The Obama administration is making it clear every way they possibly can that they are willing to do whatever they can to help Detroit weather this crisis – except to offer a bailout. That option is off the table, so forget about it.
Politically, I can see why this option wasn’t going to happen, especially given the leanings of Congress. Detroit represents everything the majority Republicans can’t stand, namely a predominantly African American, overwhelmingly Democratic city that still believes in the necessity of unions. If a bailout requires action that has to receive blessings from Congress then that’s out.
Still, the fact that they are meeting with local leaders to try and see what can be done is a positive sign that they at least acknowledge the need to participate in devising a solution for Detroit rather than sitting on the sidelines. Unfortunately, so long as Detroit is forced to remain under the thumb of an illegitimate yet all-powerful Emergency Manager appointed by a Governor who disregards the will of his own constituents (he ignored their repeal of the Emergency Manager law during last November’s elections and then shoved an identical EM law down their throats in December in a lame duck session of the Michigan Legislature), it is hard to see how productive these talks can be since none of Detroit’s elected leaders were included in the discussion – nor was EM Kevyn Orr. I’m assuming the upcoming local elections in November may be the reason why none of the current elected leaders were included, but since pretty much everything related to the city has to go through Orr, rightly or wrongly, it seems strange he wasn’t at the table either.
Let me make it plain that I don’t approve of Orr being involved in anything related to Detroit, which is why I say he is illegitimate. However, since he has been given the reins, at least for the moment, it would seem that his office would have had to be included in any high-level Detroit overhaul talks since not much can happen without him. As for our elected officials, I would think a better approach this discussion group could have taken, rather than only tapping folks like Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert and former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, would have been to still include the current elected leadership, since they are still our elected leaders regardless of Kevyn Orr and regardless of the upcoming election which has not happened yet, and then to include whoever is elected to fill their seats after November. But meanwhile, the input of our currently elected leaders should still count for something since we Detroiters elected them.
From the Detroit News:
Initially, President Obama had tasked some of his aides to keep close tabs on how the city was faring, and now the administration is on a more policy footing, looking at ways of helping the city grants. The White House has asked all of its cabinet offices to consider how the federal government can help through existing programs.
Corporate heavyweights such as Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. and industrial mogul Roger Penske were invited to attend, but Penske was in Australia. The administration intends to hold future meetings with community leaders in Detroit, as well as additional meetings with business and civic leaders.
“This was not intended to be a final word,” said one participant in the meeting. “It was a preliminary sounding on what is possible and what is not. It was quite remarkable.”
What would be even more remarkable is if they would acknowledge in these upcoming meetings that Detroit has elected leaders who should also be included in these discussions about Detroit since that’s what they were elected to do by Detroit residents.
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.