Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

September 1, 2013

Jack Lessenberry: Detroit, county should combine

Here’s a radical proposal that just might be worth considering: After the bankruptcy process is over, dissolve the city of Detroit — and the government of surrounding Wayne County.

Then merge the two into a powerful new entity, which would have 1.8 million people and enough prosperity to improve the city and be economically competitive in years to come.

Why do that? Three things seem perfectly clear. First, impoverished Detroit can’t possibly be economically viable, even after the city is freed from the crushing burden of $20 billion in debt.

Wayne County, on the other hand, is a mix of prosperity and blight, but has far more resources than Detroit. But Wayne County government is astonishingly corrupt, and needs to be reinvented.

Detroit’s scandals are well known. But the county’s are actually worse. True, when you say the words “politics and corruption” in Michigan, it is hard to not immediately have an image of Detroit’s former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, pop into your head.

Kilpatrick, is, of course, squatting in a jail cell, awaiting a stiff sentence in federal prison on a wide range of felonies from mail fraud to racketeering. That’s after he did time earlier in state prison for perjury and obstruction of justice.

He badly hurt his city, and cost Detroit millions it had to pay to a police officer wrongly fired for investigating his shenanigans.

However it is clear he did not cost the city nearly as much as the incompetent, crony-ridden, and sometimes criminal regime running Michigan’s largest county. The stories that have surfaced in recent years are so appalling they’d be hard to invent:

n The county’s “economic development director,” a flamboyantly exotic woman named Turkia Awada Mullin, somehow got selected as CEO of Detroit Metropolitan Airport two years ago.

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