By Ryan Felton
DETROIT Feb 13 Detroit Mayor Dave Bing argued
against a state takeover of the financially strapped city on
Wednesday, saying the Michigan government bears some
responsibility for Detroit's fiscal problems by slashing its
revenue-sharing fund with the city.
"The total amount of cutbacks in state revenue sharing to
Detroit over the past 11 years is more than $700 million.
Detroit's current general fund deficit is $327 million," Bing
said in his State of the City address, under the prospect the
state could soon appoint an emergency financial manager.
"So, it is clear that if Detroit had received its agreed
upon share of revenues from the state, our financial picture
would not be as grim today," Bing said at the Detroit School of
Arts in the Midtown neighborhood before about 250 people.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appointed a team in December
to examine Detroit's finances and determine if it needs a
state-appointed manager, who could ultimately opt for bankruptcy
for the city unless the state blocks the move.
Bing and the city council have been working to cut expenses
and restructure the government to head off a state takeover or
what would be the biggest Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy filing
ever in the United States.
Known as the home of the U.S. auto industry, which itself
has recovered from near bankruptcy, the city of Detroit actually
is home only to the headquarters of General Motors Co.
Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler have long been
ensconced in the suburbs.
Detroit, also known as Motown for its once-thriving music
industry, has shrunk from America's fifth-largest city to 18th
in population as residents fled for jobs, better schools and
safer streets. The homicide rate was up 9 percent in 2012, to a
total of 411 killings.
Now home to just 700,000 people, the city is struggling to
balance the cost of its services with its shrinking revenue.
In his speech, Bing said he has made difficult and unpopular
decisions including job cuts and the privatization of some city
"Beginning tonight, it is time to change the conversation
about Detroit. It is time to focus on the many positive changes
taking place," said Bing, a former professional basketball
player who played nine seasons for the Detroit Pistons.
Under a consent agreement Detroit struck with the state last
April, the city has made "significant progress" in some of the
25 reform initiatives that were identified to address chronic
problems, Bing said.
"Despite the naysayers' predictions, there have not been any
payless paydays. No emergency manager to date," Bing said,
drawing some uneasy laughter from the crowd.
Detroit, which is checkered with abandoned and dilapidated
buildings, is working through a public-private partnership
spearheaded by Bill Pulte of Pulte Homes to tear down eyesore
buildings, Bing announced.
To address the crime rate, Bing discussed his plan to move
100 or more police officers to street patrols and criminal
investigations. His goal is to reduce violent gun-related crimes
by 25 percent this year.
City Councilman Ken Cockrel, interim mayor before Bing, said
he thought it was "from a technical standpoint," the best speech
he had heard from the mayor, though he would have liked "a
little bit more substance with regard to the city's finances."
City Council President Charles Pugh said he wished Bing had
been stronger in his opposition to the idea of emergency
"I think he should've been very clear that we don't need
it," Pugh said. "And that there's a way forward without somebody
else coming in to run the city."