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Orr talks Popeyes and public debt

Protesters outside Wayne State University Law School not allowed inside the meeting.  PHOTO COURTESY LEONA McELEVENE

Protesters outside Wayne State University Law School not allowed inside the meeting. PHOTO COURTESY LEONA McELEVENE

If a resident or this newspaper wants to talk with Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, it appears we should try to intercept him at Popeyes chicken. It seems to be one of the few formats providing true access to the EM.

At EM Orr’s legally mandated community meeting, Orr said he heard from some residents at the fast food chain about the concerns, hopes and realities of living in the city.

Although some can find him at Popeyes — where he is supposed to be accessible to the public — and a sole community meeting, the EM has effectively isolated himself.

Many wanted to attend but were turned away at the door or braved a line that could only be described as a disorderly mass.

Umbrellas were left at the entrance on a rainy day. Large bags were not allowed, and police officers slowly admitted attendees.

A true representation of the public was unable to attend — detractors or supporters.

Why is the EM talking to citizens at Popeyes but not at real pubic forums?

Although Gov. Rick Snyder and EM Orr promised transparency throughout this process — and otherwise — neither has delivered.

From refusing to meet with the public, limiting admittance to an already controlled environment and hosting invite-only community meetings, EM Orr and Gov. Snyder refuse to meet with the actual public.

The EM has held only one meeting, mandated by law, at which he took less than 15 questions. This attempt at democracy and inclusion is just as ethically corrupt as shady contracts and cronyism.

Residents are being shut out of the process, despite the anticipated massive restructuring. They will not have a say in the disposal of billions of dollars in public assets. In a majority Black city, this is worse than injustice.

And if it could get worse, Orr attempted to appeal to Blacks in a shared history speech where he spoke of cotton picking and being born in a segregated hospital.

The Popeyes chicken comments seemed to be in this same vein, as well as the crass remark, “I can cut somebody’s throat and leave them to bleed out in the gutter with the best of them.”

Interestingly, this has been the shameless appeal of several emergency managers. From Robert Bobb to Roy Roberts, we have heard about sharecropping and Black poverty.

As if, Sam Riddle points out on the front page, these men are acting alone not at the behest of the Snyder administration.

It has always been incongruent to us that these men are afforded this history. Their stories empathized with and regaled in the dailies, but when it comes to other Blacks — those with a more radical bend — this history is not seen as connected with their politics.

Many of the activists who were thrown out or not admitted also know cotton picking.  They also live the modern day structural racism — mass incarceration, under and unemployment, food deserts that force us into Popeyes and emergency management.

Emergency management effectively disenfranchises half of the state’s Black population and is rooted in unequal economics.

EM Orr should not seek to first repay debt to the banks.

Secondly, he and the corporate elite at whose pleasure he serves should take African Americans’ shared history seriously. Host real public forums. Be transparent. Restore democracy. And most importantly, address economic disparity.



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