I rarely agree with Detroit Free Press columnist Nolan Finley, but when he chastised the voters of Detroit for electing incompetent city council officials I could only say "Amen!"
We must endure the leadership we elect. But "we" doesn't necessarily mean all of us, because so many don't participate and too many others support the lunacy around us. As a result, we all must live with the consequences.
It's a sad commentary, especially for those of us who know better. The problem is, most people I know in Detroit did not and do not want Monica Conyers representing us. Nor did we want Barbara Rose-Collins or Joann Watson. Alberta Tinsely-Talabi has stood up for the east side and should be commended for that, as she's really the only one, but I question her judgement as well after this mess with the sinking of the Cobo Center expansion deal.
The reality is that Detroit needs to welcome aboard any hand willing to jump on deck, and to ceremoniously disregard attempts at cobbling together a deal that would bring needed dollars for renovation and expansion of our crumbling conference hall -- and keep the North American International Auto Show here -- is contemptible. Worse, the way in which council members dismissed the regional support proposal as an effort by outsiders to rob the city of another of its jewels is laughable. The city is wearing a necklace short many gems right now, and it is weighing us down like an albatross. We can't afford to support our institutions with public dollars. Hell, we cannot afford to sustain our infrastructure or city services as it is, given our evaporating tax base.
What Finley said in the Freep was, "My hopes for Detroit's future faded as I watched the tape of last Tuesday's council meeting, the one that considered the Cobo Center expansion deal.
It was a tragic circus, a festival of ignorance that confirmed the No. 1 obstacle to Detroit's progress is the bargain basement leaders that city voters elect. The black nationalism that is now the dominant ideology of the council was on proud display, both at the table and in the audience. "
The black nationalism displayed by council members has frequently manifested itself in actions that can be construed as bigoted. I have felt this way for a long time and at this point I'm glad it has been held up for inspection. The fact that Finley said it, will cause many Detroiters and other observers to dismiss it -- sadly. This time Finley is right though. "Crazy" I'm not sure about. But prejudiced and downright wrong, I am.
The reality of the current situation is that the agenda a faction of our council holds is fractious and will continue to stifle progress in the region. For too long, "Detroit" has been code for "black" and "suburbs" for "white." The result has been that the black majority in Detroit has suffered. Why anyone in power in this city would still want to hold "them," those suburbanites ,at arms length, even when attempting to cooperate, is mind boggling to me.
I have some problems with the proposed deal, but would not dismiss it without more deliberation. Detroiters deserve a bit more sweetener in the deal to ensure we have an appropriate pipeline of jobs for residents and the power to protect or guarantee them. But we should not demand more ownership than we can realistically afford, nor more power than we can justify.
I frequently find myself outraged by the things that Finlay says, and was this time as well, but not for the usual reason.
Finlay said, in his Freep column, "A pitiful Teamster official who practically crawled to the table on his knees expressing profuse respect for this disrespectful body was battered by both the crowd and the council."
"When he dared suggest that an improved Cobo Center would create more good-paying jobs for union workers, Conyers reminded him, 'Those workers look like you; they don't look like me.'
Desperate, he invoked President Barack Obama's message of unity and was angrily warned, 'Don't you say his name here.'
"Juxtapose the place and the faces and imagine a white Livonia City Council treating a black union representative with such overt racial hostility. The Justice Department would swoop down like a hawk, and the Rev. Al Sharpton would clog Five Mile Road with protesters. "
All I can say is, "you're right." But the fundamental issue is that the concerned Detroiters are outnumbered by the thousands of supporters of this madness along with the patently complacent. I argue frequently that social justice is the balance between power and inaction. Those of us who care are not getting the justice due.
Case in point, the recent election for mayor. When only 15 percent of voters show up for a mayoral election, we have to come to grips with the fact that we are doomed to no better than the winner of a name recognition contest. The tragedy is that the 15 percent who care about getting the best leadership is shackled to the 85 percent who show no interest in doing anything to save the city from sinking further into caos.
That is not crazy, it's true.