Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

May 9, 2009

Op-Ed: There may be hope for Detroit

The wonder of it was not that Dave Bing, basketball star-turned businessman-turned-politician, won last week's election to become Detroit's third mayor in less than eight months.

The amazing thing is that Detroit had what was pretty much a normal election. Both candidates -- Bing, and the man he narrowly beat, Interim Mayor Ken Cockrel, Jr. -- are decent, sober grownups without a whiff of financial or sexual scandal.

Nobody dragged out the race card, or said his rival wasn't "black enough." Nobody accused the other of corruption. Bing said his opponent, a longtime city council member, was too much a part of the old failed system. That was a legitimate question to raise.

For his part, Cockrel legitimately questioned whether someone without a day's service in any government job could have the political savvy to be mayor of a complex, large and troubled city.

Bing was a huge star for the Detroit Pistons in the 1960s and '70s, then built up a successful steel business.

But he has never before run for office, and only decided to after the abuses of the Kwame Kilpatrick regime. Like many political neophytes, Bing, now 65, had a somewhat rocky start.

He was embarrassed by revelations that he had exaggerated his educational credentials, making up a nonexistent Master of Business Administration degree in a video posted on a National Basketball Association Web site.

Cockrel, who is 42 but seems considerably older, lost face when a deal he had put together to expand and update Cobo Center, Detroit's aging convention facility, was sabotaged by the bizarre, vituperative and erratic Monica Conyers, the acting council president.

Had the election taken place a week earlier, Cockrel would almost certainly have won. He piled up a solid margin in the absentee ballots. But public opinion swung decisively in the end.

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