iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Gary A. Brown

GET UPDATES FROM Gary A. Brown
 

Culture of Spending More Money Than Detroit Generates Must Change

Posted: 12/12/11 02:31 PM ET

We operate Detroit city government as if it was still home to an excess of one million residents.

During the past decade, we have made it okay to spend more money than we generate. Today, on average, the City of Detroit is burning cash to the tune of $16,000 per hour, or approximately $400,000 daily.

In many city, state and federal governments, the paradigm of borrowing your way out of debt has become common place. This undisciplined pattern is devastating to our quality of life and is no longer acceptable!

When we fail to fix the structural costs and deliver a workable plan-of-action to pay down our debt in the City of Detroit, we jeopardize future prosperity. We must transform a spendthrift culture to one of fiscal responsibility.

We face an emergency cash flow situation that must be resolved now with the clock ticking more quickly. As a fiscal pragmatist I will not waver in augmenting genuine efforts by my council colleagues to further reduce our operating costs as we move to a plan-of-action.

The actions begin with an understanding of our present financial reality. Revenues have declined dramatically due to the decreased population, declining real property values and continuing foreclosures.

There must be immediate measures taken to address our debt and cash flow situation. I have advocated for deep cuts over the past two years and stood firm on a conservative fiscal approach as the linchpin to right-sizing Detroit's budget. This position must be embraced by both branches of government with a greater sense of urgency, due to the existing circumstances!

We must prioritize services placing police, fire and trash pick-up in the forefront while remaining entities are on the table for consolidation, merger, privatization and elimination. It's unacceptable to expect taxpayers to fund more than 140 City departments.

Also it is crucial to note that the city's economic footing is unhealthy, in that municipal employment currently outpaces private sector occupations. We must reverse this trend -- the government should not be employing more people than most businesses in our city. Government's primary responsibility is providing services to its residents, while creating an environment to attract businesses that pay taxes and employ its citizens.

Despite our troubles, I remain confident that together Detroit City Council and Mayor Bing have the expertise to repair Detroit's finances by making the needed fiscal changes. However, like many Detroiters I am frustrated that we as leaders have not yet exhibited the courage to make the tough decisions.

To hasten the process, I have proposed a City Council resolution to further reduce the entire council budget by 30 percent, have members pay 30 percent of their healthcare premium, relinquish their city-owned cars, eliminate free parking and turn in cell phones.

Affirmative action on this resolution will continue to demonstrate City Council's commitment to fixing the fiscal dilemma. After City Council's vote on Tuesday, December 13, I will ask the mayor's office to cut its budget an equal percentage. I truly believe such leadership sends a strong message to both the unions and retirees that we are serious about sharing the pain, when it comes to restoring our city's solvency.

We must all make sacrifices in this effort if we are to ward off more draconian measures embodied in Public Act 4, the emergency manager law.

I reiterate, this financial situation is a fixable challenge and teamwork can get it done. I encourage Detroiters and those who invest in our city to be informed about all aspects of our finances and gain an understanding of the predicament we are facing if we continue to operate city government in the same fashion. There are a number of documents available on my website at www.garybrown4detroit.com for you to review, including my proposed budget resolution.

It is time to transform our thinking, transform our actions, and transform Detroit! Today, bold moves via an implementable plan and timeline are urgently necessary to address the challenges and set the stage for building the future that we can all be proud of and thrive in.

 

Follow Gary A. Brown on Twitter: www.twitter.com/garybrown4det