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The MT interview with Fred Durhal Jr.
Published: July 24, 2013
What happens if other folks are indicted and other kinds of things happening? What happens if the people get so frustrated that we end up in a civil rebellion? I’m serious. I think those things are out there, they could happen, but if you’re going to be mayor, you better come. Put on your Kevlar vest and get ready to take some hits because that’s going to happen … that’s why experience counts, because at least you’re able to see it, realize what it is, try to build a counterstrategy for it, if you can; and for those things that you can’t, just duck like hell and try and poke your head up and see if you’re still alive to try to help out.
MT: Are we in Hanoi or Detroit?
Durhal: Well, depends on where you are in Detroit. I live in the hood, OK, and I’m the state rep for the hood; so when we talk about Dexter, Joy Road and Grand River, you know, those kinds of streets in the core of the city.
I represent one of the poorest sections of town we have; one that has changed because it used to be a real good place for middle class folks. But because of what has happened — the downturn of the national economy, Michigan and its economy, and the Detroit economy as well — things have changed really greatly.
And so I think coming in as mayor, I have to look at the community at large and try to fix up some of the holes, and plug up some of the leaky spots, and come in with some new ideas about doing some things too. I’ve got some of those and I want to employ them.
MT: How do you foresee city government operating with regard to the emergency manager’s office?
Durhal: The office of the mayor is still there; it has not or cannot be abolished. The city charter cannot be abolished by the manager. But I do think there is a problem when you have to make a decision that has to be approved by somebody else. That is where some of the problem can lie.
Sharp differences can develop, but I think that if we go in on day one and we talk to the emergency manager in tones that make some sense, because I deal with Republican and Democrats all the time in the legislature, even when we’re opposed to things, or they’re opposed to things, if we can sit down and talk — I always believe talking things out can make the difference, and I believe in working and working and working at it until we can.
MT:And if not, you have the Kevlar vest.
Durhal: And if not then, yes, then you put on the vest and start ducking and diving. I mean if we’ve gotta fight, we’ll fight. I won’t hesitate to fight, but I believe if you’re going to fight, fight for a reason, fight where you can win. You can’t win every struggle. This city has a huge financial problem. It’s either going to fix it or its going to go belly up and the courts will fix it. And you don’t want the federal courts messing around with the government of the city of Detroit. I think that’s worse than the emergency manager.
My job, in terms of dealing with the emergency manager, would be to figure out how I can help bridge the gap and get us to a point where we can get him out of here after 18 months, although I believe it’ll take longer than eighteen months for him to straighten this mess out.
MT: It certainly took longer than 18 months to get into the mess.
Durhal: Oh heck yeah, you’re talking about a 60-year problem, or more years, going all the way back to Louis Miriani’s term as mayor, so we’re talking about Miriani, you’re talking about Cavanagh, you’re talking about Roman Gribbs, you’re talking about Coleman Young, you’re talking about Dennis Archer, Kwame Kilpatrick and then boom, Dave Bing and Kenny Cockrel. I mean, all of those guys.
But none of them handled this the way it should’ve been handled. Had they done that years ago, we would not be at this point today, but I also want to lay some blame of the governor of this state.
MT: The current governor?
Durhal: The current governor. Because when he came in and did away with statutory revenue sharing and combined all of that money in one pot for governments to kind of mold themselves together to try to take part of some that money — It was a bad strategy, I believe, and still is.
It’s one of the things I believe needs to go, and return these cities back to a point where they can get their tax money, because the statutory revenue sharing was devised as a way to stop each individual city, village and township from being able to create its own sales tax or whatever tax, and that the state would do all the collecting of the taxes and then share it with every municipality, based on a formula that was put together.
And that’s what the sharing part of revenue is. The problem with that is they took $179 million out of the city of Detroit’s revenue sharing package in the middle of the governmental year for the city of Detroit.
And I thought that [move] — more than anything else — led to the city to not being able to meet its obligations; then you trip the wire, which allowed public act 72, public act 4 and now public act 436 to even come about.
MT: It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Durhal: Yeah, I think it was the straw and one of things I was concerned about was that Dave Bing’s reaction was horrible. He’s a great basketball player, he’ll go down in the Hall of Fame and all of that and it’s a wonderful thing.
I have nothing [against] Dave Bing; he and I have been friends for more than 30 years. But here’s the point — Dave Bing had a steel company.
Here’s Fred Durhal. Do I think that I can get in there and run the damn steel company? The answer is hell no. OK? That’s my thing, and I’m smart enough to know it’s not my thing, so I’m going to leave that alone.
Just like your job, hell, you are in journalism. I am not a journalist, and I ain’t about to try and do your job, OK?
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