August 30, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Commentary

Bing: Detroit must redefine leadership

Bing )

For too long, the wrong things have defined leadership in Detroit. From name recognition to simply holding an elected office and everything in between, leadership has been more than compromised: It has been reduced to an exploitative characteristic.

Because our city faces one of the worst financial, educational and social crises of the past century, the time for pseudo-leadership has passed. Gone must be the days of rhetoric without action, style without substance and promises with no potential.

Too many elected officials have drastically failed to do so, and now we are forced to deal with the consequences and clean up the mess. Yet, no one wants to admit it. Not those who are in positions of power or those who put them there. This goes beyond the scandals that have captured Detroit's headlines of late. Rather, this delves deep into the veins of a community that has been led -- or misled -- by their emotions.

The challenges we face didn't just happen. They have been years in the making, and even contributed to by some who were trusted to resolve those very issues. Many now pretend that simply opposing the tough but necessary changes that we are forced to make somehow indemnifies them from the reality of participation.

City Council members refuse to support this administration's changes to a budget that they approved, but do not reflect today's financial reality. While the chopping block is fair game for city services, council's budget and perks have gone unscathed. Even their own financial specialists have warned them for years that the end was near. Well, now it's here, and some are choosing to entice voters once again with empty words without admitting their mistakes. While I believe employees and citizens understand the crisis we face and imminent changes we must make, they want those changes to have no personal impact.

Union officials have spent more time fueling the fears of their members and citizens than they have at the negotiation table trying to find a solution consistent with the financial realities. They appear more concerned about prospective concessions than the $2 billion pension fund loss realized by their members.

More citizens have turned out to oppose proposed bus route changes than they have to decry the violence that holds our community hostage. Hundreds of people have called my office to complain about these possible changes, while the lack of calls turning in known criminals leaves police lines silent.

This is not only counterproductive for a city with vast untapped potential; it's downright ridiculous. Citizens have every right to be outraged, but that fury is misdirected.

Detroiters deserve answers. They deserve solutions. More important, they deserve real leadership.

Leadership means leading. Not just saying what others want to hear, but what needs to be heard. It is doing those things necessary for the survival of a city we all love -- even if it is unpopular and highly criticized. Our reality is that we simply cannot continue to spend what we do not have.

I'm not only committed to doing what is best and right, I am obligated to those who put their trust in me with their vote.

I recall the adage "Be willing to stand for what you believe, even if you must stand alone." I invite everyone who holds the public's trust to stand with me in making this city stronger, even if that means sacrifice -- personal or otherwise.

And while this isn't meant to be a personal attack, only those guilty need be offended.

Dave Bing is mayor of Detroit. E-mail comments to letters@detnews.com">letters@detnews.com.