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On behalf of the city

Week 40 of the occupation

By Shea Howell
Special to the Michigan Citizen

The carefully constructed claim on competence and legitimacy by Gov. Rick Snyder and his emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, is eroding. The current drama of the proposed Barclays loan to pay off Bank of America and UBS reveals the pattern of this erosion.

Kevyn Orr

Kevyn Orr

First, almost no one, even Snyder-Orr supporters, thought the original plan to borrow $350 million to pay $250 million to banks was a good idea. Those of us who objected were told this was the best deal Orr and his high paid firm could get. There was no choice, Orr told us.

Judge Steven Rhodes, in a stunning rebuke of this logic, challenged Orr and company to explain why they had not sought criminal charges against the banks they want to pay off. He also said he did not believe this was the best deal available. Nor did he think there was “no choice.”

In mandatory negotiations on Dec. 24, a new deal emerged. Instead of borrowing $350 million, the deal was down to $285 million. The banks would get $165 million. This is an $85 million difference.

The critical point here is not the money, although that is no small thing. Rather, the pattern revealed in this incident is that the EM has no clue how to negotiate effectively on behalf of the city. The deal he proposed was among the worst imaginable. His claim this was the best he could do was patently false. Orr is unwilling to tackle the moral, legal, and ethical implications of bank practices like swaps and foreclosures that are crippling cities around this country.

Whatever Mr. Orr believes about the separation between his current responsibilities and his previous law firm, his actions support the interests of his former firm’s client-banks over the interests of the people of the city. He does not negotiate on behalf of the people.

Unable to reflect on the seriousness of this situation, Orr plunged ahead with a sham public meeting so he could claim legitimacy when he tries to use casino wagering taxes as collateral to banks.

Finally, while doing everything to protect the banker-Jones Day clients, he managed to find time on Dec. 30 to go after the pension benefits of 5,600 city employees.

The order for the reductions in pension benefits came as lawyers were still negotiating with retirees.

Tina Bassett, a spokeswoman for the General Retirement System, was reported calling Orr’s pension freeze “an outrageous and overzealous action.”

“Again the EM’s office demonstrates a lack of integrity and willingness to make a good faith effort when negotiating with our pension system,”Bassett said in a statement. “Currently we are in the midst of mediations that we thought were going rather well. We can only wonder, why take this action now and for what purpose?”

The inability of Orr and his high paid legal team to represent the interests of the city or its people is obvious. His claim to competency and expertise in his short term in office has been marked with outrageous public statements, foolishly orchestrated publicity stunts, and now bad and expensive deals he claims were the best his cut throat negotiations could manage.

This incompetence is excused and minimized by the mainstream media, who actually portray this latest deal with the Bank of America and UBS as a “savings” for the city.

This incompetence flows from an inability to challenge the fabric of corporate power that has systematically brought the city to this point. It is a blindness that has characterized Orr’s 40 weeks in Detroit.

As he and the right wing ideologues in Lansing scramble to establish more legal fictions, we in Detroit welcome new leadership to City Council. Our new president, Brenda Jones and George Cushingberry, president pro tem, bring a depth of respect for the people of this city and our capacity to create a new and vibrant life.


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