Businessman and former NBA great Dave Bing says he's seriously considering running for mayor of Detroit because of scandals surrounding the incumbent and other problems in the city where he played for most of his Hall-of-Fame career.
Bing said Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's legal and image troubles, a federal probe into a sludge recycling contract and Detroit's underachieving public schools, are hampering the financially strapped city's ability to attract business, investment and people.
Reports of a physical confrontation last week involving Kilpatrick and a sheriff's deputy who was trying to serve a subpoena on a mayoral ally only adds to Detroit's growing embarrassment, Bing said. State police are investigating the incident.
"It's one more nail in the coffin," Bing told The Associated Press Wednesday, adding he's "closer to saying 'yes'" to running for mayor in 2009 and will decide by the end of the year.
Bing played in the NBA from 1966 to 1978, averaging 20.3 points a game and playing in seven all-star games. A former rookie of the year who played nine of his 12 seasons with the Detroit Pistons, he was named one of the 50 top players in NBA history in 1996.
He's now chair and CEO of the Detroit-based Bing Group, a $160 million-a-year metals company. He would have to divest himself of the firm and a $60 million Detroit riverfront housing development if he became mayor, and would have to move to Detroit from the suburb of Franklin if he decides to make what would be his first run for elected office.
"There is a much bigger picture here," Bing said. "It's much more important than what I did as an athlete and what I do as a business person. We're talking about the 11th-largest city in the country that's in a perilous situation."
So far, only political unknown Duane Montgomery has filed to run for mayor in 2009.
Kilpatrick's office released a statement Wednesday saying the mayor will address next year's election "at the appropriate time."
"The citizens of Detroit elected Mayor Kilpatrick to office twice, and while others are occupying their time thinking about a run for mayor, Mayor Kilpatrick continues to do the work Detroiters elected him to do," it said.
Publicly, Bing and Kilpatrick appeared to share a good relationship in recent years, with the mayor appointing Bing co-chair of a neighborhood improvement initiative.
"It's about everybody around the leader. And what we have to do now is merge all of our resources behind our leader," Bing said in 2006.
But that confidence in Kilpatrick took a hit in January when the Detroit Free Press published sexually explicit text messages between the married mayor and then-Chief of Staff Christine Beatty.
Those messages contradicted testimony both gave during a whistle-blowers' lawsuit when they denied having a romantic relationship. The Wayne County prosecutor's office later charged each with perjury, misconduct and obstruction of justice.
Prosecutors also accused Kilpatrick and Beatty of lying about their roles in the firing of a police official. Both deny the charges and face a Sept. 22 preliminary examination.
The Detroit City Council also has started forfeiture of office proceedings against Kilpatrick and has requested Gov. Jennifer Granholm remove him from office for misconduct.
But Detroit's troubles go beyond events in the mayor's office, Bing said.
The FBI is investigating whether some city council members or their staffers accepted bribes in exchange for votes on a $47 million sludge deal, which won council approval in November on a 5-4 vote. Detroit schools also have one of the country's worst graduation rates and have lost thousands of students in recent years.
"People need to trust you and need to know that you are going to do the right thing," Bing said. "The right thing is not for you as an individual, not for your family, not your friends. It's for the people you have to serve."
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