Gov. Rick Snyder won’t get his review team’s report on Detroit’s finances until Tuesday, so until then we can all continue playing the game by which it’s inappropriate to comment since we don’t know the results and whatever.
Then again, let’s be inappropriate. We already know the city has a $326 million accumulated deficit. We already know the City Council refuses to make serious cuts to the city’s workforce, refuses to contract out functions, and refuses to let outsiders help in any meaningful way. That’s made the once-ballyhooed consent agreement a complete joke, as the team once expected to lead the city to brighter tomorrows has been thwarted every step of the way by the people who are supposed to be representing the best interest of Detroit residents.
So an emergency financial manager is the only way to go now, right? Right?
What other option does Snyder have? The consent agreement was a last-ditch and not terribly wise effort to forestall the emergency manager in the first place, the reasoning being – I guess – that an EM for Detroit would simply be such a politically volatile move that any attempt to avoid it, no matter how certain to fail at fixing the city’s financial crisis, was somehow still worth the attempt.
No one can seriously believe that anymore, can they? Apparently Snyder doesn’t, as he and his staff have already identified a short list of EM candidates for Detroit, based on a set of criteria to which they’ve apparently given quite a bit of thought.
The truth is, if Snyder does not appoint an EM now, after all the stalling and obstruction of the past year, it becomes increasingly difficult to take seriously that he is really committed to fixing this problem. There is simply nowhere else for Snyder to go. There is not a majority of the City Council that is prepared to take the situation seriously. And even if there was, it doesn’t appear that Mayor Dave Bing has the intestinal fortitude to even propose, much less implement, the kinds of real reforms that would put Detroit on a path back to fiscal solvency and ultimately prosperity.
Appointing an EM is the only measure that can free the city from the long-term obligations and longstanding policies that can pull the cart out of the ditch in the short term, and that has to happen before we can even think about righting the ship in the long term.
To be sure, the long term is the much trickier problem. The interminably irresponsible City Council majority, after all, is pretty sure it’s doing the will of the people who elected them. They may very well be right. Detroit political leaders have spent more than a generation selling the idea that every outsider is a malevolent usurper determined to steal Detroit’s jewels and leave it in tatters. The few people left in the city are mostly the ones who buy this crap hook, line and sinker. There’s a pretty good chance that once the EM moves on, Detroit voters will elect the same kind of people again, and then where will we be?
Then again, sometimes near-death experiences change people. I wouldn’t bet on it. But I do know that if Snyder doesn’t appoint an EM now, he’s made the decision that if there’s anything that can save Detroit, he’s not prepared to do it.