Among the usual cliches in the annual State of the Union speech is a phrase to the effect: “Our union is strong.” Presidents Bush, Clinton and Reagan all used the phrase and President Obama didn’t disappoint Wednesday night.
But the same phrase usually works its way into the local version of the annual speech, whether State of the State or State of the City. According to aides, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to use some form of the sentiment when he delivers his State of the City address Thursday.
But when Detroit Mayor Dave Bing takes the stage Wednesday night to deliver his State of the City speech, strong will probably be the last thought on his mind. In his fourth, and possibly his last, such speech, the former NBA star turned mayor is expected to lay out a reform plan on how to prevent the state from taking over the city’s finances and in the process eroding municipal power.
Detroit’s crumbling position has been a poorly kept secret for years, even before Bing took office. Population has been falling, crime rates rising and even the physical dimensions of the city have been shrinking as property has been abandoned and city services have been withdrawn. Indeed, books have been written on Detroit’s sad plight and its valiant, but unsuccessful, efforts to reassert itself.