Give Council Member Ken Cockrel Jr. credit for one thing: Why, he wondered today during the endless hashing of the state’s proposed lease of Belle Isle, are the energies of City Council and the administration of Mayor Dave Bing so singularly focused on the details of a 30-year deal to make the city’s jewel in the Detroit River a state park.
Why, indeed? Maybe because the state and the Bing administration know they need to show some progress, to deliver some tangible, positive evidence of progress under the city’s consent agreement with the state Treasury. Maybe because a deal should be doable considering the simple fact that Michigan has been in the state park business for, what, 100 years or so. Maybe because state officials should be competent enough to provide adequate details about the lease, prospective funding and a basic plan of what they would do and when.
But no. Too hard; too complicated; too many opportunities to grandstand on a platform feeling with each passing week as if it’s perched on an aft deck of the Titanic. Instead the people elected to oversee policy and governance are doing neither and instead are engineering a Big Stall. For what? For whom? The Belle Isle fiasco is only the latest installment in a tiresome saga filled with a stunning lack of urgency and an appalling misunderstanding of the serious issues facing Detroit’s government.
What needs to happen to drive real meaningful change? For starters, Gov. Rick Snyder and his team tasked with managing the Detroit consent agreement should ensure there will be no more Belle Isle-style screw-ups — no showing up with inadequate detail, no failure to spell out the prospective financials, no giving figurative adversaries in the Detroit political machine a rhetorical club to beat Team Snyder.
No, repeat after me: Over-communicate, over-document, over-explain and let the financial facts speak for themselves. But get moving. For as much as the Emergency Manager Law, officially Public Act 4, could be overturned in a November referendum, the facts are that a) the city would still be under the purview of its predecessor emergency manager law and, most importantly, b) the city will continue to face a harrowing financial collapse that can only be answered by continuing its restructuring and injecting some sanity into its political oversight. That’s reality.