Dave Bing, NBA player turned steel entrepreneur faces the unenviable task of saving a city that doesn’t seem to want to be saved:
In November, 57% of the Detroit voters bought into his tough-love reform agenda. Mr. Bing replaced the disgraced Kwame Kilpatrick, who went to jail earlier this year for spending city funds on his girlfriends—just the publicity boost the city already flat on its back didn’t need.
The mayor’s office is in the heart of downtown Detroit, which has shrunk to about an eight-block radius of high rise office towers, upscale restaurants and stores
His biggest problem? No surprise, the same thing that killed the biggest employers in town, a unionized workforce.
"Today in the city of Detroit," he tells me, "our union employee benefits cost 68% of what their base wage is. I don’t think that happens in any other place in the country." To give a sense of how excessive those pay packages are, he adds: "When you look at one of the most dominant labor unions in the world, the UAW, they’re nowhere close to what we give our city workers."
He should just fire everybody and hire back scabs. But for now he holds bankruptcy over their heads:
"This would void all the city contracts," he insists. "That means workers have to make a decision: Do you want to start with zero, or do you want to start from where you are and give up just a little bit? Under bankruptcy you start with zero." Mr. Bing is a hardliner.
This is what happens when a real service oriented person takes office.
All of the US needs a Dave Bing – quickly.