I’ve always said, it’s not about me because I’m a team player; it’s about those who work in this administration. I want to make sure that the people in this city know what this administration did to help move Detroit forward.”
Bing, along with Gov. Snyder and Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein, recently announced a historic partnership that will bring Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business initiative to Detroit. The move will help create jobs and spark economic growth.
While Bing’s administration has reached other significant milestones, the mayor is aware that some people will say he could have done more. Bing, however, is unfazed.
“I’m a pretty optimistic person,” he said. “I always look at the glass being half full, not half empty. I believe there has been too much focus on what didn’t get done, or what we have to do, versus what was done. As tough as it is, I think we have to focus on the positives versus the negatives. The negatives are going to be there; we are not ducking or hiding from them.”
Bing said that his office has had positive conversations with Mayor-elect Duggan and the incoming mayor’s transition team to help in the changeover. The mayor’s efforts to help Duggan during the transition period is the opposite of what Bing received when he took office.
“I was voted into office on May 5, 2009 and started work on May 9,” recalled Bing.
“Because of what had transpired in the last administration, there was nothing for me to put my arms around. There were no plans, data or directions. I focused in the beginning on changing the mindset and culture within the organization (city government) because what was being done, in a lot of cases, we found out was illegal. We couldn’t continue down that road. Mike Duggan will not have that to deal with.”
“I’ve known Mayor-elect Duggan for a long time,” said Bing. “I served on the board over at DMC when he was there. We have different styles and different personalities. We have talked and I have given him a lot of information that will help prepare him for when he takes office. The biggest challenge that he will have is how to work with the emergency manager.
“My personal relationship with the EM is fine. I respect him. He’s smart and is an accomplished guy. But the disconnect has been in trying to run city government.
“When we first got together, it was intimated, discussed and agreed upon that his focus would be on the balance sheet to relieve some of the city’s debt.
“However, somewhere along the line, I think Lansing got too heavily involved and wanted him to take over and run city government.”
He continued, “Kevyn Orr is finding out that things don’t move as fast as he would like. He’s been here for nine months, with nine months to go. When people look at their quality of life, most would say it hasn’t changed that much since his arrival because the problems are so deep and so entrenched.”
Following the early January 2014 inauguration that will install Duggan as the city’s new mayor, Bing will explore numerous options pertaining to his future. He did not confirm or dismiss speculations that he will run for Wayne County Executive or U.S. Congress.
“First, I’m going to do something that I’ve never done before in my life,” said Bing, with a laugh. “I’m going to take about three to four weeks off in the month of January. When I come back, I want to be supportive and help clean up the city and help improve recreation services for our citizens.”
Bing admits has an affinity for the city’s recreation components, as well as with mentoring youth, especially inner-city youngsters. It was as a youth, while growing up in the inner-city sector of Washington, DC, that Bing learned the lessons of character and integrity from his parents and mentors. On the outdoor and indoor courts of DC’s recreation department, he also learned how to launch unstoppable jump shots. In high school, Bing excelled in basketball, while quickly learning that the game would be his passport to prosperity.
During his senior year in high school, Bing was heavily recruited by numerous basketball powerhouse programs, such as the University of Michigan and UCLA. He chose Syracuse University where he went on to earn All-American honors. In 1966, Bing was drafted as the second overall pick in the NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. He would go on to play most of his outstanding 12-year career with the Pistons.
His commitment to playing the game at its highest level earned him inclusion as one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all time. Following his playing days, Bing could have lived anywhere in America or beyond, but chose to remain in this region, where he started Bing Steel in Detroit.
Bing was asked how he wants to be remembered after leaving office.
“I want them (Detroiters) to remember that I stepped up when leadership in this city was being questioned,” Bing said.
“I want people to know that I cared enough to come to the table during one of the most turbulent times in the city’s history and restored integrity, team spirit and hope back into the office of mayor.
“I didn’t do it for pats on the back or for credit because I’m very comfortable in my life and what I have accomplished. I did it because I love this city and wanted to be a part of its comeback.
“After I leave office, I will be around to help this city and its people move forward. I’m not going anywhere.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 10:03
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Detroit Branch NAACP
DETROIT -- Today’s decision by United States Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Rhodes ruling Detroit eligible for bankruptcy begins a new chapter in Detroit history. As the bankruptcy pleadings head into their next phase the Detroit Branch NAACP continues to advocate and stand for what is best for Detroit, its residents and retirees.
“We continue to believe that more positive alternatives could have been implemented rather than a rush to bankruptcy accompanied by a rush to end democracy,” said Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President, Detroit Branch NAACP. “Even Judge Rhodes agrees with us that the City did not negotiate in good faith. This is critical in understanding the consequences which has led to the erosion of the right to vote in the affected communities.
The City of Detroit and other communities around the state should not be placed at a constitutional disadvantage which takes away their fundamental voting rights. We will continue our appeal of PA 436 and its negative impact on Detroit and other cities across the state of Michigan." The Detroit Branch NAACP filed an appeal last week to Judges Rhodes decision to not allow the lawsuit brought by the Detroit Branch NAACP and the Michigan State Conference NAACP to proceed in U.S. District Court. This lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of Public Act 436 and argued that it violates the Voting Rights Act.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 14:02
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
Federal court Judge Steven Rhodes ruled in a historic decision that the city of Detroit is eligible for Bankruptcy.
According to a live blog from Fox 2 News, Rhodes stated:
The City of Detroit is insolvent and bankrupt, and I find that Kevyn Orr and Governor Rick Snyder has successfully filed petition for Bankruptcy.
Several comment and statements are being made on the official judicial ruling.
Mayor Dave Bing made the following statement:
With the crisis we had this was inevitable, I don't think anyone wanted to go in this direction, but now that we are here, we need to work together...It's very important that we respect the fact that the emergency manager has the key to the city at this time. We don't agree on everything, but we do it in a very respectful way.
There will be alot of negotiations yet to come, I don't think we have final conclusion to what all the elements will be in this process. But we have to take care, because there is going to be pain for alot of people.
But in the long run, I think the future of the city will be bright.
Mayor-elect Mike Duggan made the following statement:
This is a day in Detroit's history that none of us wanted to see. Now that Judge Rhodes has ruled the city eligible for bankruptcy, we are about to move into the Plan of Adjustment phase that is likely to define our city government for years to come.
I'm going to do everything I can to advocate on behalf of Detroit's future in this process. We need to make sure the retirees are treated fairly on the pensions they earned and we need to make certain we come out of bankruptcy in a way we can afford to provide the quality of city services the people of Detroit deserve."
Although the 140-page ruling by Judge Rhodes was very detailed, speculation of several appeals from retirees and creditors are expected.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 14:09
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
DETROIT, Dec. 3, 2013 -- Emergency Manager Kevyn D. Orr today issued the following statement following federal bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes' ruling on the city's eligibility for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection:
“We are pleased with Judge Rhodes’ decision today, and we will continue to press ahead with the ongoing revitalization of Detroit. We look forward to working with all our creditors – pension funds, unions and lenders – to achieve a consensual agreement on a restructuring plan that balances their financial recoveries with the very real needs of the 700,000 citizens of Detroit.
“We are making good progress. In addition to today’s important decision, Detroit has transferred its electric operations and customers to DTE Energy and begun a program to improve City lighting. It has announced plans to privatize trash collection that will save $6 million a year while improving services and adding curbside recycling. It has invested in sorely needed equipment for its police, fire and other first responders. The City also has arranged, pending a court hearing later this month, $350 million of post-petition financing to improve its financial condition, lessen some of its debt obligations, and make much-needed investments. The City is also committed to the federal mediation already underway aimed at resolving disputes with its creditors and we fully support U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gerald Rosen’s efforts to find additive solutions, particularly from the philanthropic community, to the City’s financial issues.
“Time is of the essence and we will continue to move forward as quickly and efficiently as possible. We plan to submit a Plan of Adjustment in the coming weeks, file a Disclosure Statement early next year and work to exit Chapter 9 protection by the end of September. We hope all parties will work together to help us develop a realistic restructuring plan that improves the financial condition of Detroit and the lives of its 700,000 citizens.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 13:21
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by CNN News
Washington (CNN) -- Battered by two months of bad publicity over the Obamacare website, the White House is going on the offensive to tout what it sees as the good news about the President's signature health care reforms.
President Barack Obama will launch a three-week campaign intended to highlight the benefits of the 2010 Affordable Care Act with a White House event at 2:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, a White House official told CNN.
The event comes a day after the problem-plagued Obamacare website handled more than 1 million visitors with no major problems, according to administration officials, who provided no other details such as how many of the users were able to fully enroll.
After the botched website launch on October 1, the administration hopes the ability of HealthCare.gov to handle heavier than average volume signaled a major step forward in getting people to sign up for health coverage now required by law under the reforms.
However, officials warn glitches will persist and describe the website as an ever-evolving work in progress. In addition, insurance companies say some "back-end" aspects of the HealthCare.gov system continued to malfunction.
In particular, insurers say there are problems with applications from people who signed up through the website, including erroneous or missing information.
Critics led by conservative Republicans trying to dismantle the health care reforms known as Obamacare say the website problems foreshadow deeper failings of the law that passed with no GOP support.
"It's not just a broken website; this bill is fundamentally flawed," House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday, later adding that "when you look at Obamacare, what you see is a government-centered health care delivery system."
Americans don't want that, the Ohio Republican insisted, declaring they instead they "want to be able to pick their own type of health insurance, they want to be able to pick their own doctor and they want to be able to pick their own hospital."
At the White House, the focus is on emphasizing how Obamacare has helped people in the three years since it became law.
"While work continues on the website, we think it is important that proponents of health reform undertake a renewed effort to refocus the public on the benefits of the law that have already been implemented," said the White House official who spoke on condition of not being identified.
Obama's remarks Tuesday "to discuss the health care law's benefits already in place for millions of Americans and make the case for why we need to move forward to make sure the law is a success" is the first wave in a tsunami of information the administration plans to unleash.
Daily events will occur December 23 as the administration tries to shift attention away from the website woes of the past two months to take on Republican foes attacking the law.
Over the weekend, officials announced they had met their self-imposed November 30 deadline for getting the site working for the "vast majority" of users, saying response times and error rates had been slashed while capacity increased.
Jeffrey Zients, a former administration official brought in to oversee the website fixes after its launch, compared the hardware upgrades so far to widening a highway on-ramp from two lanes to four.
That means chronic breakdowns, error messages and delays users experienced two months ago when the website went live have mostly disappeared, he said, noting the average response time was less than 1 second and the system's "uptime" -- a measure of system stability -- was consistently surpassing 90%.
It all means that HealthCare.gov can now handle its original intended volume of 50,000 concurrent users for a total of 800,000 visitors a day, according to Zients.
A new component that put users in a waiting queue during periods of high volume provided a better-managed delay than the site freezes and error messages of October.
Three CNN journalists who attempted to sign on Monday ended up in the new queue around midday and then two hours later. Their wait lasted a few minutes before they received a prompt on their screen to proceed with enrollment.
Later in the day, users proceeded directly to enrollment without waiting, indicating reduced volume at the end of the afternoon, as officials had predicted.
White House spokesman Jay Carney noted any major website has periodic problems that must be addressed.
"It does not mean that there will be no problems with the website going forward," he said Monday when asked by reporters if HealthCare.gov was truly fixed or merely functioning at a minimal level.
Vocal throughout the launch of the program and the successive problems, the GOP stayed vigilant with its critique.
"President Obama and his administration repeatedly claimed the Obamacare website would be fully functioning by the end of November, but this has proven to be just another broken promise," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. "The Obama administration had over three years to build HealthCare.gov, and all they've produced is a non-functioning website, wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars."
In October, the first month of a six-month enrollment period, just over 106,000 people signed up for Obamacare. Less than 27,000 of them did so through the HealthCare.gov website, which was supposed to be the main enrollment portal.
An administration official familiar with the matter told CNN that about 100,000 people signed up for coverage last month on the site. The official cautioned the number was preliminary and final numbers would be released in mid-December.
Joanne Peters, a Health and Human Services spokeswoman, said enrollment through alternate channels and successful exchanges in 14 states would help bolster November figures.
Marilyn Tavenner, the official charged with implementing Obamacare as director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told a congressional hearing last month that the administration initially hoped to enroll 800,000 people by the end of November. The overall enrollment target by the March 31 deadline for 2014 is 7 million.
A properly functioning HealthCare.gov is crucial to implementing the most vital provisions of the health law that require people to have health coverage.
The coming months will show if it was successful.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 11:31
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