Category: Community - Original Published on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 15:25 Written by Donald James
Riding on a roller coaster of emotions, ranging from disbelieve and outrage to blissful and elated, Detroiters witnessed a historic moment in the city’s 312-year history on Monday, March 25, when Kevyn D. Orr officially took control of Detroit as its new emergency financial manager (EFM). Appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder several weeks ago to fix the city’s enormous financial crisis, Orr now stands on the hallowed grounds of a proud city often called the “arsenal of democracy.” With each step, the eyes of the city, nation, and world are upon him.
Orr’s presence as the EFM has been heavily criticized by some Detroit residents, community and civil rights groups and advocates, as well as national figures, saying that he represents “the disfranchisement of voters’ rights and their choice to have elected officials serve the people of Detroit.”
While there certainly has been an outcry against an EFM seizing control of the city, there has also been a significant sector of individuals who have cheered Snyder’s bold appointment and the arrival of the EFM.
In a recent poll conducted by the Michigan Chronicle, there were some interesting findings. The poll showed that of the 400 Detroiters surveyed to gage their views on the appointment of an EFM, almost 50 percent said that they approved the course of action. Opinions of the poll voiced by Detroiters are interesting. “I applaud Orr’s arrival as the EFM,” says M.J. Williams, an African American woman who has lived in Detroit for more than 40 years.
“What else can you do to bring this city back when our elected officials, like our many mayors and many city council members over the years, have continued to fail us miserably? We are drowning here in Detroit…I don’t care who throws us a lifeline, we need to get out of deep water onto dry land. Give Orr a chance!”
Henry T. Jackson, a 71-year-old retiree, agrees. “We can shout and march all day long about somebody taking our voting rights away, but enough is enough,” says Jackson, an African American who has lived in Detroit his entire life. “We should have been shouting and marching about this mayor and this council’s abilities — or lack of abilities — to get things done a long time ago. While I may not like the total picture of this EFM thing, I want to give the EFM process a chance to work. We have to bring Detroit back, sooner, not later.”
Darren Woods, 64, an African American and Vietnam veteran who has lived in Detroit for most of his life, disagrees. “I don’t think we should have an EFM coming in here telling us how to fix our city. Weren’t there reports in the news about his (Orr’s) financial problems in Maryland?” Woods asks. “Our ancestors fought and died for us to have the right to vote for who we thought would best serve us. If the people who we voted for are not serving us then we need to vote someone else in, not have a governor dictate that one person is coming in to make all the calls about our city. The last time I looked, the state of Michigan had some financial issues. Does that mean the United States government should come in and take over the state? Power to the people of Detroit to solve our own problems.”
The Chronicle’s poll also revealed that the overwhelming majority of those surveyed said that public safety is the big issue facing Detroiters. “I don’t care who is running the city, I just want a city that’s safe for my children and other folks’ children,” says Markita M. Mason, a 32-year-old African American professional who lives and works in Detroit. “While bringing in an EFM may not be democratic, getting mugged, killed, or carjacked in Detroit is not democratic either.”
Additionally, 70 percent of those polled said that they will remain in Detroit, regardless of what the city is going through. The decision to stay is welcome news for a city that currently is experiencing roughly the same population it had in 1915 (around 700,000), after peaking at almost 1.9 million in 1950, according to Census Bureau figures. Yet, people are beginning to gravitate to the Motor City.
“I moved to Detroit about a year ago,” says Jon Larson, who is a young, White professional working in the region. “While growing up in the Upper Peninsula, I always heard bad things about the city, but when I moved here, I found that was not the case. I love the city’s atmosphere and that there’s always something going on. I’m not going to move out.”
On Detroit’s new EFM, Larson says, “It’s frustrating that we had to get a financial manager. I’m sure no one really wanted one. However, I’m not sure how many other options we had. It seems that the mayor and city council have had their chance to turn the city around. I don’t want to see the city go through bankruptcy, so if this Kevyn Orr can come in and right the ship, although it’s going to make some people unhappy, I’m all for it.”
Like Larson, other Detroiters want the city to prosper, but realize that with or without Orr, there is an eminent need for better public safety, working street lights, better schools and education, revitalized neighborhoods, and a major influx of jobs by the thousands.
“If Detroit can turn its financial situation around, while making people feel safe and creatively find jobs for its people, that will go a long ways in showing the nation that Detroit is on the rise, and a good place to live and work,” says Detroiter M.J. Williams.
While Orr is still in the early stages of analyzing Detroit’s massive and complex financial crisis and strategizing his plan of action that will rescue the city and hopefully rebrand it, he will be met with opposition and legal challenges to his “one man show” of authority. However, Orr will have a significant number of Detroiters who will be cheering him on, hoping that his unprecedented presence, financial acumen, and bold plans will turn this storied city around.
When Orr was named EFM several weeks ago, he called his appointment the “Olympics of restructuring.” If true, all Detroiters, whether for or against Orr, must hope and pray that he delivers a “Gold Medal performance” to the Motor City, a performance that will return Detroit to the victor’s circle and return to city voters having the right to elect local officials — and hold their elected officials accountable to effectively serve the people of Detroit.
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!