Trust the mayor?


Trust the mayor?

By Shea Howell

Michigan Citizen, Dec. 19-25, 2010

Mayor Dave Bing took to the media to announce his evolving plans. One of his main concerns, he said, is that the citizens of Detroit lack trust in him. “The African American community,” he told Devin Scillion, “has not been raised to trust government.”

But, he went on, “We’ve not done anything in these last eighteen months for people to distrust us.”

The complete absence of awareness in this statement is stunning. After this last week of contradictions, partial plans and new revelations, people who care about Detroit would be foolish to put trust in this Mayor or his administration.

The situation is becoming increasingly hostile toward the average citizen. That is why we need to send out a call now to every human rights organization in the country to establish a Detroit Watch. We need to invite the Carter Center and the United Nations to monitor the next election. We can’t trust this administration with our basic rights.

In Detroit we have a mayor who calmly talks about moving people out of their homes against their will. He knows he cannot do this legally. So he says quite openly that he will use incentives to remove people from the areas he intends to seize. These incentives include encouraging people to move into neighborhoods where basic services will be provided.

The only logical conclusion to this kind of statement is that basic services will not be provided to hold-outs. Police, fire, sanitation, water, schools and lighting have all been suggested as services that the city “cannot afford to provide.”

The idea that an elected city government thinks it can offer services to some citizens and not others reveals an unprecedented disdain for human rights. How can a mayor propose cutting off water to citizens? How can he contemplate allowing homes to burn? Why does he not feel compelled to provide shelter to those without it?

This callous disrespect for human rights has been obvious ever since Bing’s election. During the campaign he gave no hint of the schemes that have marked his administration. He offered no grand vision. In asking for our votes, he insisted he had no self interest, no big ideas. He was only a team player, willing to offer some stability. It was not until he took office that he became the point person for the corporate elite and their foundations.

If the mayor really wants to earn our trust, he should lead the way by inviting human rights organizations into the city now. He should invite elections inspectors to monitor his bid for a second term. He should immediately divest all his private holdings in the city of Detroit.

A so-called blind trust for his property holdings is not good enough now.

He should demand full disclosure of the financial holdings of the board members of every foundation donating more than $5,000 in the city of Detroit.

History tells us that every scheme to reshape Detroit has cost the people money. It has frequently cost us pain. And it has usually made money for corporations and those who sit on foundation boards.

It is nonsense to say that the reason Detroiters don’t want to give up their homes is because they are holding out for a “big payday.” Many of us suspect that there is a “big payday” coming but not for the citizens of Detroit. We expect it will be for those who have always benefited from such schemes.

Shrinking budgets is not a justification for violating basic human rights. If this mayor really wants our trust, if he wants to run again, he needs to start doing everything he can to ensure basic protection to every person in this city. ___________________________________________

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