For Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, the title of this situation could also be re-worded as “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Accept the EFM”. After all, Mayor Bing is the best option for an EFM as anyone could consider, and a 9-member finance council is far more than what other cities under both the previous and new EFM law would’ve ever received.
It’s not pretty, as Jeff Wattrick points out on Mlive.com. The decent and reasonable action of forming a consent agreement prior to a simple EFM appointment is shadowed by the rhetoric piling up at City Hall. From the sad hijacking of Martin Niemöller’s poem by (Colonel) Herb Sanders to the strange belief that Canadian tax scofflaws are really the reason why Detroit is bankrupt, you’ve got to wonder if people are really serious about the serious financial situation at hand.
The Consent Agreement draft is here (pdf). Inside, the fruit of rhetoric for any progressive talk show that piled onto Benton Harbor last year. The Agreement itself is designed to establish a pseudo-EFM, and a group of nine to handle what City Council won’t. And while people shout bloody murder of government, they often forget the purpose of why cities are what they are.
In the grand scale of civics, the states allow cities to band together and form governments. This is an inherent clause in every state constitution, to allow folks who live near each other to form municipal bastions of self-operation under the state. And the financial situation Detroit faces in 60 days is a nightmare that would cripple and destroy the city.
Mayor Bing salvages a chance to normalize many of the situations and decisions that would’ve normally been one single person with a bottom line. Yes, the bottom line will still exist, but there was a brokered option left to the City Council, Detroit leaders, and Mayor Bing himself to fulfill these requirements of solvency.
So when Dems roll up out of the woodwork and blast this remarkably fair deal, it’s fitting to see no one even cared about Mayor Bing and the amount of backroom politics he has employed to find a deal that preserved at least some of Detroit’s elected government. (clarity added here) Fire and Police may be saved with these actions, but at the end, it may not be close to what the state is expecting. It’s not pretty, but it’s a necessary step to preventing a shutdown of Detroit, and the real consequences that will follow absent a decree of this nature.
The Consent Agreement itself is a dangerous tool when used without transparency. As a large chunk of union contracts sits on a June renewal timetable, the implementation of this Consent Agreement will weaken the already-hurting unions that will take more than a haircut. The initial bar that has been set is such a large sum of money, it’s impossible to think that unions won’t get hit somewhere again when contract negotiations ramp up.
Some clauses seem a little extreme, that if an official with the City of Detroit has beef with the decisions of the financial council, the council could immediately impose an EFM as a trigger. This removes any and all need for negotiations, deals, handshakes, and normal political work required for this endeavor. Add in the recent stuff about secret meetings and Treasury, and you’ve got a real concern to address as this deal begins to come together.
But that’s just the good news, folks.
The bad news is if Detroit defaults. We learned this lesson before. A GM-sized default of city government would leave the city and its residents in the lurch, and all because both the Mayor and City Council couldn’t step up to do the deal months before this day.
These folks are consumers, family, and friends. I don’t give a rip about anyone on City Council who needs election or mortgage money. I care about the people who need a check to pay the bills, the rent, and feed their own. They work for a living, at fractions of the prevailing wages of all the bureaucracy and artificial “supervisory” positions that has really buried the D in debt.
Instead, bickering and complaints. Even now, we see the same thing. And while I’m positive for the Consent Agreement, and that we should learn to love the EFM, I am more concerned with the individuals who think there is still a way to save the city by saving staples, finding Canadians, or simply dropping Godwin’s Law upon the pile of dry wood.
I hope the City Council knows their next move is the end-all fate of Detroit. The Mayor, while definitely getting some blame for all of this side-stepping, is your only hope to keep Detroit a city, with some modicum of control. For investors, this is vital for the future, where names like Penske, Gilbert, and Ilitch are already putting down the roots for the future.
If the Wings build a new home, investors secure transportation for expanding the reach of lucrative Downtown developments, and pizza is still pizza (Tigers, Wings, and MCC), we’ll have a place to grow after Detroit emerges from the red. We’ll have the same city we left with in 2012 as we’ll have in 2015…but the D will be stronger, leaner, and meaner.
I’ll leave it on the positive.
Best of Luck, Detroit. The Scarlet D is on us.