Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Regionalize Detroit's Government Now

After spending the past three days in New York City, I returned home last night to referee a girls' basketball game -- Alexis Goree's jumper at the buzzer enabled Ferndale to nip Birmingham Seaholm 50-48 -- and I was never so happy to get yelled at for 90 minutes in my life.

Don't get me wrong, I love NYC, but home is home. However, if there's one thing that I would bring home from New York and institute immediately in the three-county area, it would be a metropolitan government. If there's a city in the 'Lower 48' as our friends in Canada have nicknamed the United States that's a more rudderless ship than Detroit, please point it out to me. I wake up this morning and read about Detroit's corrupt city council killing a Cobo Hall expansion deal contingent on regional management and simply shake my head at the stupidity the vote represents.

But never mind the race-baiting reasons offered by people like Barbara Rose-Collins for killing the Cobo deal. Her tenure of representation in Washington, D.C. and Detroit is punctuated by missed votes, irresponsible decisions and untimely, ill-advised comments like the ones she made yesterday. In short, she's a loose cannon who represents her own motives over the greater good.

Detroit needs the suburbs and the suburbs need Detroit. Both desperately need a significantly healthier Detroit than the one that's currently limping along the riverside, and a Cobo Hall deal done sooner than later is a step in the right direction.

But there's more to it. The 'burbs need a viable Detroit to survive. Please stop fooling yourselves, Detroit apologists, by telling me of a handful of condos and hotels and restaurants recently opened, and for every eatery that opens, there's two that close and another three that remain shuttered. Detroit is sagging badly. Just ask the Book-Cadillac or Fort Shelby staff, who openly wonder how long their hotels will be open without guests. Try to find a cup of coffee at 8am on a Sunday morning in downtown Detroit; I'll take your phone call after the first 1/2 hour.

Losing the Cobo deal to racially-charged vote-getting is beyond short-sighted. Governor Jennifer Granholm, Oakland County head L. Brooks Patterson and Wayne County leader Bob Ficano have all publicly warned there's little political will to re-fund this project should Detroit reject this deal, one that took a staggering five years -- nearly as long as America was engaged in World War II -- to craft, finalize and agree upon.

In the big scheme of things, this is a relatively small project. Detroit's response? Play the race card. Polarize the region further. Bamboozle the five-year deal in the same amount of time it takes to order a five-dollar foot-long sandwich from Subway. And a crowd of residents was there to cheer the decision.


If the citizens of New York City want something, they do it. They decide to do, make the needed sacrifice and get it done. The 2nd Avenue subway line took years to build, but they did it. It came down to a simple mantra: We need it so we're going to build it. All five boroughs are represented and the greater good of the entire city is represented. What's the difference between five boroughs and three counties?

Detroit needs to learn acceptance of the significant resources of the suburbs. You can't live in a cocoon forever. The same greed and benevolence that has killed the good life for so many skilled union auto workers in metro Detroit is in play again with the edict from Detroit's City Council that Detroit residents get all the jobs and contracts for Cobo's repair and expansion. Two stadiums, three casinos and the Cadillac and Shelby hotel projects were accomplished from level-headed leaders who utilized the entire region's resources for the good of region. Yet who benefits most from those projects? The City of Detroit. Demanding exclusivity from residency workforce restrictions does nothing to build back the city, much less erase the racist reputation of the region.

The time has come to represent the greater good of the entire region rather than the vote-hunters from America's most-crippled big city. Metropolitan government would benefit Detroit and the suburbs that surround it more than any state takeover or city council do-good'r ever will.

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing.

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