Column: Don’t give mayor DPS control
With the 2016 Major League Baseball season in full swing, debate that began nearly 20 years ago still swirls over whether baseball’s all-time hit leader, Pete Rose, should ever be enshrined in professional baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Rose was banned from baseball for life in 1989 after Major League Baseball learned that as a player and then manager of the Cincinnati Reds, he’d been betting on the sport, putting his own finances above the integrity of the game and results on the field.
If some in the Michigan Legislature were running the Majors, they might just name him commissioner.
Right now in Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan sits atop an administration under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), amid charges of potentially criminal mismanagement of the city’s blight elimination program and the $172 million in federal tax dollars that have been sent their way.
Journalists have spent months exposing the city’s demolition program — a program that’s seen prices skyrocket from $10,000 per property under former Mayor Dave Bing to $16,400 under Mayor Duggan.
They’ve exposed records from Duggan’s administration making what investigators are calling “uncommon” accommodations to three favored demolition companies, awarding them nearly 75 percent of the city’s contracts, inviting them to secret pre-bid meetings and even handing them $3.7 million extra in the middle of a contract for an asbestos removal service that was already covered under the original contract.
Those are tax dollars, if you’re keeping score.
Pulling the strings behind it all, according to investigators, are several of Duggan’s top appointees and right-hand men. Now two federal law enforcement agencies are involved.
Meanwhile in Lansing, lawmakers are debating whether to give the mayor and his cronies full and unfettered control over the future of all public schools in the city of Detroit.
In March the state Senate passed legislation that would create a new Detroit Education Commission. Under the scheme, the mayor would be given the power to reshape public education in Detroit by blocking the creation of even one additional charter school for the next 10 years.
Judge Steven Rhodes, transitional manager for the current district, has admitted this is a chief aim of the centralized planning of the so-called “DEC.”
The Detroit Public Schools district, recently rated the worst performing city school district in the nation (again), has been failing Detroit kids for generations. Parents have been fleeing the district for decades, fighting tooth-and-nail to give their children a chance at a real future. And today, 50 charter public schools in the city educate roughly 36,000 Detroit school children, while another 14,000 Detroiters attend charter schools outside the city limits.
Duggan and union bosses like American Federation of Teachers Michigan President David Hecker, with whom he shares a disdain for charter public schools, have heralded the proposed DEC. And why wouldn’t they?
Under the legislation, Duggan would appoint a commission of charter school opponents and union allies with the power to close charter schools within the city limits, block new charter schools from opening and strip desperately needed choices away from parents to funnel their children back into the failed and failing schools run by his political allies.
But why would lawmakers in Lansing trust a man at the center of an investigation into alleged bid-rigging and corruption to suddenly play fair with finances with nothing less than the lives and futures of Detroit’s children on the line?
And if they approve the Detroit Education Commission and enshrine it in law, why on earth would he?
Greg McNeilly is chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund.