You want to know why people are angry with Detroit’s government? Because they have every right to be.
Look at the events over the past weeks: a three-year-old dies in an east-side house fire. The first fire truck dispatched to the scene had no ladders and no ability to pump water. The new fire commissioner said he believed from the bottom of his heart that “everything worked as it should.” The mayor never contacted the family to express his condolences. The fire truck that couldn’t pump water disappeared. The family held a funeral Wednesday they could not pay for.
The fire department is broken to the point where it is costing people their lives. No engines. No ambulances. No accountability.
It is also important to note that a week before the child died, a Good Samaritan named Joe Rippolone contacted me. (Some may recognize him as the ex-husband of auto heiress Elena Ford.)
I also contacted Fire Commissioner Don Austin with Rippolone’s offer to donate a restored fire truck that he personally sunk $200,000 into as a hobby.
It’s a good piece of equipment: a 125-foot mechanical ladder and tanks that can hold and pump water. It has only 22,000 miles on the motor. There is no piece of equipment in the Detroit fleet that has less mileage than Rippolone’s truck.
In fact, there are 12 ambulances, six ladder trucks, three fire engines and two squad trucks sitting in disrepair at the fire repair garage.
So impressed was the fire commissioner, he put in paperwork the very next day to Mayor Dave Bing’s office to accept the truck. Bing’s office waited a week before it sent its approval to the city clerk -- two days after the toddler died, mind you.
For reasons unexplained by the mayor’s people, the city clerk neglected to send the paperwork to the city council for its rubber stamp. So three weeks into the deal, Rippolone is wondering if anybody wants his truck. He and I even drove the thing to city hall to show the mayor personally. I called upstairs. Nobody came down.
So we aired the story on FOX 2 this week. CLICK HERE>>
In that story, we showed the broken-down fire fleet as well as dozens of dead police cruisers in one municipal yard and a hundred dead busses in another. No wonder people can’t get a cop or a bus or an ambulance. And they take out their frustrations on the paramedics and fire fighters and cops who, despite the odds, show up to help them. Remember, two fire fighters jumped through an upstairs window in an attempt to save little Ivory Ivey without the cover of a water hose.
A little girl’s death. An unclaimed fire truck. The rotting municipal fleets. Monuments to everything wrong in the Detroit political landscape: a tone-deaf, plodding, self-serving bureaucracy. An absentee administration. A dead government. A Necropacy.
People are withering on the vine and their children die and no one in power can find it in themselves to pick up the phone and say they are sorry.
Councilwoman JoAnn Watson was the only elected city official to make an appearance at Ivory’s funeral. She told mourners she wanted to make a proclamation on behalf of the little girl. She didn’t tell the congregation she voted to slash the fire department’s budget.
The mood at the funeral was an odd and toxic mix of poverty, pain and anger. It wasn’t hard to see that something ominous is brewing in the streets of Detroit. It would do city leaders well to acknowledge the pot of discontent is boiling over because if it comes down to it, they will have no way to put out the fire.