Don’t anoint Ken Cockrel Jr. savior of Detroit just yet

The reflex reaction is to say that Ken Cockrel Jr. is just what the city needs right now, and he may well be. Only time will tell.

And that’s the point.

Detroit has been through a hellish year, and all we want to do now is to move on and breathe. No more drama. We want a good city run by good, competent people. Seems like such a simple request, but in Detroit it’s sometimes the simple requests that are the hardest to fulfill. Not quite sure why that is.

So when Cockrel took the oath of office on Friday as the interim mayor, I confess I wanted nothing more than to wholeheartedly take the salvation plunge and jump on board, proclaiming the former City Council president as The Man who will take us there.

Will Ken Cockrel Jr. take us there? --AP PHOTO BY CARLOS OSORIO

Will Ken Cockrel Jr. take us there? --AP PHOTO BY CARLOS OSORIO

So where is ‘there’?

Anywhere but here, man. Anywhere but here.

Which, of course, is the perfect mindset to put us on course for Detroit Disaster 2. The only way for Detroit to put itself back on track for recovery is for Detroiters to do a really good job of paying attention to every single thing Cockrel does while in office, and then to pay even closer attention to what his challengers do during these next few months.

With Cockrel, the focus needs to be on who he surrounds himself with and what he pinpoints as his priorities. Pretty much everyone seems to agree that he has already earned himself several gold stars for his choice of Saul Green as Deputy Mayor, and James Barren as Detroit’s new chief of police. I’d love to say I’m enough of an insider to know this to be true, but that ain’t the case. But judging by some of the insider folks who are giving the thumbs up – folks who I have respect for – it does seem like Cockrel is putting together a pretty serious team of heavy hittin’ players. This is obviously not a part-time crew. Cockrel is using every ounce of his temporary Big Dog status to give himself the edge in next year’s mayoral sweepstakes by showing the voters what he can accomplish at a relative moment’s notice. Just check out who he has standing by his side, and that should tell you where he’s headed.

So that’s good move number one, and I’m anxious to see what other names pop up on the inner circle list in the coming weeks. Cockrel has also said he plans to push hard on the Cobo expansion deal, which may or may not be such a great move. Cobo’s expansion is certainly important to the city’s economy from the point of view of conventions, the Auto Show, etc. So I can see that. But with crime being where it is, and the neighborhoods being as much under seige as they are, just to mention a couple, my personal belief is it might be time to put neighborhood revitalization first. But hey, nobody’s voting for me so we’ll just have to see how that plays out. I hope he’s right.

As for the field of mayoral wannabes, it’s fairly strong. Freman Hendrix is back, which isn’t surprising. The big question hanging over his head will be wondering how someone who let a near 20-point lead evaporate right under his nose should be judged that much more ready this time around. His race against Kilpatrick was truly his to lose – and he lost.

A recent poll show's Dave Bing leading the pack for next year's mayoral sweepstakes.

A recent poll shows Dave Bing the current favorite to be Detroit's next mayor.

Dave Bing, according to a recent poll in the Free Press, appears to have the early lead of confidence from voters by a huge margin over everyone. Given what he’s done for the community and his well-known dedication to the well-being of Detoit, that’s not surprising either. Name recognition goes a long, long way in Detroit politics. Some might say it goes way too far. But Bing is a good man, and his business acumen and connections could provide a serious benefit. My only caution would be that a city is not a business, and just because somebody knows how to run a good business does not in any way mean they know how to run government. That was the same argument the Republicans were trying to make for electing Dick DeVoss as MIchigan Governor, and that would have been a disaster. I know Granholm has been a disappointment in a number of ways and simply hasn’t delivered the goods in the way we hoped that she would. But Oh My God Yes she is light years better than where DeVoss would have taken us.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure those will be the top three mayoral choices come next year. And I would also venture to guess that Bing’s current huge lead in the polls might not be quite so large if Cockrel plays his cards right and continues to build a strong team that gets results.

This will be interesting, but hopefully in a good way.

SHAMELESS PLUG: Read my wife’s blog @


~ by Keith A. Owens on September 22, 2008.

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