Detroit— U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan this afternoon promised to be a "different kind of federal partner" under a plan to embed in the city up to a dozen federal officials to lend their expertise to Mayor Dave Bing's improvement effort.
He also said at a luncheon speech at the Economic Club of Detroit that federal officials want to learn from past urban policy failures and be more flexible with regulation, knowing "one size does not fit all."
The Strong Cities, Strong Communities program will focus on Detroit and five other U.S. cities. The six to 12 government staff members will work in the City of Detroit for up to two years, Donovan said in Detroit this morning during a tour a loft development. A press release said the staffers would come from four federal departments: Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Commerce and the Small Business Administration. But Donovan said the final team could include other departments because it is still being finalized based on Detroit's need.
The federal employees will work with city officials in four areas: planning and economic development; workforce development; buildings, safety, engineering and environmental; and transportation, which includes light rail, mayoral spokesman Dan Lijana said today.
This was the announcement that was made Monday by some white guy at the Amsterdam Lofts – where $5 million in HUD funds produced units that rent for $1,350 a month in Detroit. Daniel Howes of the Detroit News and Tom Walsh of the Free Press are rightly skeptical.
Nonetheless, the press conference was at least good for some high-larious lines. Like this:
During the lofts tour, Donovan discussed the program and said the federal employees will look at "how do we get out of the way? How do we eliminate red tape?" in helping the city spend federal funding efficiently.
This is how the federal government “gets out of the way”: by sending a dozen bureaucrats to a city to make the locals jump through hoops to get their money back. It would be humorous if it weren’t so mind-numbingly stupid.
"We are putting our money on Detroit because Detroit has momentum," Donovan said.
No you’re not. You’re putting other people’s money on Detroit because you need votes. Behold the mind of a bureaucrat.
And the truly bizarre:
"These are mid-career people. These are not interns," Lijana said.
Huh? What did the poor interns do!? Now to the Free Press:
Bing said when he was first elected mayor, a lot of people pushed him to get money from the Obama administration, but the federal coffers were shrinking.
“He told me, ‘We don’t have any money,’” Bing said of his conversation with Obama. “If I can’t get capital, can I get other resources, I can use human resources. So getting this kind of support and collaborations is going to be for Detroit’s benefit.
That, if true, would be our first black President, a Democrat, telling the Mayor of what is quite possibly America’s most distressed and predominately black city, that he “doesn’t have any money” in a year in which he spent $3.5 trillion dollars and spent billions to bail out a bunch of people who actually have jobs. Up is down.
And from the “stating the obvious” files:
But state Rep. Maureen Stapleton, D-Detroit, sounded a cautionary note, saying that many Detroiters are wary of outsiders coming into the city to help.
Well, yeah. But who can’t help but love this guy!
If you’re trying to sell your plan to a city that historically has not welcomed outsiders, this is the guy you want on the job. (Detroit News)
Part of me thinks, ah, what the hell: any money that ends up in Detroit is better than money spent on bombs or green jobs or whatever some politician dreamed up this morning. And lord knows that actual poor people in a decimated city are among the least objectionable recipients of government funds, even for somebody with my frigid heart (except the truly poor probably won’t benefit from this at all). I’d rather the feds not steal all this money in the first place, or at least leave it at the state or local level. But they did, so the best most people can do is hope to get some scraps back.
But the other part of me is just so disgusted with the way this all goes down, it’s hard to get excited. Everybody sends all this money to DC. We take our cut. And the little bit that comes back does so via the Whitest Guy on Earth complete with a press conference, all sorts of strings, and a dozen employees to help a decaying city navigate the minefield the feds created in the first place. And then that press conference focuses on – big surprise, light rail! – in a city that just saw five people shot at a high school reunion and a three year old girl killed by a stray bullet. No mention of “crime” or “education.” Green buildings and trains are apparently better vote grabbers.
And then they expect praise for this. What a gross system.