Monday, December 18, 2006

Mail Bag: 2006 In Review

An anonymous reader posted a comment in response to my post about the 2006 Year in Review press release that Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick sent out two weeks ago. He or she wrote:
"There aren't enough police officers on our streets. We pay too much in taxes and don't get enough services in return." Hmmm... maybe when you are Mayor you can plant that tree that money grows on... this will solve all our problems. Reality is: Detroit has no money. An income base simply does not exist and whatever little there is, it is fastly dwindling. Are you familiar with foreclosure statistics? Wake up.
First, I am fully awake and from the looks of things, I am even more familiar with the various statistics than you are.

Regarding your assertion that the City of Detroit has "no money", that simply isn't true. The City of Detroit's budget for Fiscal Year 2006-07 is $3.7 billion. That isn't as large as most would like but it is $3.7 billion more than having no money.

The question then is what is the City doing with the $3.7 billion that it does have. Specifically, what priorities are we setting?

As it currently stands, the police and fire departments don't have enough funding to do their jobs properly. There are, in fact, almost 2,000 vacant officer positions within the Detroit Police Department. There are also calls to 9-1-1 that go unanswered every day because there isn't anyone available to respond.

In spite of that, the budgets for the police and fire departments only represent 15.6% of the City's total budget. I firmly believe that essential services are called that for a reason. It is essential that those expenses be covered and those services be provided. The other 84.4% of the budget should have been cut to allow for full-funding of the police and fire departments, in my opinion.

The best part of the City's budget is the simple fact that there is a lot that can be done to free up cash without actually hurting the services that Detroiters receive.

The City of Detroit, for example, owns a lot of property that is outside of the Detroit city limits. All of it should be sold, in my opinion, and that includes those portions of the Water & Sewage Department that are outside of the city limits.

There is also the fact that Detroit is home to thirty two strip clubs, by my count. The women who dance in said clubs can earn a rather significant income and they get it entirely in cash. Many of them are honest enough to pay taxes on it. Some, however, do not pay any income taxes.

All dancers are required to get a cabaret license from the Detroit Police Department. It would be relatively simple to cross-reference the list of dancers with a list of individuals who filed an income tax return with Detroit's Finance Department. If they didn't file a such a return, the tax collectors should decend upon them.

By the way, doing this in cooperation with the IRS and the Michigan Department of Treasury would make the entire collection process that much easier on everyone involved - except, of course, for the folks who aren't paying income taxes.

There is also the fact the City of Detroit simply bleeds cash from frivolous lawsuits that are filed against it. It's time to take a long hard look at those lawsuits and what can be done to minimize that expense without hurting the underlying services that Detroiters receive.

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