Crowded field vies to be mayor of troubled Detroit

Mon Feb 23, 2009 11:00pm EST
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By Nick Carey

DETROIT (Reuters) - The city of Detroit has a huge budget deficit, soaring unemployment and its financial heart -- the U.S. auto industry -- is fighting to survive. Who would want to run a place with this many problems?

The answer is a crowded field of 15 candidates who will compete in a special election on Tuesday for mayor of America's 11th largest city where beleaguered U.S. carmakers are the biggest employers and source of tax revenue.

The top two candidates will face off in a runoff election on May 5.

"You almost have to be out of your mind to do this," said Nicholas Hood III, a local pastor and a candidate currently trailing in opinion polls. "Do we have huge problems? Yes. But are they insurmountable? No."

According to some observers, however, Detroit's problems may indeed be insurmountable without U.S. government aid.

"Rebuilding Detroit's economic base will require money, decisive action and strong leadership," said John Mogk, a professor at Detroit's Wayne State University Law School. "The city lacks money and will need outside help."

The Big Three automakers -- the reason for Detroit's "Motor City" nickname -- are stuck in a horrible slump.

U.S. auto sales fell to a 27-year low in January and Detroit's Big Three -- General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co and privately held Chrysler LLC -- are closing plants and shedding workers to weather the downturn.   Continued...

<p>Former Detroit Pistons star Dave Bing is seen in his office in Detroit, February 13, 2009. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook</p>