CHICAGO — With the threat of an emergency manager hanging over Detroit, Mayor Dave Bing said the city is making progress despite its fiscal problems during an optimistic state of the city address Wednesday night.
In his fourth annual address, Bing said that he inherited a city in crisis and a $332 million deficit but has still managed to avoid any payless paydays, the appointment of an emergency manager or declaration of bankruptcy.
"Despite our much-publicized financial issues, there is progress to report in the city of Detroit," Bing said. "The picture is not all doom and gloom — every day there is more hope and possibilities. Like many Detroiters, I too am a fighter, we can't and won't give up on our city."
The mayor's address came days before a state team reviewing the city's books is expected to make a recommendation to Gov. Rick Snyder about whether to appoint an emergency manager. Snyder said last week he has already started to talk with possible candidates, but added that he is waiting for the team's report before making a final decision.
Bing admitted that a financial emergency exists in the city and said "time is not our ally." He warned that weak cash flow "threatens the present and the future" of the city.
He blamed cuts in the state's revenue sharing aid over the years for contributing to chronic shortfalls.
State revenue aid to the city has been cut more than $700 million over the past 11 years. Last year the state gave the city $93 million less than in 2009, when Bing took office, he said.
"So it is clear that if Detroit had received its agreed upon share of revenues from the state, our financial picture would not be as grim as today," he said.
He touted the cuts and reforms he's implemented since taking office, including cutting the budget to $1.1 billion in 2013 from $1.4 billion in 2009, whittling 3,724 employees from a 13,420-employee workforce, and crafting a plan to bring in $50 million of new annual revenue, mostly from aggressive debt collections and new fees.
The mayor also touted a measure to create a Detroit Public Lighting Authority that will allow the authority to borrow up to $160 million to improve the city's notoriously dysfunctional lighting system. The state Legislature signed off on the plan after years of debate, and also signed off on a plan to create a new Regional Transportation Authority that will operate a new light rail system.
Private business continues to invest in the city, Bing said, singling out for praise influential Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert, owner of Quicken Loans, who has bought 15 downtown buildings in the last two years, and Little Caesars Pizza founder Mike Ilitch, who owns the Red Wings hockey team and Tigers baseball team. Ilitch is working with the state to build a new $650 million sports and entertainment complex in downtown Detroit.
"In spite of the many challenges we are facing together, Detroit is experiencing a transformation," said Bing.