Thursday, July 09, 2009
Detroit City Council Candidates Talking Same Old Garbage by Akindele Akinyemi
Detroit used to be the wealthiest city in America in 1950 on a per capita income basis. Today, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that it is the nation's poorest major city.
What does that tell you? It tells you that Detroit has fallen from grace and now is dancing with the devil.
I have been attending the candidate forums for Detroit City Council candidates to state their position. I am hearing why they are running but most lack platform, substance and in many cases do not have an exit strategy to get Detroit back on track again.
We have a tax system in our city that aggressively redistributes income from businesses and the wealthy to the poor and to government bureaucracies. The mis-educated are pushing for a "living wage" ordinance, far above the federal minimum wage, for all public employees and private contractors.
How do we supposed we pay for all of this as taxpayers?
Detroit's minimum wage is a whopping $7.40 an hour, more than $2 above the federal minimum wage when it was enacted; and pressure groups are pushing for more. Additionally, any company contracting with the city must pay its employees $8.23 an hour if they offer benefits or $10.28 an hour if they do not offer benefits.
While Michigan is home to eight of the 20 cities overall with the highest unemployment and has the highest state unemployment in the country Detroit has the highest unemployment rate among all large U.S. cities. Furthermore, economists have examined how living wage policies were very likely to bring about the abject poverty and unemployment.
Anyone running for Detroit City Council must understand the need for a philosophical change in our community. Out of the 167 candidates running for Detroit City Council 90% of them do not have a serious reform plan to get Detroit back to prosperity.
The BIGGER issue is how most of the candidates have not presented to the public of how to make Detroit's overburden government leaner and more efficient fiscally.
The MOST SHOCKING part is how 95% of these candidates have not discussed how Detroit will join the global market and transforming Detroit into a global financial market.
Some of these candidates say Detroit needs more jobs. But where are these jobs coming from, as they don’t grow on trees, much like money doesn’t. There is almost a presumption about jobs and job creation, and they almost always are tied to big business. Well, every big business was once a small one, and in many cases that same business started out as an idea in someone’s garage (Bill Gates and the founding of Microsoft with partner Paul Allen).
What most of these candidates running do not fully understand is that government cannot hold their hands forever. Our community must began to understand the language of financial responsibility. When I say Detroit must be transformed into a financial market I am not just speaking of the Four Asian Tigers (the East Asian economy in Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong and Taipei) but creating a global call for the nurturing of a new generation of young entrepreneurs, small business owners and self-employment projects. The door to get there is financial literacy and teaching an entire generation of self-sufficiency.
Former President Bill Clinton once said that every nation must focus on creating an entire new sector of jobs every 10 years or so. This is precisely right, and this is also where Detroit and the American automotive industry, and with respect their unions, went wrong.
I can also say this with our educational system here in urban America. We stayed in our comfort zone and forgot that the world was evolving around us. Today, Detroit is home to over 55% functionally illiterate constituents.
I hope these candidates understand how in the 21st century our community must be engaged in an environment where it is estimated the world will shed more than 50 million jobs in the backdrop of this global economic crisis (more than half of that in China alone), and where the Middle East is crying out for 100 million new jobs for a generation of young people (estimated that 60% of the population in the Middle East will be under 25 years old within a decade), we cannot continue to cry out for traditional “jobs” to solve our economic and soon social problems.
Detroit must nurture a generation of entrepreneurs, small and micro-business owners if it is serious about entering the global market. It is every candidate's duty who is running for Detroit City Council to express themselves to help empower people to solve increasingly help solve their own problems because governments cannot and will not solve them. We must help Detroiters help themselves, and the door to self-reliance is teaching people financial literacy, the language of money and helping them “crack the code” of free enterprise and capitalism, in their lives.
Literacy, in general, is a critically important and much overlooked tool in the financial and economic recovery and stabilization toolbox. In the backdrop this local, state and global economic crisis, financial literacy is the new public policy competency that all leaders must learn to master – for the sake of their people. I find it interesting that no Detroit City Council candidate has brought this up in public.
Tom Bray, former editorial page editor for The Detroit News, has made the following observation:
"Detroit, remember, was going to be the 'Model City' of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, the shining example of what the 'fairness' of the welfare state can produce. Billions of dollars later, Detroit instead has become the model of everything that can go wrong when you hook people on the idea of something for nothing - a once-middle class city of nearly 2 million that is now a poverty-stricken city of less than 900,000."
After witnessing the candidate forum I attended on Tuesday at the Roylat Community Group on the city's east side I can clearly say, with the exception of 4-5 candidates, that we are rehashing old guard leadership, and passing these old, civil right/black power sound bites and leadership to our younger generation. Until we forge a new silver right initiative here in Detroit we will continue to suffer, go around in circles, embrace conspiracy theories and lose our population to other states.