CITY INSULT: In crisis, council members prove their imprudence
January 28, 2005
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick should thank the City Council. When his
own excesses and missteps make him look bad, those of the council
almost make him look good.
City Council's response to a budget crisis that will force Detroit to
lay off hundreds of workers and cut the pay of others is to propose a
4-percent increase in its $17-million budget.
Council President Pro Tem Kenneth Cockrel Jr. explained this craziness
by noting that the council's budget makes up only 1 percent of the
city's $1.6-billion general fund.
"That's like a mosquito on the back of a tyrannosaurus rex," he said.
That bit of hyperbole misses the point, which is that, when leading in
times of crisis, appearances matter.
Just ask Kilpatrick, who took static for leasing, at taxpayers'
expense, a 2005 Lincoln Navigator for his family while proposing to
cut bus service for the city's poorest residents.
The council's request for more is similarly myopic as the city
prepares to make big cuts in services and jobs.
Kilpatrick understood the power of appearances when he reduced his own
pay by 10 percent. That didn't ease the city's budget problems much,
but he had to assure the troops that he felt their pain and was also
willing to take a hit.
But even a gesture like that appears too much to ask of the City
Council, which certainly cannot justify an increase based on
performance. Last week, Cockrel had to order Detroit police officers
to round up three members who were needed for a crucial vote on city
Council members undoubtedly think they can make a case for insulating
themselves from the city's financial plight. But city workers who will
lose their livelihoods and citizens who won't be able to get to their
jobs because Detroit is ending round-the-clock bus service can make a
It's sheer arrogance for members of the City Council to try to raise
their own budgets while expecting big sacrifices of the people they