What will Detroit look like post-bankruptcy? At this rate: same old, same old
By Charlie LeDuff
DETROIT - What will Detroit look like post-bankruptcy? It's starting to look a lot like Detroit pre-bankruptcy. Same old, same old. And that's a howling shame.
Mike Duggan promised a new day. And we get a lot of news releases out of the mayor's office claiming things are getting done. But what really?
The mayor was given a free hand by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to remake the fire department. After 100 days, the department is in worse shape than I've ever seen it. Same old cronies running it into the ground.
Give the mayor a chance, you say? Save it. The president of the United States only gets 100 days to show results.
Duggan's new director of neighborhoods, Charlie Beckham, is an ex-con who went to prison for corruption as Coleman Young's water department director. He was also Kwame Kilpatrick's director of lighting. You know how that turned out. So why was Beckham hired? And why is Beckham making trips to the newly created Lighting Authority asking to see bids and contracts?
Duggan's director of planning and development, Tom Lewand, is an old Democratic carbuncle and long-time Duggan confidant. Lewand oversaw the water department while Kilpatrick looted it. Two men in the Construction and Project Management department are paid in excess of $200,000 a year ... under Duggan ... in a bankruptcy. That's as much as the chief of police, who's bureaucracy is the largest and most complex in the city.
Police Chief James Craig answers not to the mayor but the emergency manager. This has created a power vacuum. Duggan subordinates are quite public that the chief will be shown the door when Orr is gone. The chief in turn looks for Duggan hit men behind every corner.
Orr is not heavily involved in the day-to-day, consumed instead with the budget and a bankruptcy backlash that he misjudged. Orr has until October to push the restructuring through and then he's out. So, Orr smiles publicly with Duggan, grumbles about him privately and has ceded some bureaucratic control to the mayor (see above).
So where is Gov. Rick Snyder in all this? After all, he blew up Detroit and now the old Democratic machine metastasizes downtown.
Secret slush funds, right-to-work legislation and favors for the governor's cousin notwithstanding, Snyder is on the campaign trail. He dares not muzzle Duggan because Duggan could turn out the Democratic vote in Detroit. That would cost the governor a million dollars extra to beat back his limp noodle challenger Mark Schauer. And if Detroit does turn out to vote, there goes the Republicans' chance of picking up the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Carl Levin.
Call it the Jennifer Granholm method to governing: see no evil.
I could go on: the City Council. Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano. But you get the picture. It's painted with mud.
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