11/09/2012 10:56 am ET Updated Jan 09, 2013

Getting the Lights Is a Priority

Last week after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Eastern seaboard, they considered canceling Halloween trick-or-treating for the kids as many neighborhoods were in the dark. Every night in Detroit, we are with our kids on darkened streets. This has become the norm, but I don't accept it.

The street light outages are a public safety and quality of life issue. I will not rest until a mechanism is in place to fix the long-term outages.

To be clear, the outages are not a matter of flipping a switch or replacing a bulb. Detroit's street light system is so antiquated that many of the replacement parts are no longer available.

I'm working closely with state legislators, the mayor's office and other council members to reach an agreement on the Public Lighting Authority legislation specifics and get it passed as a statute. This will allow us, no matter what mechanism we utilize, to have the fiscal capacity to address the street light outages by improving the antiquated structure. The fixes will only be sustained by long-term system improvements that may cost upwards of $650 Million.

Last month, the Detroit City Council approved a resolution that I presented supporting state legislation to create a Public Lighting Authority.

A package of Bills have been introduced in the Michigan Legislature that seek to abet the public lighting challenges confronting Detroit by authorizing the city to create a Public Lighting Authority that could bond for resources needed to repair the municipality's beleaguered lighting system and contract with electric utility leaders for operation/management of it.

This proposed legislation -- comprising House Bills 5688, 5705 and Senate Bill 970 -- affirms Detroit ownership of its public lighting system, authorizes the city to create a Public Lighting Authority led by a five-person board of Detroit residents and permits investment of up to $160 million dollars to modernize the street lighting system.

The legislation would also promote stability in Detroit general fund revenues by both eliminating boilerplate-prescribing annual reductions in the city's income tax rates and mitigating Detroit general fund subsidization of its municipal lighting system.

The goal of this enabling legislation is to arm Detroit government, and other communities throughout the state, with a tool to fix an emergent deficiency in a key city service and not to interfere with future decisions by elected leaders concerning street-lighting. This public safety and quality of life issue demands an immediate, solution-oriented approach from state legislators and potential amendment of the legislation, if necessary, to move this critical issue forward for the betterment of our community.

You may view the complete resolution online.

There are 88,000 street lights operated by the city. More than half of these are out on any given day. I believe most Detroiters want their lights on, regardless of who repairs them.

Until a Public Lighting Authority is created, street light outages will continue to be an issue, since the City of Detroit does not have the financial capacity to make needed capital improvements. I don't want you or your family to accept a darkened Detroit without streetlights as a standard way of life.

Repairing the street lights is crucial for effective and efficient municipal government, which creates a thriving environment for both citizens and businesses.

Together, we possess the power to become the best of Detroit.