Published June 14, 2012
DETROIT – Detroit Mayor Dave Bing lashed out Thursday against "people with personal agendas" he blames for stalling his efforts to pull the city from the brink of financial collapse — a rare expression of public frustration from a man who seldom lost his cool, even as a professional basketball player.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Bing said it was time to finally move toward solving the city's budget problems after a judge dismissed a lawsuit he feared could have caused the city to go broke.
"I didn't come here because I needed the job or I needed income," the 68-year-old mayor said from his office in City Hall. "I came here for one reason and one reason only: to help fix a broken city. And when I see people with their personal agendas superseding what our own people need here, that's what pisses me off."
Bing didn't mention anybody by name but acknowledged frustration after failing to get Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon, the city's top lawyer, to drop the legal complaint. Earlier this week, the judge dismissed her lawsuit against the so-called consent agreement that gave the state a more active role in Detroit's financial restructuring.
Before that action in court, Detroit's nine-member City Council also refused the mayor's request to join him in asking Crittendon to drop the lawsuit — even at the risk of the state withholding millions of dollars in revenue sharing money from Detroit.
Bing is running things at arguably the lowest point in the city's history. When elected in May 2009, he inherited a city with budget deficit topping $300 million and dysfunctional systems incapable of improving things.
Under the deal he signed in April with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, state officials will have some oversight over Detroit's financial situation without the embarrassment of appointing an overseer to run things.
The budget deficit has been reduced, making Detroit's once muddy fiscal picture a little clearer. But the inability to control his own lawyer and rally the city's legislative body behind him called into question whether he is in control or has yet mastered the political leadership required to move Detroit forward.
Any debate along those lines were answered Wednesday when an Ingham County judge sided with Bing's contention that Crittendon's lawsuit should have been filed with the mayor's blessings, Bing said.
"He made it very clear who the leader was," Bing said. "And I'm the only one."
He added that most members of the City Council "kind of waffled" on the issue.
Bing was a Hall of Fame guard for 12 years in the 1960s and 1970s with the Detroit Pistons, Washington Bullets and Boston Celtics. If the city's financial woes were a basketball game, he said, it would be a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. His objective is to "score," he said, because he doesn't think the job would get done if he passed it to someone outside the administration.
"I have more confidence in me than I have in those others," he said. "Too much politics."
Bing has brought stability to an office shamed by the shenanigans, extramarital affairs and arrest of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. But leadership in fixing the finances still is lacking, Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said.
"The city was spiraling out of control financially. We were not aware of how bad it was as Bing was coming in the door," Kenyatta said. "Could he have done anything about it? It's been three years. You can't keep blaming the other guy."
Progress is coming, Bing said.
With Crittendon's lawsuit dismissed, the state is expected to keep free the revenue sharing payments to help Detroit pay its bills and workers. At the start of the new fiscal year July 1, the city also will start collecting taxes from businesses and residents.
The threat of payless paydays for city workers has passed — at least for now.
"Paying the workers is your number one priority," Bing said. "Without them, nothing gets done."
But vendors and companies that do business with city have are "not getting paid as quickly as they'd like," he added. "We're fortunate to have vendors who have been with us for a long period of time understanding the dire place that we're in, but also have enough confidence in this administration that they are going to get paid."