When Kenneth V. Cockrel Jr. was Mayor of the City of Detroit he was often criticized for not having a vision for the City of Detroit. As Mayor for just eight months, running in two elections and trying to restore confidence, faith and trust back into the city of Detroit and office of Mayor following a tumultuous time in Detroit’s history, Cockrel’s vision was short term – Get the city’s finances back in order and help the city of Detroit move forward without looking back at what thrusted him into office as Mayor. At the time, Cockrel became Mayor, not only was our city in political turmoil, but the economic floor fell out from under the nation. The auto industry, Detroit’s main industry was crumbling, jobs were diminishing and the city was still recovering from the scandal that rocked our world.
As Mayor of the Motor City, Cockrel’s priority also was to help our leading industry survive and get off life support, while preventing the City of Detroit from suffering a similar fate.
Just as Mayor Dave Bing is doing now, Ken Cockrel did then, in asking the unions to work with him in collaboration to help weather the economic storm. At the time, Cockrel’s Administration put forth a budget deficit plan that would restore the city’s finances to a level where we would avoid a hint of bringing on an emergency financial manager and also published the city’s finances on line for people to see, view and comment on.
In 2009, Cockrel, in his State of the City address said, the “Key to managing our financial resources is making smart choices. This includes choices about who we do business with and how we do business with them.” In Cockrel’s brief tenure as Mayor, his administration reviewed a number of contracts and discovered many areas of mismanagement. In fact, the review of several contracts with banks and other financial services institutions revealed that we were spending over $2 million for services we did not need and immediately terminated those contracts.
In the brief months Cockrel was Mayor he also set in motion the opportunity and ability to create an authority to oversee the expansion of the Cobo Convention Center, paved way for light rail along Woodward Ave., began discussions of merging the two regional bus systems worked to bring green jobs to the city and found ways to put the police back in the neighborhoods.
Just two years after Cockrel served as Mayor, while the auto industry is recovering, Detroit’s financial situation continues to diminish, as do jobs. Just as people asked for Cockrel’s vision, we need a plan for the City of Detroit. This plan is not just for current Mayor Dave Bing to develop. We need the cooperation of the entire region, including: business, labor, faith based groups and others to come to the table and offer their vision and solutions to help guide the city forward.
It takes leadership, cooperation and collaboration to set us back on the path to prosperity and growth. It is time our business leaders, labor leaders and others to stop being territorial in what they are working on and in the Spirit of Detroit work together to solve regional problems. I understand business groups are talking to each other, but we have been talking for years. It is time to stop the talk and for someone to come forward and take charge of creating and implementing the plan to bring Detroit back.
*This post originally appeared in The Huffington Post in early December, 2011