Four years after Bing became Detroit's mayor, however, the city's problems have only worsened. Now, he may have to hand control of Detroit to the state of Michigan, which would make it the largest U.S. city to financially fail and be taken over by a state government.
Detroit, home of General Motors, is the center of the faded manufacturing region now known as the Rust Belt. It has lost over 1 million people since 1950.
Between 2000 and 2010 alone, the city of 700,000 lost a staggering quarter-million residents. They left in search of better schools or to escape crime, leaving behind a decaying metropolis with one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S.
Bing, 69, has been swept up in the despair that has come to symbolize much of the city in his first term as mayor. The Democrat grudgingly sees handing off control to an emergency manager as carrying out his duty as a leader.
A state-appointed review board declared Detroit in a financial emergency last month, citing a $14 billion mountain of debt, a $327 million budget deficit and other issues in a report submitted to Michigan's Republican governor.
The report said there was no good plan from Bing or Detroit's City Council to turn things around. Gov. Rick Snyder agreed, setting in motion the possible appointment of a manager over the city's finances.
Some in Detroit don't want to give up without a fight. The City Council has voted to challenge the state's proposal to appoint an emergency manager for the city's finances.
But Bing declined Wednesday to be a party to that challenge.
"For me, I don't mind fighting, but I'm not stupid," he said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. "If I know I'm going to get in a fight that I have no chance of winning, why in the hell should I get in that fight? I'm much better off walking away from that and fight another day."
Some say giving up control would be just the latest failure for Bing, despite his fame.
In 1980, he founded Bing Steel in Detroit. The company grew into a small empire of steel and automotive supply operations, with hundreds of jobs, surrounded by aging houses in a weary neighborhood.
From there, Bing watched as the city's economy stalled and all but collapsed. At the same time, once-popular Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick became entangled in a sex scandal that would force his resignation and later send him to prison.
And people were fleeing, even as Bing took office. With them went a great deal of the tax base.
Bing said previous elected leaders were "more concerned about re-election" than healing Detroit's ills.
"I don't think there's been a mayor beset with more significant challenges in the United States," said L. Brooks Patterson, the Republican executive for nearby Oakland County. "Just look at Detroit's finances. They didn't collapse over the last two years. They've been in a downward spiral for at least a decade, if not longer."
Even so, Bing may have been better off calling for an emergency manager from day one, Patterson said.
Under Michigan law, emergency managers have the power to develop financial plans, renegotiate labor contracts, revise and approve budgets to help control spending, sell off some city assets and suspend elected officials' salaries.
It's not clear what role Bing would have if an emergency manager is appointed. And Bing has yet to say if he will even seek re-election later this year.
If he walks away now, some observers think Bing won't be remembered very fondly.
"His legacy as a politician is not a very good one," said political analyst Adolph Mongo.
"When he hands over the keys," Mongo said, "he'll be remembered as a person who couldn't pull Detroit out of the big, black hole."