Will NBA All-Star Dave Bing Score Big Again?

During the start of this NFL season I cheered for theDetroit Lions, I think the team is well overdue for a winning season. And theEminem Chrysler Super Bowl commercial that asks, “What does a town that’s beento hell and back know about luxury?” makes me want to drive to Detroit. Thereis something about the underdog, the unexpected champion that continues to makeme root for Detroitduring yet another challenging time in this urban city’s history.

Last night in a live broadcast the mayor of Detroit, DaveBing the former Detroit Piston NBA All Star player and business executive had afrank and difficult message for the residents of his city. If the city did notact swiftly to address the pending financial crisis, they would be out of moneyby April with an estimated $45 million shortfall in June and an emergencyfinancial manager would be appointed to lead them out of the disaster.
“Simply put, our city is in a financial crisis and citygovernment is broken. That’s not new. That’s not an opinion. That is a fact. Ipromised when I ran for this office that I’d tell you the truth, even when itwasn’t pretty or popular. The reality we’re facing is simple. If we continuedown the same path, we will lose the ability to control our own destiny,” saidBing during his 25-minute speech.

Bing has shown incredible leadership that seems to be drivenby a sense of responsibility and ownership rather than political expediency. Idoubt any elected official would want to be in his shoes right now, but heshould be given enormous credit for his straightforward approach to theoverwhelming crisis. The city’s financial woes cannot be attributed to anyspecific one factor considering the current economic recession. Reports indicatethat between 2000 and 2010, a quarter-million people moved out of the city. Detroit unemploymentfigures have been as high as 28 percent and recent visitors to the city note anabundance of abandoned buildings and neighborhoods.

Bing is offering solutions that will be hard to accept giventhe sacrifices city employees and residents have already made. He is proposing
• a 10% salary cut for the police and fire unions whosebudgets are almost 60% of the city’s overall budget
• An across-the-board 10% pay cut for other employees
• A 10% increase in employee contributions to their healthcare coverage
• Pension reforms, including reducing excess payouts.
• A reduction of overtime costs and other operationalchanges
• A less than 1 percent tax increase on Detroit-basedcorporations
“Given our fiscal crisis, spending money to fix lights, getthe buses running and maintaining public safety requires sacrifice in otherareas,” he said. “We have to make choices and there is no way to avoid thatreality. If we don’t, we know the risk. None of us want financial decisionsbeing made by a state-appointed emergency manager. Avoiding that fate meanssupporting change and sacrifice that won’t be easy.”
As the former governor of North Carolina, Jim Hunt once said, “ Leaderscan inspire cities and cities can inspire leaders.” The recovery of America dependsin part on the economic recovery of its urban centers where most Americans workand live. So I am rooting for Detroitbecause I think Dave Bing might just be the leader who can inspire that city.
Beverly Isom

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