Former NBA star, Dave Bing, was elected as the mayor of Detroit yesterday in a special election, defeating current mayor, Ken Cockerel, Jr. Cockerel has been in the position since Kwame Kilpatrick resigned last year after a steamy text-messaging scandal with a staffer landed him in prison.
Bing faces a stiff challenge. Like Barack Obama, another elected official facing a difficult job, Bing ran his campaign with a "Change" theme.
"You have voted for change," Bing said to the hundreds of supporters who greeted him Tuesday night after his victory. "We will start immediately and try to attract jobs back into the city of Detroit. We will start immediately in trying to make sure our neighborhoods are safe."
Bing will serve for the remainder of the year, eight months, the time remaining in the disgraced Kilpatrick's term. Cockerel also served eight months and has yet to decide whether or not he will run again in this summer's primary or if he'll run to regain his seat on the Detroit City Council.
In a related story, Cockerel showed up to vote yesterdy wearing a campaign t-shirt, in apparent violation of laws governing the display of campaign paraphernalia inside voting rooms. Both Cockerel and Bing violated this law in the primary.
Detroit has a >22% unemployment rate so with one in five residents out of work, a school system in shambles, a staggering crime problem and a City Council that some consider to be a mockery of leadership, Bing has his work cut out for him. Named as one of the NBA's Top 50 Players in 1996, Dave Bing has made a successful career heading The Bing Group, a Detroit "Manufacturing Company that provides primarily automotive parts to Tier I and II suppliers".
Bing, 65, has never run for political office so his election is a fairly substantial achievement. During the election, he was somewhat vague in the details of how he represented change and how he would fix the myriad problems facing the beleaguered city. However, his lack of "flash", pomposity and swagger seemed to resonate with Detroit voters. He is almost 180 degrees from Kilpatrick, the "hip-hop mayor", in his demeanor and, right now, that might be just the ticket for Detroit. What that city needs now more than anything is a sober, steady hand on the tiller.
In Michigan it is often said "as goes Detroit, so goes Michigan". While our governor is spending a great deal of energy to diversify our economy away from the automotive sector, that transition is yet to come. With nearly half the population of the state living the in metro-Detroit area, all Michiganders have a vested interest in Detroit get back on its feet.
Godspeed, Mayor Bing. We're cheering for you.
I'm just sayin'...