The Detroit mayoral race promises to be an ugly, divisive battle over who will lead a city dangerously close to bankruptcy and a state financial takeover.
Candidates won’t be able to tiptoe around hugely controversial issues that arguably haven’t been as pressing since at least the 1973 election of the city’s first black mayor, Coleman Young.
Detroiters are sharply divided over the state’s role in helping the city dig out of a massive deficit that has cost taxpayers many services, including police and fire protection.
Mayor Dave Bing, who has not announced whether he’ll run for a second term, is viewed as an ally of the state, which could cost him politically.
Adding fuel to the fire is the media’s over-the-top coverage today of Mike Duggan’s announcement that he plans to explore running for mayor of Detroit. That’s right: He hasn’t even made a decision yet.
Duggan, a former Wayne County prosecutor and Detroit Medical Center head who just recently moved to the city, is being trumpeted by the media as the most electable white mayoral candidate since the early 1970s. The story is leading most local news sites.
The same coverage wasn’t extended to state Rep. Lisa Howze, even though she’s the only Detroiter to officially announce her candidacy. Howze, who is black, has an impressive background, a good reputation and is quietly gaining strong support among Detroiters who could make her the first female mayor of the city in November 2013.
Likely more divisive, though, will be the range of candidates and their positions on working with the state on budget-cutting efforts that could include issues such as handing over control of Belle Isle to the state and outsourcing city services.
Some residents are mobilizing forces to fight against what they consider a strong-armed takeover of the city and its gems. Others just want someone – anyone – to fix the city’s budget.
Also considering a run for mayor are City Council President Charles Pugh; Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon; and U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.