DETROIT (AP) — Given a full four-year term to turn around their city by voters weary of political scandal and saddled with an economy in shambles, Mayor Dave Bing pledged Friday to restore Detroit residents’ shaken confidence in their leaders.
In his first inaugural address, the former NBA great vowed to bring greater accountability to the governance of Detroit.
“One of our most important challenges will be restoring trust in city government,” said Bing, who first was elected in May to complete the term of ousted Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and re-elected to a full term in November.
“Detroiters have been through a very difficult time and their confidence in government has been understandably shaken,” the 66-year-old told a crowd at the historic Fox Theatre downtown. “But I believe we are on the path to regaining that trust with a transparent and open approach to governing. The public has a right to know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
The city council and city clerk also took the ceremonial oath of office at Friday’s inauguration.
Detroit’s economy is among the worst in the country. Two of the city’s largest employers, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, declared bankruptcy last year, forcing thousands out of work and adding to the city’s high rate of home foreclosures. Nearly one in three working-age adults in Detroit is jobless.
Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who leaves office at the end of the year, called Bing and the other elected leaders “carpenters for the building of a new Detroit” in her remarks during the ceremony.
“The old foundation has crumbled, and we’re not going back, and that’s the truth,” she said. “We know Detroit’s future is Michigan’s future. The whole state is watching.”
The state also is facing economic woes related to restructuring in the U.S. auto industry and collapse of manufacturing.
Michigan’s overall unemployment rate was 14.7 percent in November. The national rate is about 10 percent.
Detroit also is trying to recover from a text-messaging sex scandal that sent Kilpatrick to jail and a federal corruption probed that revealed an ex-councilwoman sold her “yes” vote on a city contract.
Voters, disgruntled by years of scandal under Kilpatrick and embarrassing antics of some on the council, in November placed five new members on the nine-person board. Former President Pro Tem Monica Conyers stepped down in June following her guilty plea to conspiracy in a $47 million sludge hauling deal. Two other councilwomen failed to get re-elected.
“By changing the way we do our business, by improving our tone, and by sharing in the progress that I know we will make, we will be better positioned to attract the investment and jobs we need,” Bing said.
Poor past fiscal management and declining tax bases also have contributed to an estimated $300 million budget deficit and fears that the city may be close to bankruptcy.
Bing has cut the salaries of his administration, appointees and nonunion workers by 10 percent. He’s also persuaded some of the city’s unions to do the same.
The new city council is expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.