BY CAROL CAIN
Could Detroit be the new Amsterdam -- a city where prostitution and marijuana are both legalized to help attract young people and turn the troubled city's prospects around?
Why not, barrister and occasional mayoral candidate Geoffrey Fieger said during a taping of "Michigan Matters" on what he would do if he walked in Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's shoes and tried to address the city's woes.
"I could turn it around in five minutes," Fieger said.
"I'd shovel the snow and I'd clean the streets and parks. Then, I'd tell the police department to leave marijuana alone and don't spend one dime trying to enforce marijuana laws. I also would not enforce prostitution laws and I'd make us the new Amsterdam."
"We would attract young people," Fieger said. "You make Detroit a fun city. A place they want to live and they would flock here."
Fieger, who ran as a Democrat for governor, appeared with Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who took exception to his idea.
"How does that fix the schools or unemployment or illiteracy in the city?" Patterson said.
Besides, the outspoken Republican leader added, "Have you been to 8 Mile recently?" in reference to strip clubs and other elements found along certain stretches of the road.
Fieger still thought the idea had merits.
"Don't let any self-appointed, self-righteous person say we couldn't do it," Fieger added. "The city of Detroit couldn't get any worse."
On other issues, Fieger said he changed his mind about running for mayor in the upcoming race now that Bing has said he will run again in 2013.
"I don't want to run against an incumbent. Besides, it would be more interesting to be governor," he said.
When asked to grade Bing, both Patterson and Fieger gave Bing a "B" saying the job was much tougher than the former steel executive and NBA Hall of Famer ever thought.
Patterson predicted after the state law was recently changed to allow mayors to be named emergency financial managers of distressed cities that it was all but certain Bing would take on the role if Detroit came to that point.
And speaking of things to help the Motor City, Fieger said he supported the federal tax free zone idea pitched last year by former Republican U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich. However, Fieger said tax incentives in general don't help.
"We've been saying here for 40 years, if we give breaks to industry, they will create jobs. But it hasn't worked," Fieger said.
Looking ahead to the presidential race, Fieger said the best thing for President Barack Obama would be to have Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin run as an independent candidate to split the vote against the Republican candidate, who he speculated could be Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty.
Don't discount Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana as another serious GOP contender, Patterson said.
Speaking of politics, Ken Rogers, executive director of Automation Alley, appeared during another segment of the show and said when the business group -- started by Patterson in 1999 -- was growing, it was decided to keep it as non-political as possible.
"We decided no PACs" (political action committees), said Rogers, who has helped steer the group into seven other counties and the city of Detroit, and attracted 1,000-plus businesses to join along the way.