So, Detroit is on the road to receiving its Emergency Manager (EM). But who will it be? Everyone from Mitt Romney to Tom Monaghan has been suggested – usually with the caveat that they “probably wouldn’t be interested.” Heck, we’ve even seen Ted Nugent’s name tossed into the discussion.
One thing is certain. Whoever takes the job deserves our pity. Anything less than a home run will be vilified by the local media and the nominee will have to deal with a gang of malcontents that makes the crew of the H.M.S. Bounty seem downright congenial.
Let’s take a look at a few of the obstacles he or she will face.
JoAnn Watson – Exhibit A in the East wing of the “everything that’s wrong with Detroit” museum, Watson has a long history of anti-suburban xenophobia. Any outside attempt to improve the city has been met with her derision. Most recently, she compared the concept of an EM to a holy war against Islam. She feels that “there is a reason they’re going after the city where the Nation of Islam was founded.” Sure. OK.
Kwame Kenyatta – Kenyatta has a long history of race-based, us-vs.-them, governance. He was front and center in the battle to stop a deal restoring Belle Isle – suggesting Detroiters “occupy” the island in protest. “We occupy the island for the Grand Prix,” he said. “So, if citizens of Detroit who pay taxes want to come out and have a weekend of support for the island, no, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.” Hear that Grand Prix organizers? You’ve been labeled occupiers.
Charles Pugh – Unable to keep his own finances in order, Detroit’s once-and-future TV personality has made indecision his trademark. “Doing nothing is not an option and getting an emergency manager is not an option, in my book,” Pugh said this week. He claims he’d like a second, revised, consent agreement that would force him to do his job. Sort of like the one he and the council fought tooth-and-nail last year.
The NAACP – Outsiders beware. The NAACP will label as racist any intervention to make Detroit a better place – unless it comes with a ton of cash. Just ask Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit NAACP Branch, who demanded the state give the city gobs of cash, then leave it alone. Evoking the specter of Southern racism, he said “Detroit needs a partner. . . not an overseer.”
Detroit’s low-information voters – This is a big problem. Detroit’s voting populace has, time and time again, voted people like those above into positions of power. Never mind that they fail. Never mind that the city has gotten progressively worse.
So, whoever accepts Governor Snyder’s EM job offer deserves our prayers. They’re headed into a hostile city that doesn’t view them as an ally. The overwhelming majority of Detroit’s political class will be openly hostile and – even if the EM is successful – an ungrateful public will likely deny them the credit they deserve.
Let’s hope the governor has found someone who can accept those caveats.