Raucous threats, name-calling and intimidations characterized the protest before the announcement that the state of Michigan was moving ahead with the appointment of an emergency financial manager for Detroit. It was to no avail.
For several reasons, Gov. Rick Snyder was not impressed with the attempt by Mayor Dave Bing, members of the City Council, labor leaders, community and religious leaders, and other parasites to stare him down and back him off. First and foremost, for all the breast-beating, the city still hasn’t been able to produce a deficit reduction plan. Secondly, the city no longer has any political clout or respect in Lansing. Lastly, the ‘60s style confrontation has lost its appeal.
Mayor Bing has failed to enhance Detroit’s image among business and financial communities and position the city as a leader in innovation. And he didn’t help his cause by grouping himself with these self-serving groups who are part of the problem. Most are better known for their ability to perpetuate themselves by conditioning their constituencies to embrace conspiracy theories rather than producing solutions to why the city can’t pay its bills.
Rather than offering proven fiscal policies to manage government intelligently, Congressman John Conyers, for example, suggested there is a sinister plot to dilute the city’s political power. Retreating to his legendary racial justice platform, Conyers contends the emergency financial manager law is unconstitutionally “applied in a discriminatory fashion, as the impact jurisdictions have very high proportions of African Americans and other minorities.” He’s asked the Justice Department to intervene.
Members of the council joined this chorus of discontent out of fear, no doubt, that an EFM would relieve them of their duties — without pay. Councilwoman JoAnn Watson chimed in that appointment of an EFM is a blatant attempt by whites, the GOP and “outsiders” to take back the city.
“We have no right to give away this city…No way are we going to let someone from Lansing take over our city…. it is outrageous that a state that’s had its own deficit … had the nerve to point its fingers at a city that has the right to self-determination,” Watson said.
Councilman Kwame Kenyatta characteristically likened the prospect of state receivership to a “master” sent in “to control the plantation.”
Al Garrett, president of AFSCME Council 25, who risks having an EFM cancel all union contracts, added to the high-pitched emotional rhetoric. He doesn’t want to make concessions and doesn’t want an EFM. But if he has any fresh thought about what services the city should and should not be providing, he hasn’t put it on the table.
Merely implying that Detroiters are under siege from a paternalistic state government hierarchy is intended to mobilize Detroiters to view anything but the status quo has having dire, undesirable consequences for them personally and for the city at-large. Even the well-intentioned blacks, though must be disenchanted with the apparent failure of the 1960s style “play the race card.” It is clear to everyone that the government Detroit taxpayers bought and paid for in the ‘70s and ‘80s has taken too great a toll on the lives and spirit of Detroiters. And for all those years, the political leadership has not had one comprehensive, realistic and understandable vision or blueprint of what it takes to make the city economically and culturally great again.
For decades, costs have outstripped available resources, leaving the government debt-ridden and on the brink of bankruptcy. Public costs have risen inordinately because the discipline of the competitive market is absent from government policy. If the city is to avoid a future as one large ghetto, contrived plots, old ways of thinking and dysfunctional political relationships must be brought to an end “by any means necessary.”
Obviously the city hasn’t suffered long enough to attribute its financial ills to the failed and defunct public policy of an incredibly incompetent administration. But with or without an emergency financial manager more suffering is inevitably on the way.