As my colleague Sarah Jones pointed out in her recent post, “Michigan Defunding Presidential Election in Predominantly Democratic Detroit,” the cash situation in Detroit has gotten so bad to where there may not even be enough money for the largest city in the state to conduct an election in 2012. It doesn’t get much worse than that.
Except that when it gets down to the wire, I am still fairly confident that the money will ‘miraculously’ be found to make sure Detroiters are able to cast their votes in November. Gov. Rick Snyder may be a Republican, but I give him credit for being smart enough to realize that whatever it takes, whatever he has to do, this is one problem he does not want to occur on his watch. The backlash just from a public relations standpoint would be devastating, and that’s only the beginning of the nightmare he would wake up to every morning.
The same applies to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, by the way. A Democrat who I believe is trying his best, but he’d better know this simply cannot go down in his city.
But that hardly means life is good in Michigan, especially not in Detroit. As Sarah pointed out, the trials and tribulations being experienced by Detroit and Michigan could spell a blueprint for what awaits Urban America if the unthinkable happens and Mitt Romney somehow is allowed entry to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Over the past year Detroit has been doing everything within its power to fight off the threat of being effectively taken over by an emergency manager who would have had the authority to ignore the authority of our own publicly elected officials in all financial matters as well as void all negotiated union contracts. The Michigan cities of Benton Harbor, Pontiac, and Flint have already been strapped to an EM, and the Detroit Public Schools is already working under its second financial manager, Roy Roberts, after the departure of previous financial manager Robert Bobb.
The good news – if you can call it that – is that Detroit did manage at the last moment to avoid being saddled with an emergency manager and the Detroit City Council instead voted 5-4 in favor of a consent agreement which does permit City Council to at least have some say in charting the city’s financial future – in partnership with a nine-member appointed advisory board, the first three members of whom were just announced today. Although some believe this was an unavoidable step in the right direction, others still strongly believe the city was sold out. Time will tell, but one very valid concern that has been voiced even by City Council President Charles Pugh who voted in favor of the consent agreement is that the city still has been given no money to help turn itself around. More than $220 million that had been promised to Detroit under an earlier revenue sharing agreement is apparently now null and void as if it had never happened. And any further appropriations to come from the State would have to be approved by the Republican Michigan legislature which has little or no love for Detroit. The common view down here on the ground is that the Michigan Republicans in Lansing could give less than a damn about us.
So what this comes down to is that we may have dodged a bullet, but we still have the gun pointed at our head by a Republican governing majority that never liked us in the first place. Furthermore we have to depend on them to grant us the funds that we absolutely have to have if anybody is serious about helping Detroit turn around since trying to do it by cuts alone is a dead issue. We’ve already made so many cuts we need a blood transfusion just to take another step. Gov. Snyder says he realizes the importance of Detroit and wants Detroit to succeed but actions speak plenty louder than words. And now that Detroit has acted to support the consent agreement that he wanted, Detroit needs him to act and push for the funding Detroit needs to become whole again. The fiscal responsibility argument will only go so far, and it won’t turn the lights on.
I still don’t believe Romney will win in November, but I’m very worried about a continuing Republican majority in the House – at least through 2014 – and that could continue to cripple Obama and the rest of us into his next term. That being said, if the unthinkable does happen and Romney does prevail, then the forced dependency of urban communities upon the whims of hateful Republicans may be the best part of what we have to look forward to for the next four years.
And begging for basic respect and recognition is a position that no community, no group of people anywhere should have to suffer through. Election 2012 is as serious as it gets, and we simply cannot afford to lose.
Keith Owens (AKA Black Liberal Boomer) is a Detroit-based writer who has worked for The Detroit Free Press, Detroit’s alternative newsweekly the Metro Times, the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, and other newspapers. He was also a nationally syndicated columnist with Universal Press Syndicate for three years beginning in 1993.