DETROIT -- He’s learning what nearly every businessman-turned-politician learns. The political backroom isn’t the executive boardroom.
It was a study in personality watching Mayor Dave Bing on Tuesday react to the devastating news that the U.S. census puts Detroit’s population at 713,777 -- a 100-year low.
Bing was the last major political figure to comment on the news. He read from prepared text. His first reaction was a typically political one: deny it.
“Personally, I don’t believe the number is accurate,” he said.
While it is financially important for the city to count every person in terms of federal dollars, the mayor’s comment was telling.
A former steel executive, Bing squeaked into office promising to run government like a business. Real numbers. Real results. Like a CEO, he may have expected people below him carry out his decisions, no question. What he has found is that most people in local politics aren’t as talented or as motivated as he. Notice how he has routinely shuffled his cabinet. The turnover reeks of frustration.
And Bing isn’t the first businessman served a large slice of humble pie. I watched Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- much wealthier, more charismatic and possessing a higher Q-rating than Bing – wither on the political vine, unable to defeat entrenched bureaucrats and interests in Sacramento. Gov.
Rick Scott in Florida, a former health care executive and Tea Party darling, isn’t making many friends among Republican legislators for his my-way-or-highway attitude toward governance.
Even here in Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder -- a millionaire former computer executive -- may not be able to pull the Republican votes needed to tax the pensions of retirees.
New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg --a media tycoon -- is one of the few who nimbly made the transition. And Bloomberg is more or less the caretaker of Rudy Giuliani’s legacy. Wall Street money doesn’t hurt either.
Whatever you think of Giuliani -- and I covered him too -- he got New York under control. Remember New York, like Detroit, was a city given up for dead. Giuliani’s plan? Focus on crime and cleanliness.
Which brings me back to Bing. What is the plan?
He should take a page from Giuliani’s book and focus on things he can fix. Police. Fire. Blight.
Let me offer some numbers I’ve collected:
2 -- The number of years Bing has served as mayor.
3 -- The number of chiefs of police during his tenure -- not including two caretakers.
3 -- The number of fire commissioners during his tenure. A national search is being conducted for the fourth.
8 -- The average number of minutes a citizen of Cleveland waits for an emergency ambulance call.
17 -- The average number of minutes a citizen of Detroit must wait.
20 -- The number of ambulances working in Detroit.
25 -- The number of ambulances broken down.
1,500 -- The number of abandoned houses the Bing administration has torn down.
10,000 – The number of abandoned housed the Bing administration has promised to tear down.
90,000-- The estimated number of abandoned structures in Detroit.
51 -- The number of murders in Detroit per 100,000 residents, equaling the murder rate of the crack epidemic 1980s.
5 -- The number of murders in New York per 100,000 residents.
25 -- Percent population loss in Detroit over the past decade.
What does this all equal up to? One
Bing must give the people one reason to stay in Detroit. One reason to return to Detroit. Give the people one tangible example that things are improving.
If Bing can’t give them that, then he’s only getting one term