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ROCHELLE RILEY: One SUV won't fix city budget woes

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  • Charles C. Primas
    (OK, now we re talking !!!) ROCHELLE RILEY: One SUV won t fix city budget woes January 28, 2005 BY ROCHELLE RILEY FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 28, 2005
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      (OK, now we're talking !!!)

      ROCHELLE RILEY: One SUV won't fix city budget woes

      January 28, 2005



      Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson drives a county-leased gray,
      $55,000, 2005 Cadillac DTS DeVille. His $899 monthly lease payment
      includes extended maintenance, insurance and 30,000 miles a year, not
      the standard 13,000.

      Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano drives a county-leased black,
      $52,000, 2004 Cadillac DeVille with a one-year, $19,000 lease.

      A spokesman for Nancy White, chairwoman of the Macomb County Board of
      Supervisors, joked: "We bought her a 747 and a helicopter to go with her
      Hummer H1..." White actually drives her own white Lincoln LS, but has a
      county gas allowance.

      Grand Rapids Mayor George Hartwell drives his own Ford Taurus. His wife
      also drives her own car.

      Flint Mayor Donald Williamson drives his own black GMC van with MAYOR
      DONALD WILLIAMSON on the sides in big, bold letters "so people know if
      I'm around town or not," he said.

      Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick gets around in police fleet vehicles and
      the city leased his wife a red, $57,000, 2005 Lincoln Navigator.

      Now that we know what everyone drives, can we get out of the SUV? If we
      took every leased car from every public official in the city, Detroit
      would still be $157 million short on its current budget and $231 million
      short on next year's projected budget.

      What would Young do?

      We know that the controversy has never been about that SUV. What Detroit
      taxpayers inside and outside the city want to know is whether the mayor
      makes sound judgments and whether he tells the truth. Do we really want
      the mayor to say, "OK, I lied." Well, maybe we do.

      Taxpayers want to know whether a rash of recent snafus are signs that
      the Kilpatrick administration is too broken to be fixed.

      I can't help but wonder what Mayor Coleman Young would have done if
      asked about a city car for a family member. Can you see it? "Yes, I
      ordered the car. Because I can. Now kiss my ass." He would have blamed
      the media and the racists, but he would have gotten away with it,
      because he had earned capital by cutting thousands of jobs to balance
      the budget, capital that Kilpatrick has yet to earn.

      Instead of "forgetting" that he sent a car back that he didn't want,
      Kilpatrick should have earned some capital by pulling a Young. And not
      just with the SUV.

      What will Kilpatrick do?

      Why can't the city eliminate or merge some of its dozens of departments?
      There are three departments devoted to culture, entertainment and film;
      six devoted to finance. There's human resources, human services and
      human rights, but you can rarely get a human on the phone. There's
      revitalization, which must be different from planning and development.
      There's only one health, but two historic, departments.

      To avoid "miscommunications," Kilpatrick must balance the budget and
      keep the city focused on the big picture. That means, in the coming
      months, one of two things will happen: Kilpatrick will remember that he
      was an offensive tackle in college. He'll push through solutions like he
      hit for running backs, without fear, clearing the way for solutions, the
      Super Bowl and Detroit's future after the game. He'll carry the buck
      around in his pocket. He'll lead.

      Or the mayor will continue to blame subordinates for poor judgments made
      on his behalf. And he won't fire anyone, which makes you wonder just how
      poor their judgments really were.

      Either way, Detroit should think carefully before benching its best
      offensive player in the middle of a game. Unless he keeps missing

      Contact ROCHELLE RILEY at riley@...

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