After Gov. Rick Snyder declared financial emergency in Detroit this week setting the stage for the appointment of an emergency manager for Michigan’s largest city, it remains to be seen what will happen to turn around Detroit’s finances. An emergency manager for Detroit is being touted as the best bet for the city aside from bankruptcy but it is still a huge gamble for a major urban center like Detroit. But if the governor feels this is the right away for the city the buck stops with the chief executive of the state because every city is a creation of the state.
This is the single biggest issue that will define the legacy of Gov. Snyder because whether the emergency manager succeeds or not will largely depend on the kind of mandate he receieves from the governor.
Yes, the finances of the city are messsed up. The mayor and the city council have turned out to be more of the same than those they replaced when they were elected. It’s hard to point to one single big issue with gigantic positive impact for Detroiters that the mayor and the city council achieved during Mayor Dave Bing’s term in office. The two entities have been in more fighting than mapping out a plan to financial solvency.
But is an emergency manager the magic bullet?
It will depend on that individual and the governor as well as the people of Detroit. In a city where home rule is touted rightly so as the determining factor for Detroit’s governance structure, replacing that democratic system with an individual empowered to make decisions on his or her own is part of the strong opposition to an emergency manager for Detroit. Others are asking who will the emergency manager answer to?
Detroit is part of the state and because of its centrality in this region we don’t expect Gov. Snyder to walk away or abandon the financial crisis that’s holding city services hostage. Something has to be done and the governor has to ensure that he is calling the right shot.
Perhaps things would not have been more complicated and the opposition would have been willing to hear the the governor out had Snyder not passed right-to-work law after initially denying he won’t touch it. Part of the skepticism about Snyder and his administration that many in Detroit have, is that he broke his word on right-to-work which now leaves his critics wondering if he reversed on right-to-work, can he be trusted on Detroit’s finances getting right under an emergency manager? Or will this be a case where consultants jet in from out of state and make millions of dollars in fees and telling the emergency manager where to cut?
The passage of the right-to-work bill doesn’t leave Snyder’s critics with no room to give him the benefit of the doubt on an emergency manager for Detroit. In fact it reinforces their suspicions of the governor and makes it hard for the emergency manager to operate in an atmosphere where the opposition and political spears coming at the individual become so obvious.
Detroit cannot wash its hands of this mess. City leadership is a big part of the reason the city is in financial hardship. Yet the state also has a responsibility and perhaps the governor’s strategists should have been thinking a little bit more futuristic when they made Snyder sign on to right-to-work when he repeatedly denied he would ever touch it.
After that legislation became law, it made it difficult for a city like Detroit, called the home of labor to believe that the governor no matter his good intentions for Detroit ( spending a lot of time speaking to the future of the city) has any serious interest to see Detroit progress. The influence of labor on the fight against emergency manager for Detroit is written all over the arguments against an emergency manager.
Gov. Snyder has indicated he wants Detroit to be front and center of his agenda. Now he owns it and this will define his legacy. He has to call the RIGHT and POSITIVE SHOTS and there is no room for mistakes here because the consequence will be greater than where the city is already at.