Mayor Dave Bing, preparing to return to work Monday after a month-long medical hiatus, today added two more appointments to the Financial Advisory Board that will help his administration and City Council deliver their side of the state consent agreement. They are Sandra Pierce, the president and CEO of Charter One-Michigan, and Eddie Munson, a former managing partner of KPMG in Detroit and a former director of Pharmaceutical Laboratories Ltd.
Already (and not surprisingly) critics are focusing on the fact that none of the five appointees to the nine-person board maintain their primary residence within the city limits. And? And nothing. What Detroit’s leadership needs right now is competence, credibility, character and the kind of financial chops that each appointee so far brings to this fraught endeavor. Easy for me to say? Sure. And it has the added advantage of being true.
There all all sorts of reasons why the city is where it is — population flight, crime, ineffective and self-dealing bureaucrats, weak elected leadership — but one of the most critical is an appalling lack of financial acumen inside City Hall for a very long time. Restructuring under terms of the consent agreement could — no, should — change that with the appointment of a chief financial officer and the implementation of modern financial and accounting controls (kinda’ like they do in Oakland County).
I know, I know: The state’s record of “takeovers” in Detroit (see Detroit Public Schools) is, at best, mixed. And there are no guarantees the hybrid approach of a consent agreement that leaves the mayor and council in place, and creates a parallel structure of appointees alongside them, is guaranteed to succeed. But, as former Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony Williams said this week, a city like Detroit in its current predicament has an opportunity (he didn’t say “likelihood”) to shed its operational dysfunction and become a platform for innovation in urban municipal management. Getting there, however, will require learning from experts — no matter where they are from.