DETROIT — The residents of Detroit are one step closer to learning the difference between a nominal mayor and a functional local government: lip service.
Reprising her acceptance speech as the vice-presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention in 2008, Sarah Palin proudly declared that she was the right figurehead to passively observe Detroit try to dig itself out from under roughly $18 billion in debt and related obligations that forced it to file for bankruptcy last month, becoming the largest city to do so in the nation’s history.
“Before I suddenly resigned as governor of the great state of Alaska with 18 months left in my first term, I was mayor of my hometown. And since my opponents in this race seem to suggest that I’m unprepared to oversee a city of 700,000—a third of which live below the poverty line—let me explain to them what the job involves. From what I understand, being Detroit’s mayor is sort of like being mayor of Wasilla, except that you don’t have actual responsibilities.”
With the city’s finances and fate largely under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager and bankruptcy judge, Detroit’s mayoralty is little more than a courtesy title—at least through September 2014 when it becomes possible for local officials to reclaim some authority.
But rather than acting as a deterrent, the lack of responsibility—and $158,000 salary—attracted over a dozen candidates, including Palin, to fill Mayor Dave Bing’s office after he declined to seek a second term.
Despite the glut of declared contenders in the August 6th primary, 52% of voters cast ballots for write-in candidates. As the top two winners, Palin and write-in candidate Mike Duggan appeared headed to face-off in the November general election.
Votes are still being tabulated, however, as rogue misspellings as varied as “Duggen,” ”Duggon,” ”Droggan,” ”Doggan,” and “Diggeu” are credited to either Duggan or, another write-in candidate, barber Mike Dugeon.
Palin, for one, was not about to leave anything to chance. Cameras at the polling station spotted “P-A-L-I-N” scrawled on her palm as she entered to cast her vote.
Speaking to reporters from the Detroit Free Press and “any of ’em that have been in front of [her] over all these years,” Palin vowed to serve the city by resigning herself to “let a higher power clean up this goshdarn mess for us.”