Week 28 of the occupation
By Shea Howell
Special to the Michigan Citizen
The implications of emergency management for Detroit are becoming more clear.
A few people are making a lot of money. Those few individuals, including EM Kevyn Orr, his former law firm Jones Day, various lawyers, consults and assistants are predicted to cost the city over $100 million for their services.
Federal dollars will fuel destruction of neighborhoods. Federal money, designated for home repair and neighborhood development has long been withheld from communities. Now, with the blessing of the Detroit Works/Detroit Future City plan, it will be used to assist in shrinking the city. More than $350 million in federal dollars will be dispensed through combined federal/state management. Much of this will go for “blight removal.” This means suburban contractors will be paid to knock down and haul off chunks of the city.
Public obligations are profit sources for corporations. We are witnessing the creation of various authorities to handle public responsibilities: water, lighting, education, and land use and development are being put into the hands of quasi-authorities who have no accountability. They are shifting us away from the idea that water, public services and education are basic rights, to be made available to all human beings, regardless of their economic ability to pay. Instead, these elements of life are being privatized, turned into another way for corporations to make money and further divide our city.
Consolidation of land ownership. A few people are buying up the city at bargain prices. No longer faced with public, open processes for the transfer of public land into private hands, developers are carving out new areas, fueling speculation and forcing the evictions of people who have long struggled to maintain a home for themselves and their families. Some continue to demand tax breaks and subsidies for to further ensure their profits.
Impoverishing elders. Last week some 8,000 retirees under 64 were told their health care will be cut from an average of $605 a month to a $125 stipend toward some mythical private insurance. More than 10,500 people over 65 will be shifted to a Medicare Advantage program where they will now have to pay for deductibles and secondary insurance. In addition to individual hardships on families with serious medical issues, this will siphon off scarce dollars to insurance companies, pulling it away from local businesses, services and markets.
Protecting banks. In Emergency Manager Order No. 17, Kevyn Orr proposes borrowing another $350 million from Barclays, a British financial institution. This money would be used to pay off Bank of America (represented by Kevyn Orr’s former law firm), UBS and other Wall Street banks. The deal promises Barclays can go to the head of the debt line when the bankruptcy goes through.
Losing cultural heritage. The state has long coveted Belle Isle. As Stephen Henderson pointed out, he and fellow members of the Yacht Club find it “embarrassing.” They especially don’t like the weekend summer gathering of young people, dancing, playing music from car stereos and claiming a right to enjoy the city’s park on their own terms. Some forces in the state have longed to bring parts of the DIA collection to other museums. At the very moment when the DIA achieved strong regional financial support, it finds its collections threatened.
Destroying democracy. Setting aside the power of all elected local officials has been combined with the complete destruction of any public forums for discussion. At the recent meeting over Belle Isle, Detroit City Council continued the trend, reducing citizen comments to one minute.
Emergency management means a few people will make a lot of money. Cronies and campaign contributors will get richer. Many more will face higher water bills, increased taxes, loss of property, eviction, poorer services, loss of control of schools, and the silencing of citizens voices.
On Oct. 23, Federal Court will decide if bankruptcy will trump the constitutional arguments being raised against emergency management. Join unions, churches, and neighborhood organizations at the Court House to say, “Enough! This is our city!”