March 3, 2009 at 1:00 am

Laura Berman

Commentary: Detroit loser in Conyers' game

Monica Conyers is a genius.

She is demonstrating firsthand that a woman can exercise power with as little concern for the public welfare as any power-mad male politician.

Look at what she has accomplished. Surely the sight is giving her satisfaction.

The state's political establishment is gnashing its collective teeth, as months of negotiations over Cobo Center's fate unravel.

The future of Cobo -- and the deal worked out painstakingly by governor, Legislature, City Hall and county executives -- is floating delicately in the thin air of economic catastrophe like a leaf in the breeze.

Meanwhile, Monica Conyers gets her due.

Name recognition growing

Her refusal to go along with a plan that isn't hers may have enhanced her "Madwoman of DayTwah" status among some. But it's also boosted name recognition for the woman who recently complained the media are obsessed with "Monica, Monica, Monica." In a dying city, where the budget and population are steadily shrinking, her renown is growing.

These days, who couldn't name the president of the Detroit City Council?

And she has craftily created a coalition of equally narcissistic City Council members who, like her, understand the power of no.

Detroit is the original city of desperate straits. But never before has the city's downtown been so precariously poised between glimmering future and creaky ghost town.

From the glorious, and achingly empty, spa at the MGM, to the echoes in any of the sleek new hotel restaurants that have opened in the last year, you can see why movie producers are getting hyped up about Detroit: The recent building boom for conventioneers and casino gamblers now looks more like a street from Universal Studios theme park -- prefab sets for Hollywood extras.

In the last week, we stopped waiting for Cobo and switched full-time to waiting for Monica.

Diva gets her moment

The diva knows that her moment of glory and maximum attention depends on staying in the dressing room and refusing to budge.

Like the 3-year-old she so resembles, she understands that she can best exercise her own mystique by undermining the powerful adults who surround her.

When it's all about Monica, the life of Detroit and the region surrounding it can and must wait.

For a week, Monica has seized her big close-up moment. She's in her dressing room, preparing her toilette, spurning visitors and even insistent taunts from the waiting audience.

To the dysfunctional go the spoils.

Now the mayor delivers his letter to her, the president of the City Council. She sits. She waits. She wins.

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