Traverse City Record-Eagle

Op-Ed Columns

July 28, 2013

Jack Lessenberry: For Detroit, it's all about the unknown

DETROIT — Think about this: Detroit is a city in which all power is currently held by an all-powerful emergency manager, a bankruptcy lawyer from Maryland appointed by Michigan‘s governor.

That man, Kevyn Orr, now wants to wrestle the city into federal court, where he and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes will make the major decisions that will determine the city’s future. Not only were neither of those two men elected, most Detroiters never heard of either of them until recently.

The city’s elected leaders are still in place, but have no power.

Mayor Dave Bing and the six remaining council members have no more than a figurehead, or at best an advisory status. (Since the emergency manager was named in March, one council member quit, a second resigned to work for Orr, and City Council President Charles Pugh just disappeared, period.) The mayor and those on the job still get salaries, but only because Orr decided to pay them.

Nobody knows when things will return to normal.

So given all this, who would want to be the next mayor of Detroit? Believe it or not, lots of people.

When Detroit voters go to the polls in the Aug. 6 primary, they’ll see 14 names on the ballot -- and the man who many think most likely to be the city’s next mayor isn’t on the ballot at all.

Mike Duggan, a 55-year-old former Wayne County political boss, prosecutor and head of the Detroit Medical Center, was tossed off the ballot on a technicality last month. Now, he is waging a furious and expensive write-in campaign. Though winning a write-in is a challenge, two major polls indicate he has a shot at doing it. Most experts think Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon is certain to get one runoff slot.

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