DETROIT Feb 19 Dave Bing, a former professional
basketball star, may forever be known as the Detroit mayor who
missed the last shot at saving the city from a state takeover
and possible bankruptcy.
After City Council President Charles Pugh on Tuesday said
that a state-ordered review team concluded the city needs an
emergency manager, the mayor is likely to see his power drain
away in the last year of his term.
"Bing faced a Herculean task. But as well-intentioned as he
might be, he couldn't move the mountain," said Michael LaFaive,
director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Institute, a
free-market, conservative public-policy group focused on
If an emergency manager and Michigan's governor eventually
endorse a bankruptcy filing for Detroit, Bing will go down in
history as the mayor behind the largest U.S. municipal
A Democrat, Bing became mayor of Detroit in 2009 with lofty
promises of fixing the city's finances, reversing urban blight,
reducing crime and restoring trust in a government rocked by
A mild-mannered businessman, Bing seemed the perfect
antidote to predecessor Kwame Kilpatrick, a flashy,
smooth-talking politician who had resigned under a cloud, and
whose corruption trial is reaching a climax just as Detroit's
financial woes are in the national spotlight this week.
Everything in Bing's career suggested he was a winner. A
basketball Hall of Fame guard for the Detroit Pistons from
1966-75, he founded Bing Steel and developed a
multi-million-dollar steel conglomerate in Detroit.
"It's a hard thing when you're not a career politician to
step into that ring," said Raymond Pierce, a law partner at
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, who worked on deals with
Bing in the steel business. "Who wants to deal with the slings
and arrows involved? It's almost all downside. It takes a brave,
special soul to do that."
The arrows started arriving almost as soon as Bing took
office. He inherited a financial mess after past administrations
over nearly a decade added $100 million or more every year to
the city's deficit.
A defiant and dysfunctional city council often blocked
Bing's money-savings plans. The relationship became so strained
that the mayor and council members stopped meeting. Detroit,
with a shrinking population, faced the burden of union contracts
reflecting the infrastructure of a much larger city.
"I am blessed with a very talented and committed team of
executives, but challenged by the City Charter, labor contracts,
and an indecisive City Council with ineffective leadership,"
Bing told Reuters in an email.
Bing's credentials initially earned him the support of the
business community, but the relationship fizzled as the local
economy continued to nosedive.
Despite resistance, the mayor laid off thousands of
employees, slashed wages, closed fire stations and privatized
numerous services. It was not enough to fix the city's finances.
The murder rate jumped 20 percent, and Bing was unable to
make progress on a massive neighborhood revitalization plan to
encourage residents to leave hardscrabble, decaying
neighborhoods for more densely populated areas.
Bing, who moved from the suburbs into Detroit when he ran
for office, was accused of being out of touch with poor black
residents. African Americans constitute 83 percent of the city's
"He doesn't know what it's like to live and struggle in
Detroit," said Rev. Charles Williams II, a community activist.
"You have people who can't afford to feed their children or fix
their leaking roof, but the mayor is talking about what he can
do for businesses and downtown. There's just no connection."
Bing, who is black, and Republican Governor Rick Snyder
forged a close relationship early on. Bing served as the master
of ceremonies at Snyder's inauguration Jan. 1, 2011, and Snyder
cheered on the mayor from the balcony of Bing's
state-of-the-city address a few weeks later. The pair even
attended a University of Michigan basketball game together.
The relationship soured as Snyder moved toward a state
takeover of Detroit, and Bing last week blamed the state for
some of the city's financial problems, saying Michigan
revenue-sharing funds had been slashed over the years.
Bing, who is 69, has not yet announced whether he will run
for a second full term, and local media have all but dismissed
him as a serious candidate in the August nonpartisan primary
"I'll make that decision when I'm ready," Bing said last