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Laura Berman

When Mayor Dave Bing declared last week that the city could no longer shoulder the costs of security and clean-up for the Target Fireworks and Thanksgiving Parade, he challenged the model and asked for help from surrounding counties.

And the murmurs began. Everyone wants to help, if that means pitching in and getting reimbursed.

But actually shouldering costs born by a near-bankrupt city? Not so fast.

“It’s been very difficult … to get people to understand” that the city can’t afford these special events, Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis told a City Council committee meeting on Monday.

City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown echoed that, saying, ” we’re broke means we’re broke.”

During a decade-long game of fiscal chicken, the city officials have ranked high among those struggling to recognize how broke they really are.

Witness the city’s budget for entertainments like the parade and fireworks: $1.4 million for both, even as street lights were dimming, and the abandoned houses accumulating.

Monday’s statements suggest reality is finally seizing hold: With the state peering into the books and emergency managers auditioning in the wings, opportunities for grandiosity are in steep decline.

Detroit can no longer dare to be great, without trying to convince the rest of us to pay for it. And judging by early reaction, there’s no surge of interest to foot the bill.

“I don’t want to get in the habit of providing free things to the city, or there’ll be no end to that. My taxpayers would expect no less,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said to my colleague George Hunter.

Tony Michaels, the upbeat CEO at the Parade Co., who views the fireworks and parade as events woven into the fabric of Detroit, didn’t blanch. His attitude is, essentially,

“don’t worry, be happy, I’ll take care of it.” He insists that the Parade Co. — which raises the money for both events — will convene with civic leaders and the governor and “get it done.”

The fireworks and parade attract regional crowds, and their impact and significance resonate across the nation.

Now we’re going to have to decide we’re willing to pay for them — or that we’d rather look at nostalgic postcards and remember when.

Full article published in The Detroit News

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