Time for Detroit To Move Beyond Its Past

Mayor-elect Duggan must capitalize on changes already being made

Detroit has a new mayor who promises to work with the city's emergency manager. He has insisted crime will go down, street lights will go on and neighborhoods will be reborn.

For the sake of the city's residents, the region and the state, let's hope he's successful.

But none of that will happen if fundamental — and real — change doesn't take place in the city. Detroit can no longer operate on the assumption that everyone is out to get it. It can no longer operate as if it is owed things, be it money from the state, the federal government or the business people who invest in the city despite massive structural and political problems.

Detroit's emergency manager isn't in place to loot the city. He's trying to save it from its past.

Mayor-elect Mike Duggan said Tuesday night in his acceptance speech that he wants to work with Kevyn Orr and Gov. Rick Snyder. That's a good start.

Others have offered to help, too, and Mayor-elect Duggan doesn't have to look far for some solid suggestions. My colleague, Michael LaFaive, wrote 13 years ago how Detroit could save billions if it privatized some services and sold some assets. While the numbers have changed, most of his suggestions apply still today.

With the city in bankruptcy some of those long-overdue reforms will happen, but it can't end there. Cultural change needs to happen. And it needs to happen at all levels of city government.

Anyone who has ever tried to get a problem resolved with the city — or have a Freedom of Information Act request filled — knows that the layers of government bureaucracy in Detroit make it nearly impossible to navigate the morass.

"The people of Detroit elected me because they want somebody to go into City Hall, take on that bureaucracy and get the city services to work again," Mayor-elect Duggan said in his victory speech.

He can do that by opening up the books, demanding that city employees (whose salaries and benefits are paid for by taxpayers) be receptive to requests, and bringing transparency to Detroit city government.

That would be a good start.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.