Bing Is No Snyder When It Comes To A Basic Political Skill: Talking
On Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder will venture onto the front lawn of the J.E. Clark Preparatory Academy in the East Side neighborhood of MorningSide with Mayor Dave Bing to announce the governor’s plan to help Detroit.
Focusing on several schools and the blocks around them, Snyder’s plan includes demolishing hundreds of homes, dispatching state police to patrol the streets and sending in health and social-service professionals to treat students.
Snyder is a businessman-turned-politician with remarkable discipline who virtually never deviates from his message. As in the past, the governor likely will talk about how his plan is a follow-up to the consent agreement between the city and state to stabilize Detroit’s finances, and how once Detroit’s finances are stabilized, residents will be able to receive better services.
Bing will say…
Who knows what Bing will say?
He is the anti-Snyder when it comes to communication. Bing is a businessman-turned-politician who, when he isn't reading from a script, blurts out statements willy-nilly like someone with the political version of Tourette’s Syndrome, even though he is careful and dignified away from the spotlight.
Last week, according to a Detroit News report by Leonard Fleming, Bing appeared before an NAACP gathering and said he welcomes Snyder’s help, but added:
"I have never in my 46 years in this city seen a governor of the state of Michigan involved in city politics like this one. I'm not opposed to getting help. But it's the kind of help that we need, not the kind of help that's going to be imposed on us."
(The city doesn’t need help demolishing abandoned buildings? Patrolling the streets?)
Bing said he is opposed to the state's plan to come in and tear down buildings because "that's us, that's our responsibility.
"You can't come in here and think you can do any damn thing that you want,” Fleming quoted Bing as saying. “There's a process that's already in place. You've got to use city departments for permits, for licensing, moving and equipment."
Bing also slammed the governor’s offer of 14 troopers for the city, saying, “How in the hell is that helping us?”
Later, mayoral spokeswoman Naomi Patton insisted Bing wasn’t mad at the governor.
“There is a room of people that would tell you there was no tone of animus,” she said.
Maybe so, but whatever the tone, those comments from Bing resembled, in feel and petulance, comments he made in 2011 about the Detroit business community: "I get a lot of lip service from a lot of people about wanting to be supportive, but not much help," he said. "Everybody has opinions. What we need is more help meeting our many needs."
Bing’s criticism of Snyder seems out of step with Bing's constituents, many of whom are begging for help, from anyone. I attended the meeting of the MorningSide neighborhood group last month when Snyder’s top Detroit aide explained how the governor’s plan would work. There were about 60 people there, and they applauded when he was done. The biggest complaint came from a woman who wanted the state to tear down empty houses in her section of the East Side.
In previous years, Detroit politicians complained that various governors weren’t interested in Detroit. Snyder has made the city one of his priorities, even though as a Republican he is never going to get many votes here, and Republican voters outstate do not share his interest in Detroit, to put it charitably.
Bing’s Snyder-bashing and mystifying rhetoric were not unusual. He has made confusion a defining characteristic of his administration.
He has delivered conflicting or baffling statements about a number of important issues: His stance on Krystal Crittendon’s strategy before the corporation counsel filed her lawsuit against the consent agreement. The Woodward Avenue light rail plan. The need for an emergency manager. The concept of shrinking the city.
Bing said he would not accept a city paycheck. Then, all of a sudden, he started taking a salary but didn’t acknowledge it for months. When he took office, he made a big deal of saying he would not live in the Manoogian Mansion. That’s where he lives now.
Bing has been clear about one thing: He has said many times how the job of mayor was far more complicated and demanding than he imagined.
The job has seemed to overwhelm him, as it would most mortals, but if Detroiters can’t expect their streetlights to come on or the police to show up, at least they should be able to expect clarity from their mayor.
Bing is up for re-election a year from November. He is holding fundraisers and acting like he is going to run again. He has said it is likely he will run, though he hasn’t made an official announcement. The filing deadline is not until next spring.
I don’t believe Bing will run again. He would be 73 when his second term ends, and he suffered serious health problems this spring. He could retire and be remembered, like Jerry Ford, as the guy who stepped in after a criminal was forced out and restored dignity to the office.
But even if Bing announced tomorrow that he is running for a second term, based on his track record, you would have only one conclusion to draw: He will not be a candidate.