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Regionalization, Michigan style

The worst fear of every Detroiter is lived out in the new transportation plan that cuts $7 million from the Detroit bus system and gives it to the suburbs — just when Detroit needs it the most.

This is an example of what Detroiters — who for all practical purposes have been labeled as insane or incompetent for protesting for the sake of protesting by Detroit’s corporate media — have been talking about.

When Detroiters protest emergency management, the transfer of Belle Isle, the regionalization of the water department, the Detroit Public Schools — this is an example of the exact manner in which Detroiters get shafted.

This is what regionalization in Southeast Michigan looks like.

There is an interim year before the new Regional Transportation Authority takes power, SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, historically weighted in favor of suburbs over city, decided that it would give SMART bus system $7 million that up to this point in time, the DDOT would have received.

In a new formula, which appears to privilege population over actual ridership, the suburbs win and the SMART system, which serves 11 million riders annually compared to Detroit’s nearly 50 million, will get the extra money — more than they have ever received before.

For those who crow about all an emergency manager and regionalization can do to improve Detroit’s finances — take a lesson.  What Detroit is experiencing, under emergency management, will be the largest shift of wealth and resources this city has ever seen and Detroiters will be poorer and more underserved than ever.

Worst of all, Mayor Dave Bing didn’t even see it coming. We have said before that this mayor should be found guilty of malfeasance but perhaps this is something worse and more innate. One local commentator even called the Mayor a “fool.”

Unfortunately, this also means the mayor — who has worked with Gov. Snyder on most of the Republican governor’s plans for the city including the declaration of a financial emergency — probably has no concept of what is happening to this city. He must also have no understanding of his complicity and the ways in which he has participated. He should have stayed in Franklin.

Yet, Detroiters have been trying to tell him this since he took office. Detroiters have pleaded with the mayor. The activists, community leaders, the protestors were all but ignored by this administration. Mayor Bing practically heckled the residents as he gave interviews with corporate media about how Detroiters need to clean up their blocks, pull up their pants and grow up to understand the ‘new’ fiscal reality of the city. Last laugh is on Bing. But tragically it is really on all of us.

Mayor Dave Bing will probably not offer citizens an apology. He should offer his letter of resignation. He has displayed an embarrassing lack of political depth, historic knowledge, financial understanding, human empathy and business acumen.

We should all understand this SEMCOG decision, authorized by Gov. Snyder and the Michigan legislators, is an example of state policy which supports sprawl and strips cities like Detroit.

This is the type of decision that cripples Detroit and compounds legislative inaction on a variety of issues: disproportionately high insurance rates, lifting of the residency requirements, closing mental health facilities and slashing revenue sharing. The state continues to make treacherous decisions for Detroit and now they control the city. The state took 15 schools — many of them newly constructed and renovated, all complete with books and supplies — to create the state district Educational Achievement Authority, leaving city residents to pay for the construction costs over the next 20 years. Now it’s transportation.

The myth is the suburbs are healthy financially and otherwise. The suburbs are also struggling with declining revenues and decreased property values that impact city budgets. Yet, they have the power to benefit from wealth transferring policies of the state legislature which isolate regional and poverty problems in the city of Detroit.

State policy is not to help, but to control. Meanwhile, Detroiters are on the corner, waiting for a bus.


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