Three cheers to Detroit mayor Dave Bing for his truthful comments about unions: ‘Either they can’t read, they can’t add or they can’t comprehend’
Mayor Dave Bing today criticized leaders of the city’s largest union for foot-dragging on contract negotiations, saying it’s costing the financially strapped city $500,000 a month and could result in more layoffs.
“Either they can’t read, they can’t add or they can’t comprehend,” Bing said at a press conference this morning in his office at City Hall. “It has to be one of the three.
“Everyone is running with a deficit in their budgets. It’s leadership or a lack of leadership that has got us to where we are.”
Bing said he’s ready to impose a contract on the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 but said the city must follow the law. Both parties are now in fact-finding, a process which could last until July.
Bing has been at odds for months with AFSCME leaders over calls for concessions, including 10 percent pay cuts through 26 furlough days and fringe benefit cuts. The union represents about 3,600 workers such as landscapers, street pavers and crossing guards.
Problems With Bing’s Approach
The big problem with Bing’s approach is that he is not going far enough. He should privatize everything he can. Pussyfooting around with unions is generally a waste of time. The major goal should be to eliminate the unions entirely. The compromise position is the end of defined benefit pension plans coupled with a 33% salary reduction.
Ask for a lousy 10% cut and you end up in court, after months of delays, and all you end up with is a lousy 5% with no headway on the defined benefit issue.
By the way, Bing brought this on himself. Why is it so hard to see the need to privatize landscapers, street pavers and crossing guards? Hells bells, the goal ought to be to privatize the fire department, better yet, to have a volunteer fire department.
Thus, on second thought … Two cheers (not three) to Detroit mayor Dave Bing. He said what needed to be said, but he certainly is not acting like he means business.
33% of Detroit is Vacant Land or Abandoned Homes
Inquiring minds are investigating Mayor Bing’s Plan To Shrink Detroit
Mayor Dave Bing said Wednesday he “absolutely” intends to relocate residents from desolate neighborhoods and is bracing for inevitable legal challenges when he unveils his downsizing plan.
In his strongest statements about shrinking the city since taking office, Bing told WJR-760 AM the city is using internal and external data to decide “winners and losers.” The city plans to save some neighborhoods and encourage residents to move from others, he said.
“If we don’t do it, you know this whole city is going to go down. I’m hopeful people will understand that,” Bing said. “If we can incentivize some of those folks that are in those desolate areas, they can get a better situation.”
Bing’s staff is using its own data and a survey released last weekend by Data Driven Detroit. The block-by-block study of the 139 square-mile city showed that roughly one in three parcels are vacant lots or abandoned homes.
John Mogk, a Wayne State law school professor, said Bing’s on the right track but will face four major challenges: political support; money; creating a bureaucracy to administer the project and legal challenges.
Among the court challenges he sees ahead include the legality of cutting off city services to particular neighborhoods and using eminent domain to relocate residents. In 2006, voters approved a prohibition on government’s ability to take property for economic development.
Talk Is Cheap
Daniel Howes, a Detroit News columnist correctly hammers the talk is cheap message in Bing must put actions behind words
A new tone at City Hall may be refreshing, necessary to steering Detroit out of a ditch deepened by its own digging. But it’s not sufficient without action and the kind of rigorous financial management that should control wild overspending on overtime ($54.3 million last year), that should be more aggressive in collecting $50 million spent to demolish dilapidated buildings.
In other words, talk sounds even cheaper than it is when the numbers are so grim, because the numbers don’t lie. Detroit is operating some $325 million in the red; its tax base is shrinking amid a jobs-killing recession and plunging property values; union concessions, a test of Bing’s mettle, remain undelivered.
Kwame Kilpatrick, no friend to the city’s unions, eliminated some 4,000 jobs during his abbreviated tenure. You, more than six months into a deepening crisis, have cut some 450 slots and reduced pay for salaried appointees by 10 percent, but have so far retreated from promises to take out more.
Another example: Look to Lansing, where a two-term governor in her final year in office steadfastly refuses to exercise the prodigious powers bestowed on her office by legal precedent and the state constitution. Gov. Jennifer Granholm is probably feared by no one, and she has the record to prove it.
Detroit’s crisis, likely to deepen this year, is your opportunity to change the direction of a city whose leaders — elected, appointed and union — have together led Detroiters down an unsustainable path they are unable to finance, much less afford.
But we’re not seeing much. Your spokesman still promises 10-percent pay cuts for union employees in the form of furloughs that don’t come. Your penchant to let your actions speak for themselves (like they did on NBA basketball courts) would be admirable if you had enough actions to let do the talking.
It’s a cliché, but a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. So is the support of folks inside and out of Detroit counting on you to make the difference you can.
The news commentary and columns from the Detroit News are excellent. I have several readers sending me links every day. While I can only give two cheers to Bing, I am in a cheerful mood today, so it’s three cheers for Daniel Howes.
Now if only Mayor Bing would follow through with some tough actions to go with his tough words. A good place to start would be to privatize everything in sight, including the fire department. Complete annihilation is the only thing unions understand, so why not give it to them?
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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