Detroit is nearly two years away from its next mayoral election, but one candidate feels that now is as good a time as ever to make her candidacy known.
State Rep. Lisa Howze (D-Detroit) officially threw her name in the hat for Mayor of Motor City. She wants to trade in her work in Lansing fighting for her home district and make a bid for the ultimate prize: Michigan's largest city.
Howze is currently serving a two-year term in the Michigan House of Representatives. She will give up her seat in January 2013. From there, she will go into full throttle campaign mode.
Howze is the first candidate to officially announce their intent to seek the mayor's seat.
To address Detroit's issues, she is touting her experience as state-level representative combined with her background as a certified public accountant. Clearly, she has some electable traits. But, she'll face stiff competition from other candidates certain to join the race as time goes on, possibly including incumbent Mayor Dave Bing.
Every politician in Detroit thinks they can fix the city.
But, any candidate for the mayor's slot in Detroit should prepare themselves for the sobering reality that is Motor City. In this contest, it's not simply about new and actionable ideas for the city. Financial discipline, tough budget cuts, a spirit of teamwork, and an ability to work across party lines will be critical.
The reality is that Detroit is broke. The numbers just don't add up with the deficit. The city has a $45 million cash shortfall according to a recent audit. The Detroit Public Schools are under state takeover and the city is skirting dangerously close to the same fate.
Now is not the time to pander to party ideas or provide the same insular thinking that has shielded the city for decades. Detroit is at a crossroads. Either it gets better or the city slides into worse shape. Some of Detroit's problems are so big that the state of Michigan has or may soon be stepping in. If that happens, the next mayor will have to work closely with the administration of Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican from Ann Arbor.
State takeover because of potential fiscal emergency would mean that Snyder's team would be in charge of decision-making for Detroit. That will require an extra effort of bipartisan compromise in a city that once prided itself on independent decision-making. Even if the city doesn't drift into financial emergency, poor financial practices and results could keep Detroit on a state watch list.
Reminding candidates of the truth about the Motor City is not necessarily a knock against Mayor Dave Bing. He has been hit with some extremely tough choices in his short tenure as mayor. It's never fun being the clean-up person.
For instance, Bing is dealing with a city that's declining in population and tax revenue to support itself. Since the numbers don't add up, Bing has had to make some hard choices and tough cuts to keep Detroit financially in check. These are moves that have angered many, but had to be made nonetheless.
Bing continues to make tough choices for the city and has not yet spoken publicly about his re-election bid. It will be tough, especially after laying off workers in a city with a 20% plus unemployment rate. Right now, he feels the city's leader should have much more to worry about than winning another round in office.