Body bizarre

Feb 26, 2003 at 12:00 am

We really hate to give you another reason to wonder if Detroit City Council is abusing opiates, but members of that body have an amazing way of setting themselves up for ridicule. Case in point: Late last week, city Chief Financial Officer Sean Werdlow asked the council to change its schedule so he could present an important analysis of the city’s financial standing before budget negotiations kick off. We’re surprised his report isn’t all over the media, for it paints a grim, frightening picture of Detroit’s economic future. Werdlow almost had us wondering if the city is literally dying, so great is the lack of growth, taxes, jobs and housing.

But Werdlow never got to deliver the ultimate bad news — that during the next 10 years, the city is expected to take in nearly $1 billion less than previously anticipated — because his presentation was cut short. Councilwoman Kay Everett said she needed to leave for an appointment. She added that the presentation was depressing and she wasn’t sure how much more of it she could take.

After debating how to proceed, the council members asked Werdlow to wait for them to finish procedural matters. They went on to argue for 15 minutes or so about a resolution on making Detroit a “world-class city.” The resolution would give the city Planning Commission a green light to study other cities to provide a base comparison for Detroit to aspire to.

The discussion quickly digressed into a tit-for-tat, as Barbara-Rose Collins, who put forth the measure, complained that Everett always opposes her resolutions. Sharon McPhail rolled her eyes, as she is wont to do. Sheila Cockrel pointed out the odd timing in discussing such a “world-class city” study while Werdlow waited to continue presenting details of a city checkbook in danger of bleeding all over City Hall. Later, Cockrel quipped that it’s more like the city’s headed for “world-class bankruptcy.” When Werdlow finally was asked back to the table, there was no time left to continue. Yet with his uncanny ability to put the cherry on the cake with just the right amount of reason, Councilman Lonnie Bates admonished Werdlow, moments before the CFO left the table: “I hope this doesn’t take all day.”

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