The mayor's turn

'Muckle' ball just leaves everyone hurt


DETROIT – During my childhood when there weren't enough of the guys in my neighborhood to play a good game of regular football we played a different game [with the football]. We called it "muckle the guy with the ball".

It went this way: Someone would throw the ball in the air, we would all jump up and one of us would grab it and run from the group as fast as possible. The group in turn would do its best to "muckle" or tackle the guy with the ball. This was a rough game, much rougher than regular football and invariably someone ended up getting hurt wrestling for the ball. As I watch government operate, whether in Washington, D.C. or here in Michigan I am often reminded that governance is really "muckle the guy with the ball; a ribald power grab." Today is no different.

Local Four News was able to procure a copy of Mayor Bing's counter offer draft proposal to the Governor's controversial document from City Hall. The Governor proposed in his confidential contract [that's what a consent agreement is] to tilt the playing field in his direction. He would have the ball. He would have control over the people picked to sit on a Financial Advisory Board. The Board would be his eyes and ears in the City's turn around recovery plan. The Governor would control the board through the State Treasurer. The Board would supervise and otherwise direct the Mayor and City Council it their endeavor to right the city's financial ship. In the painstaking process of going through and comparing one contract to the other, it is clear Mayor Bing wants nothing to do with the Governor's oversight. In fact, he is fighting hard as he can to steal the ball. He wants all the power.

In a quick summary, Bing would have an advisory board but smaller, [9 members for Snyder 7 for Bing] he would control who gets a seat. It would advise him through a "liaison" [a new position] that would report to him and the Board would have no control, just advisory duties. The State of Michigan would pay Board members not the city as Snyder wanted it. The Governor wants CPA's from the Certified Public Accountants Association to sit on his board, each with 10 years turn around experience. Bing wants people with 5 years "municipal" experience and ignores the CPA part. Bing changes any and all language in the agreement that would have the Board oversee, supervise or otherwise control to simply monitor or advise. It's not like this is some big hairy surprise. It usually is all about the power. Except, in this case the City is bleeding to death and there is little time left for what amounts to grandstanding.

And there is another problem with this counter offer. Many inside Detroit City Hall who don't want to be identified are saying in this game of "muckle the guy with the ball" Mayor Dave Bing is doing to City Council what the Governor did to the Mayor, leaving it out of the equation. The expectation by most everyone in a consent agreement was the idea it left the power in the hands of the Mayor and City Council and gave the mayor a little more wiggle room to change union contracts and find budgetary savings everyone would agree to. Detroit City Council is not especially powerful to begin with but in the scenario where the Governor and the Mayor fight over the ball, Council is left with less than the power it has now, meaning it's kicked to the curb. Well, the mayor has to negotiate his proposal with Council and started that process Wednesday.

Nothing happened with the plan today and it's expected staffers form the mayor's office and council will meet again tomorrow to try and hammer out an agreement Council can see sometime soon. You can rest assured those meetings will be all about including City Council in a fashion it can live with. This is far from over even though it needed to be a long time ago.

We gave up playing muckle the guy with the ball because everyone ended up seriously hurt so often it became a game no one wanted to play.

One could only wish that were the case in politics.

About the Author: