Much given; little gained
The Emergency Manager-led bankruptcy offers a poor financial plan, which fails to grow city revenue and represents a continued violation of civil rights and democracy.
EM Kevyn Orr released his Chapter 9 plan to the bankruptcy court last week and it is the first reveal of the EM’s blueprint for Detroit’s ailing finances. Within the grassroots community, the plan fell with a thud.
A coalition of 38 community groups says: “Detroit’s rebirth will be the result of the people’s unrelenting demand for democratic self-governance, equal access to and management of the natural and economic resources of the city.
“Currently, emergency managers in several Michigan cities have dictatorial powers to advance the interests of banks and private corporations over the public good. They have failed to bring about financial security.”
To go with the plan, as is, Detroit will look like Benton Harbor, Pontiac and other cities that have struggled under emergency management and governor-selected leaders without vision. EMs fail to understand the realities of today’s economy in which there is no middle class and growing inequity is the standard. The plan includes no options for growth or investment in a people mired in poverty.
This EM has failed to devise a plan that can grow sustainable communities, small businesses, public transportation or bring people back to neighborhoods.
On the practical level, a cursory business overview shows the plan also fails to leverage the city’s assets and represents a disposal of billions of dollars in assets without the people’s input. It literally appears to transfer assets to the region in the form of sweetheart deals, while leaving the city emptier than before.
Many would not be opposed to selling art to give the city a fresh start. Instead of the art going to the open market where the true value can be determined, the art will instead go to a new entity for $100 million and, hopefully, a 20-year payout from the Republican-led legislature. The proposed deal with the Detroit Institute of Arts called the “grand bargain” is truly a grand bargain. The plan does not deal with assets in any new or creative ways except to ensure Detroit doesn’t even get market value for its assets.
In fact, the plan cuts at the worst fears of Detroiters that the emergency manager-led bankruptcy is about giving away the city’s assets not the long-term viability of the city or its residents.
Meager police increases and investments in technology will not change the day-to-day reality of most Detroiters who are structurally unemployed, rely on DDOT (which under Orr’s plan will have a fare increase) and have little access to opportunities of any kind.
Orr is essentially saying the lives of Detroiters will be improved with a few fire trucks, some new computer systems and houses torn down most likely by suburban companies.
The $1.5 billion in proposed spending will not change the city for most Detroiters. The balance sheet might be healthy for a few years but, with this plan expect conditions to worsen soon afterwards.
Detroiters deserve “equal access” to the economic resources of the city and this plan does not guarantee this. Empty promises are turning out to mean an even emptier city ahead.