Detroit mayor points to 'signs of hope and possibilities'

In his State of the City address on Wednesday, Detroit's mayor focused on positive moves the city is making to improve its finances. Mayor Dave Bing said, 'It is time to transform the image of Detroit'. He suggested the state might do more to help the struggling city. 

AP Photo/Detroit News, Ricardo Thomas
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing delivers the State of the City address, Wednesday in Detroit. Bing used his speech to highlight positive moves Detroit has made to address its financial woes.

Mayor Dave Bing used his State of the City address Wednesday to highlight positive moves Detroit has made to address its financial woes and gave no hint as to whether he knows if the state is about to take over control of the city.

"The picture is not all doom and gloom," Bing said. "Every day there are more signs of hope and possibilities. We can't — and won't — give up on our city."

The city faces a $327 million budget deficit, cash flow shortages and the specter that Gov. Rick Snyder may soon appoint a financial manager over Detroit. A state appointed review team in December began taking a second look at Detroit's books, ongoing fiscal troubles and Bing's restructuring plans. That team is expected in the coming days or weeks to submit its report to the Republican Snyder. Snyder has said he will use that report in deciding whether an emergency manager will be placed over the city's finances.

Positive moves so far during Bing's first term include a $300 million reduction in city spending, about 3,700 fewer jobs on Detroit's payroll, more than $4 million in administrative cost savings by turning over many Health Department services to a public-private partnership, and a 7 percent jump in income tax collections.

Bing did use his address to point a finger or two at Lansing.

Detroit received $93 million less in revenue sharing last year from the state than it did in 2009 when he was elected mayor, Bing said.

Over the past 11 years, revenue sharing to Detroit has been cut more than $700 million, he added.

"It is clear that if Detroit had received its agreed upon share of revenues from the state, our financial picture would not be as grim today," he said.

Some of the cuts Bing has made, especially to jobs and benefits have opened him to heavy criticism from the city's municipal unions and some on the City Council.

With the help of state legislators, a public lighting authority is being created to improve Detroit's antiquated street lighting system.

The city's police department also is being restructured to help put more officers on the streets to tackle Detroit's high crime rate. One hundred officers are expected to be moved to patrols and criminal investigations this spring, he said.

Bing also said his administration is well on its way in completing his promise of demolishing 10,000 of the city's more than 30,000 vacant and abandoned houses by the end of his term. So far, about 6,700 houses have been torn down.

"It is time to transform the image of Detroit, and we must do it by working together," Bing said. "Too often, people focus only on the negative things in our city."

Henry Strobhart watched Bing deliver his speech on television and said the mayor offered little to residents on when help would come to Detroit's struggling neighborhoods.

"I don't like that when I vote for a guy and he doesn't address the issues of the neighborhoods," said Strobhart, 58. "We need police, firefighters and EMS."

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