LeDuff: Cut your throat and shoot your foot

LeDuff: Cut your throat and shoot your foot

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DETROIT -- Paying a cop $12.50 an hour and a 401(k) ain't gonna get it done.

That's what a rookie joining the Detroit Police Department will earn if the city ever gets around to hiring new police officers.

That's what a teenage lifeguard makes sitting around a community pool.

This is but one consequence of the labor contracts imposed on the city's unionized work force earlier this week by Mayor Dave Bing. Those contracts are expected to save the nearly bankrupt city $102 million.

But check out the city's balance sheet and you'll see these cuts aren't nearly enough. Detroit's long-term debt obligations top $21 billion.

The massive drawback of public safety -- without a restructuring plan -- is spinning the already violent streets towards anarchy. Slash enough and you eventually slash your own throat.

Where is the rest of the money to be found? Why not ask the so-called business leaders who will likely choose the next mayor of Detroit by virtue of their billfolds? The same corporate honchos who feed at the trough of municipal contracts and tax abatements.

Real money can be found in the construction deals and government service contracts where these business leaders make their bread.

Why not sell the water department, for instance? It's called a jewel by the political class. But look closely and you'll see it's an albatross, a money loser and a patronage pit. Each year the department has to borrow $100 million to keep itself afloat and the city kicks in another $50 million from its general fund. Imagine the cops and ambulances we could get with that. Not to mention the size of that check.

So why not sell it? Politicos tell me too many local businesses depend on its contracts and subjecting those businesses to equal competition would pull much-needed dollars out of the city.

Said another way: contractors get sweetheart deals, politicians get campaign money and citizens get the shaft.

Remember the white suburban business leaders who are ensnared in Bob Ficano's downtown corruption scandal. Remember the white suburban business leaders who ponied up 50 grand apiece for Kwame Kilpatrick's parting gift. Remember that the only pot of money left in America is the public's money. Remember that and you'll see that Chocolate City is encased in white icing.

 

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