Detroit Mayor Dave Bing speaks during Monday’s Kids Unlimited State of the Child banquet at the Pinnacle in Maumee. Mr. Bing lauded Kids Unlimited for its commitment to helping children in challenging circumstances and said the United States needs a stronger emphasis on education.
THE BLADE/JEFFREY SMITH
Two outgoing mayors — one from Toledo, one from Detroit — headlined a well-attended fund-raiser Monday night for the local group Kids Unlimited.
Mayor Mike Bell, who is stepping down in January as mayor following his re-election defeat last week, introduced Mayor Dave Bing at the State of the Child dinner at the Pinnacle in Maumee.
Mr. Bing, 69, who did not run for re-election this year, went on to laud Kids Unlimited for its commitment to helping children in challenging circumstances and recounted his term as mayor of arguably the most financially challenged city in the United States.
Mr. Bing said the United States needs a stronger emphasis on education.
“Things have changed so dramatically over time that the kids of today are not getting what a lot of us in this room got,” said Mr. Bing.
“When you look at some of our young people today and you compare our society in this country with the emerging societies around the world we are constantly losing ground because we are not promoting academics as we should be,” Mr. Bing said.
“We blame our kids, but we should look in the mirror,” he said.
Discussing his term as mayor, Mr. Bing said he demanded harder work from the city administration and put his emphasis on public safety, new streetlights, better public transportation, and maintaining parks and recreation.
“We had this air of a culture of corruption in the mayor’s office,” Mr. Bing said, describing an office day that he said started later in the morning and quit earlier in the afternoon than he was used to from his years in the auto industry. He said some people were “truly just showing up doing nothing.”
“The corruption started at the top, and it permeated down through the organization,” Mr. Bing said. He said he reduced the city ranks from about 14,000 to 9,400.
He said he avoided ever having a “payless payday” but had to cut salaries by 20 percent and required employees to increase their health-care contribution from 10 percent to 30 percent.
Mayor Bing did not talk about the city’s bankruptcy filing earlier this year or his reduced status since the city was put under the state-appointed oversight of an emergency manager.
Addressing himself to Mr. Bell, who campaigned saying he had to make tough choices in his first year as mayor to avoid a $48 million deficit, “it’s not pleasant, but it has to be done.”
He told Mr. Bell that, “for the term that you served you have made a difference.”
A former professional basketball player from Washington, Mr. Bing said he earned his college degree in economics in four years because of advice he got from his mother, coaches, and other adults in his life.
After a career in the National Basketball Association, including with the Detroit Pistons from 1966 to 1975, Mr. Bing went on to be a successful entrepreneur making products for the auto industry in Detroit, before deciding in 2008 to run for mayor of Detroit.
Getting a laugh from the audience, Mr. Bell said of Mr. Bing, “He decided not to run this year. I’ve been looking at his face. His face is just so relaxed. I told him, ‘Mr. Mayor, I’m working on that look myself.’ ”
Mr. Bell said he could relate to Mr. Bing, who took on problems that he didn’t create and did his best to improve the situation. He said he attended a Red Wings hockey game in Detroit this weekend and was impressed with the city.
Mr. Bell was defeated for re-election Nov. 5 by Councilman D. Michael Collins.
Kids Unlimited provides volunteer mentors and tutors in five Toledo schools in under-served areas and also has paid staff in each school, as well as a full-time president.
Mike Gibbons, the chairman of the board of Kids Unlimited, said the event was partly for fund-raising but mainly to thank supporters and to create more awareness of the plight of children growing up in the inner city.
About 560 people attended the event, which included a presentation on the work Kids Unlimited is doing.
Mr. Bing was elected mayor in 2009 in a special election to replace former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who resigned in a plea bargain as part of a perjury conviction.
Mr. Bing was elected to a full term in November, 2009, and announced in May that he would not seek re-election, weeks after the city was placed under the oversight of an emergency manager who is seeking bankruptcy protection from creditors.