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Metro Detroit's 'Big 4' talk emergency managers, re-election

Detroit Economic Club

Metro Detroit’s “Big Four” met up for their annual public conversation at Cobo Hall in Detroit Thursday.

The group is made up of the Wayne county executive Robert Ficano, Oakland county executive L. Brooks Patterson, and Macomb county executive Mark Hackel, plus Detroit mayor Dave Bing.

The event usually stresses regional cooperation and all-around good feelings between the four leaders.

There was a warm ovation this time Patterson, who’s returned to office after a serious car accident last year. And there was talk of real cooperation on issues ranging from mass transit to water.

There were some moments of disagreement, though.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said he still believes the city can work through its financial crisis without an emergency manager. A state review team looking at Detroit’s finances is expected to make a
recommendation soon.

But Bing says regardless of the state’s decision, the idea that “one person” can’t tackle Detroit’s financial problems alone is wrong.

“You’ve gotta bring a team of people,” Bing said. “So those are resources, whether they’re human resources or money. And at this point, we’ve not gotten that the help that I think we need…from the

Patterson disagreed.  “You talk about bringing in one person…one person with awesome powers,” said Patterson, pointing to the Pontiac emergency manager’s decision to eliminate police, fire, and other
departments there.

But, Patterson said Pontiac will soon be back in the black. “My experience with emergency managers has been mostly positive,” he said.

Patterson and Hackel both pointed out their counties’ relatively strong fiscal situations.

There was also some disagreement over Michigan’s new right-to-work law.

Hackel said Macomb county maintains a good relationship with its unions, and the two sides have been able to reach needed cuts through the collective bargaining process. But Patterson said he thought
right-to-work would make Michigan more attractive to businesses and foreign investment.

Hackel also seemed to put a damper on rumors he might be running for Governor. He said he planned to seek re-election in Macomb County.

Neither Bing nor Ficano would comment on their re-election plans.


Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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