CHICAGO - Weeks of speculation on whether or not Mayor Coleman Young of Detroit will seek a sixth term in office ended yesterday when the mayor announced he will not run.
Young, 75, who was elected as Detroit's first black mayor in 1973, cited a list of his accomplishments while in office at a press conference, but then said, "However, I have decided 20 years is enough."
In a statement, Young also said, "I have not been able to put out the effort in the last year in the manner that I have been able to in the previous 19 years." Young reportedly suffers from emphysema.
As of yesterday morning, 14 candidates had filed petitions with at least 614 signatures to appear on a Sept. 14 primary ballot by yesterday's deadline, according to Jeffrey Blaine, deputy city clerk. He said the city election is nonpartisan and that the top two vote-getters will face off in the general election on Nov. 2.
A final list of candidates from the city clerk's office was not available as of late yesterday afternoon.
The leading candidates for mayor include Dennis Archer, a former associate justice in the Michigan Supreme Coure who is now a partner at the law firm of Dickinson, Wright, Moon, Van Dusen & Freeman; and Sharon McPhail, a division chief in the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.
Whoever becomes the next mayor will face a number of challenges, including a weakened local economy, low debt ratings, and a lingering budget deficit.
An economic boom coupled with the ability to raise new revenues in the mid-1980s led to five budget surpluses and a healthy rainy day fund for the Motor City. Starting in the late 1980s, however, revenues began to slip as the recession hit the Rust Belt and budget deficits returned, culminating in a $271 million deficit in July 1992, the beginning of the city's 1993 fiscal year.
Earlier this month, the Detroit City Council took final action on the city's $1.9 billion budget for fiscal 1994 which begins July 1. That budget contains a carry-over deficit of about $30 million resulting from the mayor's fiscal 1993 budget-balancing plan not being fully implemented.
One element of the plan, the refinancing of $170 million of revenue bonds sold in 1985 for the city's Cobo Hall convention center, may now be further delayed because of action taken late last week by Republicans in the Michigan Senate.
Detrott officials have estimated the refinancing would give the city about $17 million in present value savings that could pay debt service on another $20 million of bonds sold for the convention center in 1988.
A bill permitting the refinancing was passed by the state Senate on April 1 and then by the House on May 6.
But on May 18, a majority of senators voted to pull the bill off Gov. John Engler's desk. Senate Republicans had initiated the action in an attempt to force Senate Democrats to act on some other bills, according to a spokesman for Senate President Dick Posthumus, R-Alto.
Last Friday, Senate Republicans filed suit in Ingham County Circuit Court against Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley and Secretary of State Richard Austin after the two signed off on enrolling the bill into law. Chris DeWitt. Kelley's spokesman, said the attorney general contends the Senate's action was invalid and that the bill automatically became law because Engler did not veto it within 14 days.
In a press release, Posthumus said he is out to prove that the Legislature has "sole control" over its rules and that the Senate does not recognize the bill as law. "The end result, though, is this: the bonds aren't worth the paper they are printed on." he said.
Detroit finance officials did not return phone calls. But one source close to the financing said the city is waiting for the Michigan treasurer's office to approve the debt issue before deciding whether or not to proceed.
Nick Khouri, the state's chief deputy treasurer, said yesterday that his office has requested additional information about the bond issue from the city.
"We're waiting for additional information before we make a decision," Khouri said, adding that the treasurer's office has not addressed the issue of the law suit.
The next mayor will also face a split bond rating that has Detroit's general obligation debt rated Bal by Moody's Investors Service and BBB with a negative outlook by Standard & Poor's Corp.
Last July, Moody's dropped the city's rating to the non-investment grade level of Bal from Baa. The rating agency said the downgrade was the result of "weak credit fundamentals, which detract from long-term credit quality, despite the city's history of continued efforts to maintain control over its budgetary operations. "
The action affected $272 million of outstanding debt.