Denial vs. reality: The time has come for painful changes for Detroit
AP Photo | Detroit Free Press, Eric Seals
It is down right painful to watch two good, decent men, who profess to want what is best for our city and state, to be tangled up in "us vs. them" issues that have the potential, if it has not already, to spill over into a racial divide with no easy way out.
Words have consequences. Mayor Bing calling Gov. Snyder less than honest and "disingenuous" and the Gov's retort that Detroit has a "cultural" problem accepting help are not advancing solutions to the financial Armageddon facing the city.
Mayor Bing, with all due respect, you have moved too slowly in addressing a fiscal mess and structural mismanagement that you inherited and has been decades in the making. As you so painfully know, the fiscal gimmicks -- one time only funding sources, paying your Visa card with your Master card borrowing options -- have run out. The city of Detroit is heading toward bankruptcy if drastic action is not taken-- now!
The choices range from serious injury - to death:
• Consent Agreement
• Emergency Manager
Gov. Snyder is taking the heat for more than a half decade of a whole bunch of politicians, Republicans and Democrats, sitting in Lansing and Detroit, that have kicked the Detroit problems down the road.
Today, we have reached the point that there is no more can or road.
If you have a hole in your roof, pretending to fix it does not keep the rain out. It is time to stop the pretending and spending and fix both the short-term and long term structural fiscal holes in Detroit government.
The changes needed are painful because they have been neglected for too long. Once upon a time, a bandage or aspirin may have sufficed. Today, major surgery and amputation is required to save the city. This is the reality that needs to be faced.
The changes required are difficult and will hurt.
When you deny and neglect problems as long as city and state leaders have, the pain is only magnified.
Governor Snyder repeatedly has said he is open to compromise on the Consent Agreement, as long as it truly addresses the fiscal and management problems and holds everyone accountable.
Niccolo Machiavelli, centuries ago in his famous book, “The Prince,” offered his analysis to the political theater we are witnessing today, as Governor Snyder attempts to address long standing and neglected problems in Detroit, when he said:
"It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, or more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this ‘lukewarmness’ arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”
Stop the games, fix the problem.
Tom Watkins is a former state school superintendent and was a Detroit charter commissioner serving on the Wayne County Charter Commission in the 1980s. He is the 2011 Greater Detroit Chambers Leadership Detroit recipient. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.