Detroit, Michigan was once a bustling metropolis, its streets humming with an optimism characterizing the American dream. Unfortunately, those streets have been silenced, scarred with the telltale signs of a city brought to its knees in a nightmare scenario few saw coming.
The decline of Detroit is an infamous narrative, one that has fingers pointed in every direction for someone to take fault. Yet, like most complex mistakes, there is a multiplicity of parties who contributed to the fall of Motown. This, however, should be a secondary inquiry to the more pressing one: who should lead its revival? More specifically: who can?
Given the severe financial problems and mismanagement Detroit has faced, unpopular governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, is looking to intervene.
The Huffington Post on Jan. 12, 2012 explains: “The possibility of a state takeover has been floated since [Detroit] Mayor Dave Bing announced Nov. 16 that the city was facing a severe budget shortfall and serious long term debt. Gov. Rick Snyder instigated a preliminary financial review of the city, after which state Treasurer Andy Dillon pushed for a more formal review. Both reviews move Detroit towards a takeover by an emergency manager, who would have special powers over the city’s finances.”
The reactions to the possible take over are largely dichotomous. Either the emergency manager is to be Motown’s badly needed Messiah or its unwanted dictator that doesn’t understand the legendary city’s idiosyncrasies.
A Jan. 3, 2012 myfoxdetroit.com article documents: “Hundreds of people gathered at
a Detroit church to voice their opposition to the possibility that the state could take over the city’s government.”
The article continued, “Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers was among
those at Monday’s gathering at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. He told the crowd he would use his relationship with the White House to fight any attempt to appoint an emergency manager.”
The article also features a Detroit woman stating, “They have not been able to handle the situation within the city,” and when asked about whether there should be an emergency manager, she responded, “Of course there should! There’s no question about it.”
The takeover thus forces some interesting and complex decisions. It has been articulated ad nauseam that the Detroit government has been at best, impotent, and at worst, incompetent. If one should be anymore interested in searching, its history of financial blunders and mismanagements is mind-boggling.
Perhaps then, the emergency manager is precisely what Detroit needs. Change does not come easy and it seems the governments of Detroit have remained resistant to it despite the continued exodus of its population and collection of every ‘bad’ statistic that seems to be available.
However, I am bothered by the brashness displayed by Snyder. After all, as the previously cited Huffington Post article states, “Rep. John Conyers noted that Michigan’s emergency manager law might have consequences in other states. ‘This is a test case going on in Detroit,’ he said, calling emergency managers ‘merely a dictatorial ruse for a governor to take over and suspend democratic management.’”
Snyder’s blatant move to supersede the city government of Detroit is suspicious. I believe it can be feasibly construed as an un-Democratic political power grab. Ultimately, I think the tangible proof of the city government’s incompetence is simply too overwhelming to override idealistic concerns.
With that said, should the emergency manager actually be installed, s/he should be closely supervised and or have her/his powers seriously curtailed. While rebuilding Detroit is the number one priority, a close second is doing it in conjunction with the city’s government. If the city is to have faith in its recovery, it needs to first have faith in the ones running it.
Detroit was once a bustling metropolis, its streets humming with an optimism that characterizes the American dream. Perhaps with new leadership, that “once” can be replaced with an “is.”