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Wednesday, 17 February, 2010 0:32 AM

Mayor Bing, DPS' Robert Bobb honored as Crain's Newsmakers of the Year

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb address the media during a press conference on Feb. 10, 2010.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

DETROIT -- Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb were named Crain's 2009 Newsmakers of the Year last Wednesday at a special conference inside the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.

Dave Bing was born on Nov. 24, 1963 in Washington, D.C. The mayor is also a businessman and a retired Detroit Pistons basketball player. He was elected for the first time during a special election to replace interim mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. on May 5, 2009. Then, he defeated Tom Barrow for a 4-year term on Nov. 3, 2009. Bing was inaugurated on Jan. 7, 2010.

Bing said the city is not out of the woods yet -- there is a still a lot more work to do on the road to recovery. Yesterday's announcement of jazz restaurant Seldom Blues closing its doors was one reminder of that.

"We have set a tone, a new tone for accountability, transparency and true customer service in city government," Bing said. "A lot of people in the city of Detroit -- they were never looked upon as somebody that was important. I came from industry over the last 29 years where the most important person, the most important entity you had to deal with and satisfy was your customer. The customers of the city of Detroit are the citizens that live here, our businesses that reside here."

The Detroit Mayor admitted that he is friends with Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

"We are friends and we have a responsibility for this area to work collaboratively together," Bing explained. "We are not always going to agree. I represent the city of Detroit. I will fight for the city of Detroit, but I do understand that there is necessity for Macomb and Wayne and Oakland to work together. Our true competition is not each other, but other areas around the country. We are in this together."

Bing said he is working very closely with Robert Bobb to turn the city and the school system around. The Detroit mayor said his decisions are setting the stage for many years to come.

"I don't think there's a better time to see two leaders in the same city that are as aligned as we are," he explained. "We're going to do as much as we possibly can to not only turn our school system around, but to also turn the city around. Progress on the city of Detroit is on it's way. There is hope. That's what drives me and my team everyday. The things that we do everyday will make the difference in how this city is perceived and how this city is run."

Bing traveled to Washington D.C. to ask the federal government for $100 million to demolish 10,000 blighted buildings throughout the city. The mayor wants to have the buildings torn down within the next three years.

When asked about expansion plans for Cobo Center, the Detroit Mayor responded: "Those plans aren't complete yet. I think there's RFP's [request for proposals] going out right now. But I do think in short order, we will see some activity for some expansion of Cobo."

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will give his State of the City speech on March 23.

Bobb honored as second newsmaker of the year

Robert Bobb received a bachelors degree from Grambling State University and his masters from Western Michigan University. He has previously served as the city manager of three cities: Kalamazoo, Mich., Santa Ana, Calif. and Richmond, Va. From 2003 to 2006, Bobb was the City Administrator for Washington D.C. In 2009, Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed him as the Emergency Financial Manager of Detroit Public Schools.

The emergency financial manager said he conducted over 200 audits on the Detroit Public Schools system. He outlined all the missing or unused equipment and all the problems that faced the struggling school system. Of those, 160 Blackberry phones were never used, 97 two-way phones never used, 872 Master locks never used, 132 safety kits never been used, printers stored in rooms that were never used. In addition, there were unused vehicles stored in buildings, 80 vehicles not accounted for, 11 motorcycles and much more.

"Some of the audit findings have been horrific," Bobb said. "Of the 194 schools that were audited, 174 of those schools failed out audit test because of missing cash receipts, unauthorized payments and record keeping. In some cases, principals writing checks to themselves. We found that 2,500 employees checks were mailed to their home since 1999, not knowing whether those individuals were on our payroll. We turned over 257 of those employees to our inspector generals office for further investigating. Criminal proceedings will follow.

He said the school district faced a deficit of $205.8 million in the 2008-2009 school year. For the 2009-2010 school year, the district received a budget of $909 million with projected revenues of only $683 million.

"The district also has a structural funding problem," the emergency financial manager said. "What is not known is that many of the federal dollars come with real strings attached. So you don't have the flexibility of spending those funds to address very specific issues."

He said that the state of Michigan gives Detroit Public Schools $7,495 per student. The emergency financial manager said it actually costs the district $9,632 to educate each student. That puts the district $1,037 in the red for educating each student.

Since the beginning of 2009, Bobb said the district has cut $24.6 million in labor savings as a result of contract negotiations. DPS has reduced health care benefits by $47 million dollars and has cut health care benefits for ineligible dependents, saving the district $7 million. He said the district is restructuring its transportation services, which are expected to save the district $43 million over five years.

"We closed the children's museum and opened a new partnership with the science museum," Bobb said. "In the next ten years, that will save us $7.2 million. Even with those cuts, we are still under deep, red water. We're cutting every place we can cut."

The emergency financial manager has closed 29 schools and is considering to close another 40 schools in the coming months. He said there could be further layoffs, furlough days and more concessions. The district requires its employees to pick up their own paychecks to avoid checks going out to people no longer working for DPS.

Robert Bobb will continue working to turn the district around until his term ends in March 2011, unless it is extended.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Mayor Bing and Robert Bobb arrive at the Crain's Newsmakers of the Year ceremony.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Crain's Detroit Business Publisher Mary Kramer with Bing and Bobb.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

A close-up of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Bing responds to a question from a journalist during a press conference.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

A close-up of Robert Bobb

 

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