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John K. Bennett

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Let's Be Honest, Detroit's Leadership Is Punchless, Powerless and Pointless

Posted: 07/18/2012 5:49 pm

Detroit's elected officials waved the white flag and surrendered back when they signed off on the fiscal stability agreement that put the power in the hands of a financial advisory board, chief financial officer, program manager and the city's defacto mayor, Governor Rick Snyder. In a rush to stave off elimination and remain in their positions with taxpayer owned vehicles, million dollar budgets and over inflated egos they voted by a 5-4 vote to go along with relinquishing their own power. It was a bold and selfish move particularly because as much as the council's conversation is about eliminating people from the workforce to save money, it never crossed their minds how much of a savings could be had by simply eliminating their positions, staff, budgets and the other perks of being a big city politician.

Big city no more, according to their rhetoric Detroit is broke and on the brink of disaster but the safety net they found apparently was only big enough to hold them. So now they sit, like a Supreme Council with nothing to do -- not even the ability to approve contracts because remember they gave up that right under the consent agreement. They can't even halt the advisory board 'aka' the new city council from implementing or imposing employment agreements upon city workers. The consent agreement says, in spite of what City Council may or may not do, that the advisory board has the authority -- given to them by the consent agreement that the City Council signed off on -- to impose contracts 30 days after the council fails to act. The language from this agreement, one which Councilwoman Joann Watson called "a gangsta move," would appear to indicate no matter how many different ways you read it, upside down or right side up that the City Council bartered away its authority in exchange for keeping their jobs.

Councilman Gary Brown asked the state attorney general to sue the City of Detroit over city charter language that gives Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon the power to go to court against any agreement the city enters into where one of the parties owes the city money. Asking to be sued by the state is embarrassing and a clear example of being punchless and pathetic. The moment he took office Brown surrendered. Now he's bowing and scrapping.

There was a time when Detroiters enjoyed elected officials who fought for what was right and they never presented themselves in a cowardly fashion. Today the people the citizens of Detroit have elected to serve them have not served them well at all. I would challenge anyone to point to one, just one significant revenue or job generating plan by this current leadership. Detroiters elected five new council members and a new mayor. Though they haven't been in office very long, the time they have spent there has been wasted and they have become as much a problem for their inaction as others may have been for their over-reaction. Detroit is suffering at the hands of a group that you can't even remotely describe as students of government/politics because they came to the job with no frame of reference on how government is supposed to operate. They are actors cast in a role but not ready for primetime.

So since we have a chief financial officer and a program manager -- both making north of $200k -- making the decisions for Detroit, leaving the mayor and council in their current positions is pointless and unnecessary. Where is the document eliminating this unneeded expense? As Gary Brown likes to say about the police department, "there are too many people sitting inside behind desk." And can't we say the same about this city's leadership? Why are the citizens of Detroit footing the bill for council members to sit with nothing to do.

 
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