Over the past few weeks, I have and will have the opportunity to travel outside of Detroit. For example, last week I was in Chicago for a trade show. While in Chicago, the news that dominated the front page of the Tribune was not the indictment of former Mayor Kilpatrick, it was the trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, and the testimony his staffers gave under oath. In addition, people who live in Chicago know of the alleged corruption in that city, but they ignore it because their trash gets picked up, the lights are always on and the city continues to thrive with new developments. While it does not make it right, it is what that city has built its reputation on.
Tonight, I just returned from Toronto. While I was not there for the G-20 Summit, I did read and see pictures of the the police car burning, and heard first hand stories of friends who were not allowed to leave their buildings that were in the security zone, due to violent protests, not to mention protesters breaking the windows of a number of Starbuck's and other downtown businesses. Also in Toronto, Canadian Tourism took care of the international media while visiting Toronto. In the media centre, they created a "fake lake" to resemble the lakes of Muskoka, two hours from Toronto and the site of the G8 meetings. The "fake lake" was inside the convention center and was actually the target of stories about the costs of this Summit and the length Canada was going to promote tourism in the Country at a time that they virtually shut Canada's economic epicenter down to host a two day meeting of world leaders -- As if the Winter Olympics did not accomplish that for them, during one of the busiest tourist times for Toronto, given Canada Day on July 1. Also, they forced the Toronto Blue Jays to relocate their home game to Philadelphia, who wore their home uniform in Philly. A city that normally never receives bad publicity certainly felt the brunt of it in just a short weekend.
In addition, on July 1, the Canadian government will institute a combined GST/PST (tax), placing up to 13 percent taxes on professional services (law, accounting), hair cuts, gym memberships, restaurant tabs, home remodeling, new construction, subscriptions etc, which has not been handled well. This frankly, is an opportunity for us to promote shopping in Detroit to our Canadian neighbors.
After the Fourth of July, I will be travelling to Cleveland, where corruption and bribes of public officials continues to rock Cuyahoga County, where several public officials and business owners have been indicted and a number of others on the way, with the federal government targeting Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo and Democratic Party Chair and Chair of the Cuyahoga County Commission Jimmy Dimore This is the same city, that in the last year or two had major issues affecting their Port Authority, involving money or the lack thereof to fund certain projects.
Next month, I will be travelling to San Francisco, where its' current Mayor (and failed gubernatorial candidate) Gavin Newsom, had an affair with his campaign manager's wife in 2007.
So, a bit of perspective -- All eyes are not necessarily on Detroit. People are really consumed with what is going on in their city and their own backyard. As we work hard to rebuild, repair and rebrand our image, we are not alone and we should think that everyone is concerned with Detroit, or that we have such a terrible reputation. Unfortunately, we are not the only city with the problems we have. We certainly would like the Kilpatrick era to come to a close and for the headlines to change about Detroit. To do so, we need to celebrate and honor our past, but stay focused on our strengths and move on from our failures.
Detroit, like Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco or Hartford, where another Mayor resigned after corruption charges, should not let a political scandal or their public officials failures define their city or region. It is up to the region, to work collectively to promote itself and show first hand what they are capable of doing.
There are no doubt, lessons to learn and impart from where we have been to help create the blueprint that will guide us in moving forward. With an election upon us in just a few months, we need to elect leaders who will not just be held accountable, we need leadership will will lead by example and will not stray from taking risks at a time of tremendous opportunity. I look forward to working with you and with our new leaders on that journey.
Best wishes for a Happy Fourth of July.