Council-mayor dust-up serves nobody

Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh laid a stinker last week when he linked the issue of council television broadcasts to his "no" vote on proposed funding that would have provided the Police Department with new headquarters.

The vote concerned $100 million in low-interest bond funding. Nearly $65 million would be used to renovate the temporary MGM Grand Casino, which the city bought for $6.3 million last year. The plan is to make it the new home for the police and fire departments, and also house city Emergency Medical Services personnel and a new Michigan State Police crime lab.

But instead of evaluating the issue on its merits, Pugh tied his vote to a dispute between the council and Mayor Dave Bing involving control of the Cable Commission, which decides who gets face time on the city's public access TV channels. The administration, which wants to curtail broadcasts of council meetings (and, presumably, have more time for hizzoner) sued last week, claiming the council had illegally moved to usurp control of the commission.

So, what does control of the Cable Commission have to do with making sure public safety personnel have a modern workplace? Absolutely nothing — until Pugh tied the two together under the pretense of being high-minded.

"I voted 'no' on principle," Pugh told the Free Press. "This is the wrong time to come to me and ask me to vote 'yes' on any expenditure of tax dollars when a frivolous lawsuit is filed against this body."

His attempt to play political hardball comes off as strictly sandlot. But then Bing, too, threw a spitball when he derided all six council members who voted against the proposal for choosing "politics over public safety."

But there are legitimate questions. As City Council member Kwame Kenyatta pointed out, he and other members have a right to know what the administration plans to do with the additional $36 million in requested bond money that won't be used to renovate the old casino.

Bing and Pugh, both political novices, should scale back the rhetoric and focus on rational debate instead of engaging in the type of game-playing neither seems particularly adept at.

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