Tuesday, May 14, 2013 6:28 pm
Bing won't seek re-election as Detroit mayor
By COREY WILLIAMSAssociated Press
His announcement came just seven weeks after the city's checkbook was handed over to an emergency manager, making it the largest U.S. city placed under state oversight.
Detroit has a budget deficit approaching $380 million and long-term debt over $14 billion. The city could run out of cash before the end of the year, and bankruptcy hasn't been ruled out.
Known for his cool as a former NBA basketball player, Bing spoke in a measured tone during a news conference where he announced he'll step down after his term ends in December. He spent the first 15 minutes touting his own accomplishments while blasting Gov. Rick Snyder and other Michigan officials for failing to cooperate with city leaders on a solution.
"Change takes time and hard work," Bing told supporters at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. "However, when Gov. Snyder didn't feel progress was occurring fast enough, he made the decision to appoint an emergency manager with the power to immediately fix some of the city's longstanding financial problems."
The roles of the mayor and the elected City Council were reduced after Snyder appointed Washington-based bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr in March as emergency manager. Orr has final say on all the city's financial matters.
Although Bing long resisted the appointment of an emergency manager, he decided not to pursue a lawsuit to block it and referred to the arrangement as a "partnership" after Orr was appointed. He didn't directly criticize Orr on Tuesday either, pointing out that some of Orr's findings about the city's situation were similar to his own.
In a statement Tuesday, Orr commended Bing on his service to Detroit.
"The work that he has begun has set Detroit on a path to achieve many of the goals necessary for the city to thrive," Orr said.
Instead, Bing saved most of his scorn for state leaders. He said he expected more help from Lansing that never came.
On Tuesday, he criticized a decision by a regional council of governments to cut funding to the city's bus department while increasing allocations to a suburban bus system. He said Lansing's approval of the development of a water and sewer system in Genesee County shows an unwillingness to truly help Detroit. Flint and other cities in Genesee County currently pay Detroit for water and sewer services.
"I have to wonder if the state is truly interested in a partnership," Bing said.
Snyder dismissed the assertion.
"We've worked very hard to be a good partner, and I appreciate the mayor and his hard work and diligence in trying to make Detroit a better place," Snyder told reporters Tuesday after signing legislation at the Capitol. "He's done a lot of things to make Detroit a better place. We just need to redouble that effort and do even more in a faster period of time."
Besides the financial mess, crime continues to plague Detroit neighborhoods, many of which are dominated by vacant houses in need of demolition.
Earlier Tuesday, Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig was announced as Detroit's new police chief. The previous full-time occupant of the job, Ralph Godbee, stepped down in October when details surfaced of a sexual relationship with a subordinate.
"Being the mayor of Detroit is not a picnic - in even good circumstances," said T.J. Bucholz, a specialist in political advocacy with a Lansing-based public affairs firm. "Given the fiscal strain, that is a nearly impossible job for even the most qualified candidate."
An uptick in business investment and a project aimed at investing in and turning around city neighborhoods are among the improvements under Bing's watch, according to Luther Keith, executive director of Arise Detroit!, a coalition of community groups that focus on improving the city.
"We still have to step up our game. That's what he recognizes," Keith said.
Bing told reporters for months that he was contemplating whether to seek re-election and waited until several hours before Tuesday's deadline to announce it. But didn't rule out a political return and said he'd form an exploratory committee for a possible run for Wayne County executive.
Bing spent a dozen years in the NBA after being selected by the Detroit Pistons with the second overall pick in the 1966 NBA draft. After his career, he was elected to the professional basketball Hall of Fame.
In 1980, he founded a steel supply company in Detroit.
Bing ran for mayor in 2009 and won to fill out the remaining months of Kwame Kilpatrick's second term in office after the former mayor was convicted and jailed on charges related to lying on the stand during a civil trial. Detroit voters elected him to a full four-year term that November.
At the start of their political careers, Bing and Snyder often talked about fixing Detroit. They sat together courtside at a college basketball game. Bing was master of ceremonies at Snyder's inauguration. Snyder attended the mayor's 2011 address to the city.
A consent agreement to wipe out Detroit's enormous budget deficit and mountainous debt was reached between the Democratic mayor and Republican governor. But the slow pace of change over the past year distanced the two.
Several high-profile candidates have filed or said they will file to run in this year's mayoral race, including Mike Duggan, former chief executive of the Detroit Medical Center, and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, a former Detroit police chief.
The primary is in August, followed by the non-partisan general election in November.
Associated Press Writer David Eggert in Lansing contributed to this report.