Thursday night I entered the Lodge Freeway after driving along W. Lafayette downtown. The street lights were out.
I subsequently drove along the westbound Ford Freeway. Stretches of street lights were out.
And when I got off the freeway at Addison Avenue, guess what? The street lights were out.
Broken street lights are hardly breaking news in Detroit, of course, but my darkened drive was accompanied by a report on the radio about Mike Duggan announcing his resignation as CEO of the Detroit Medical Center at the end of the year so he can run for mayor of Detroit.
Duggan says he is on a listening tour and will make up his mind about running in the coming weeks. Right. He’s running.
I don’t know if Duggan is the answer. But Detroit gets more broken every day, and the city needs a leader, someone at the top who can at least give the impression he or she has a clue. And now that the presidential election is over and Matty Moroun is at least $31 million poorer after his constitutional amendment failed, it’s time to think seriously about a new mayor of Detroit.
Mayor Dave Bing was on TV the other night. He looked tired and tentative as he announced changes at the top of the supremely messed-up Detroit Police Department.
The changes involve assistant chiefs. But Charlie LeDuff on Fox 2 reported one of the new top cops is being investigated for his possible role in the secret police search for the last chief’s mistress the night she sent out a photo on social media that showed her with a gun in her mouth.
Can Duggan promise that he will hire police chiefs whose mistresses don’t send out photos of themselves that suggest suicide?
LeDuff also reported Bing has yet to find the money to hire a firm to find a new chief.
Whether it’s Duggan or someone else, there almost certainly will be a new mayor elected next year.
Despondent tweets are just a side issue. Detroit’s homicides are increasing and the number of cops is decreasing, and the DPD is in much worse condition than when Bing became mayor more than three years ago.
Street lights are also deteriorating. They were a big issue when Bing took over, but he didn’t announce a big fix for the lights until this fall, amid great fanfare. But the plan is stalled in state legislature. Meanwhile, the lights keep going out.
The mayoral election is a year away. Bing seems to be pretty much a secret lame duck. He can’t announce his intention to retire with the filing deadline still more than six months out, but the job has so overwhelmed him that it is almost certain he won’t run again. He will be 69 Nov. 24, and he has endured health problems.
But let’s not just pick on Bing. Take a look at the rest of the region. There’s a crisis of leadership almost wherever you look.
In Oakland County, L. Brooks Patterson was re-elected Tuesday to a sixth term as county executive. He’s still recovering from the excruciating injuries he suffered in an Aug. 10 auto accident. He gets around in a wheelchair, looks gaunt, is 73 and has spent 36 years as executive and prosecutor. It’s unclear when he’ll be back to work full-time, or if he can serve for four years.
In Wayne County, Robert Ficano is entangled in a wide-ranging scandal. While he has not been implicated, federal agents are rummaging through his office’s records, and some of his aides have been indicted or have pleaded guilty.
In Macomb, County Executive Mark Hackel shows promise, but he’s been in office less than a year. The office itself is less than a year old. He doesn’t have a lot of clout.
Don’t just take it from me. Listen to U.S. Secretary Ray LaHood.
He’s been working for months with Bing, Gov. Rick Snyder and other regional leaders to do something to help metro Detroit get a transit system. Right now, it’s the only major region in America without one.
Last month, LaHood said his department will allocate millions toward rapid-transit buses on four major routes and supply $25 million toward a private Woodward Avenue rail line. But there is an if involved.
LaHood said the money will be coming only IF the "community can get its act together." Sadly, that’s a very big if.