DETROIT (AP) – Dave Bing’s time in the turbulence of Detroit, its politics and immense urban problems will end after only four years.
Buffeted from day one by a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, inefficient internal systems and the need for massive restructuring, the former NBA great announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election and will exit City Hall when his first term as mayor ends in December.
Bing told a group of supporters at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History that the work he and his team started after winning a May 2009 special election is far from finished.
He was unable to bring Detroit’s finances in line, and the city came under state oversight in late March when Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Washington-based bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr as emergency manager. Orr has final say on all fiscal matters.
“I love the compassion and commitment of Detroiters, and that’s why I stayed here and that is why I ran for mayor to right the things that are wrong and to change conditions and the conversation about our city,” Bing said. “There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done. All the plans that we put into place … will not be completed by the end of my term.”
Detroit’s budget deficit could reach $380 million by July 1. Long-term debt is at more than $14 billion. The city could run out of cash before the end of the year, and bankruptcy hasn’t been ruled out.
Despite demolishing nearly 10,000 vacant houses since Bing took office, the city still has tens of thousands of vacant homes standing.
The city on Tuesday also hired its fifth police chief in five years to run an undermanned department swamped by one of the highest violent crime and homicide rates in the country.
“Being the mayor of Detroit is not a picnic _ in even good circumstances,” said T.J. Bucholz, a specialist in political advocacy with a Lansing-based public affairs firm. “Given the fiscal strain, that is a nearly impossible job for even the most qualified candidate.”
Known for his cool as a former NBA basketball player, Bing spoke in a measured tone during Tuesday’s news conference.
“Change takes time and hard work,” said Bing. “However, when Gov. Snyder didn’t feel progress was occurring fast enough, he made the decision to appoint an emergency manager with the power to immediately fix some of the city’s longstanding financial problems.”
The roles of the mayor and the elected City Council were reduced after Orr’s appointment.
Although Bing long resisted the appointment of an emergency manager, he decided not to pursue a lawsuit to block it and referred to the arrangement as a “partnership” after Orr was appointed. He didn’t directly criticize Orr on Tuesday either, pointing out that some of Orr’s findings about the city’s situation were similar to his own.
In a statement Tuesday, Orr commended Bing on his service to Detroit.
“The work that he has begun has set Detroit on a path to achieve many of the goals necessary for the city to thrive,” Orr said.
Instead, Bing saved most of his scorn for state leaders. He said he expected more help from Lansing that never came.
He criticized a decision by a regional council of governments to cut funding to the city’s bus department while increasing allocations to a suburban bus system. He said Lansing’s approval of the development of a water and sewer system in Genesee County shows an unwillingness to truly help Detroit. Flint and other cities in Genesee County currently pay Detroit for water and sewer services.
“I have to wonder if the state is truly interested in a partnership,” Bing said.
Snyder dismissed the assertion, while still praising Bing.
“We’ve worked very hard to be a good partner, and I appreciate the mayor and his hard work and diligence in trying to make Detroit a better place,” Snyder told reporters Tuesday after signing legislation at the Capitol. “He’s done a lot of things to make Detroit a better place. We just need to redouble that effort and do even more in a faster period of time.”
Besides the financial mess, crime continues to plague Detroit neighborhoods, many of which are dominated by vacant houses in need of demolition.
An uptick in business investment and a project aimed at investing in and turning around city neighborhoods are among the improvements under Bing’s watch, according to Luther Keith, executive director of Arise Detroit!, a coalition of community groups that focus on improving the city.
“We still have to step up our game. That’s what he recognizes,” Keith said.
Bing told reporters for months that he was contemplating whether to seek re-election and waited until several hours before Tuesday’s deadline to announce it. But didn’t rule out a political return and said he’d form an exploratory committee for a possible run for Wayne County executive.
Bing spent a dozen years in the NBA after being selected by the Detroit Pistons with the second overall pick in the 1966 NBA draft. After his career, he was elected to the professional basketball Hall of Fame.
In 1980, he founded a steel supply company in Detroit.
Bing ran for mayor in 2009 and won to fill out the remaining months of Kwame Kilpatrick’s second term in office after the former mayor was convicted and jailed on charges related to lying on the stand during a civil trial. Detroit voters elected Bing to a full four-year term that November.
Several high-profile candidates have filed or said they will file to run in this year’s mayoral race, including Mike Duggan, former chief executive of the Detroit Medical Center, and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, a former Detroit police chief.
The primary is in August, followed by the nonpartisan general election in November.
Associated Press Writer David Eggert in Lansing contributed to this report.
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