Mackinac Policy Conference

  • Mackinac Policy Conference: Gov. Snyder’s standing ovation for Detroit support

    A standing ovation. That’s what Gov. Rick Snyder got when he asked the Mackinac Policy Conference audience members to let him know if they support Detroit.

    Snyder opened his 30-minute address talking about the funding for and restructuring of Detroit that’s provided for in a package of bills. The legislation passed the House last week with broad bi-partisan support and awaits action in the Senate.

    “It surprised people that people got on board. It was wonderful to see the breadth of support,” the governor said. He pointed out that representatives from throughout the state “the Upper Peninsula, the Lake Michigan shoreline” voted in favor of the legislation that provides $195 million for Detroit pension funding and requires oversight for the city’s future operation and financing.

    “We like to talk about the bankruptcy being over the last year,” Snyder said. “This is our opportunity for a solution for 50, 60 years of problems.”

    Snyder said he looks forward to changing the typical conversations people have about Detroit. “They’ll be bringing up things they saw on the national news. In many cases, those things aren’t even right, but that’s the way the discussion goes,” he said.

    The governor praised Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan for his presentation at the conference yesterday. An enthusiastic and energetic Duggan gave updates about his administration’s progress on blight removal, street light repairs and additions, increased bus services and other improvements.

    “He was marketing Detroit but he was marketing reality, he was marketing facts,” Snyder said.  “I need each and every one of you to sign up to be am ambassador for Michigan.”

    Following his prepared remarks, WWJ radio’s Vickie Thomas asked her own and moderated audience questions. She started off asking the governor about how he felt now about appointing an emergency manager for Detroit, a move that has been met with some opposition.

    “It was the right decision. It was not an easy decision, folks. These were tough calls,” Snyder said. “I wasn’t looking at bankruptcy when I started looking at building a brighter future for Detroit.”

    He talked about campaigning in Detroit, holding town hall meetings and meeting with the faith-based community and returned to the topic of emergency management.

    “The reason they strengthened the law was to make it so that someone like Kevyn Orr could come in, do their job and get out and have strong, good leadership and have the city continue on instead of having it drag out over time. Let’s get the job done. Let’s do the tough thing, and then let’s get sustainable, solid leadership in a financial situation that’s sustainable.”

    -By WDET’s Sandra Svoboda

    @WDETSandra and

  • On the Craig Fahle Show: Mackinac Conference guests talk bankruptcy

    Broadcasting from the Grand Hotel at the Mackinac Policy Conference, The Craig Fahle Show is collecting a range of guests from among the speakers, attendees and organizers. Here are what some of them had to say about Detroit’s bankruptcy and some related issues:

    Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) and Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) appeared together for the show. They said they expect the bills related to Detroit’s bankruptcy — including $195 million in state money toward pension funding — to pass the Michigan Senate.

    Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson told Craig he’s upset about Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s proposal in the city’s Plan of Adjustment to have suburban customers fund pensions for Detroit Water and Sewerage Department employees.

    “The governor is here on the Island running around saying that’s a bargain, well hell yeah, it’s a bargain for the Detroit Water and Sewer board but not for the rate payers in my county,” Patterson says. “We’ve got 20, 30 years or so of mismanagement, fraud and waste, and I just think frankly much of this has been done under the watchful eye of the Department of Treasury that gives them the stability work out programs and allows them to go out and bond and borrow more and create more debt. I think the state should have a seat at the table.  Why should they pass this off on the ratepayers that had nothing to do with the corruption?The state did have something to do, they did have a responsibility to monitor the Detroit Water and Sewer board because they extended them credit.”

    Meanwhile, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said part of a problem related to Detroit’s Chapter 9 is a lack of understanding about the resulting financial issue for the region. “My job is to try to get (Detroit retirees living in Macomb County) to realize, ‘My god, Detroit is extremely important to Macomb County,’” Hackel said.

    In addition, Hackel said Macomb County needs to address the pressing problems of infrastructure and outstanding pension obligations. The county “soon” will announce plans for addressing retiree health care.

    Craig also spoke with with State House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) and House Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) about the “grand bargain” legislation and Detroit’s future. “I appreciate the Republican leadership to get the support for Detroit done,” says Greimel. Indeed, the bills were important for retirees, and both representatives told Craig that a fair and balanced package was more important than partisan divisions. “Detroit’s success will determine the success of southeast Michigan and the region as a whole,” Greimel says.

    The Detroit bills have also led the legislature to realize that state priorities are just as much a priority as serving each district separately, they said. However, help from the state will have strings attached, and part of that will be state oversight. Bolger and Greimel both say that Detroit’s City Council and Mayor Duggan have been working hard, so state oversight doesn’t necessarily have to mean tight control.

    Bolger is also scheduled to participate in a discussion Friday at the conference that will focus on resilience and strong leadership during and after Detroit’s bankruptcy.


  • Mackinac Preview: NOLA Mayor and Detroit’s future

    The final day of the Mackinac Policy Conference will kick off with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. The first-term mayor authored a guest column in the Detroit Free Press today that previews some of what he plans to say tomorrow.

    Of course, he’ll be interviewed on the conference stage by WDET’s Craig Fahle, general manager and host of The Craig Fahle Show. So his appearance won’t be a complete repeat of his column as Craig plans some questions of his own. But Landrieu makes a few points worth highlighting.

    First, he emphasizes his belief that helping New Orleans post-Katrina and Detroit as it aims to emerge from bankruptcy and create a financially stable city are part of the American responsibility:

    After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, flooding more than 80% of the city, MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked me, “Why should a guy driving a cab up in Detroit” care about rebuilding New Orleans? I said that an American tragedy requires an American response. This is the same reason why someone in New Orleans should care about Detroit and its struggles. Only if we remain one nation, indivisible, can we be strong. We need each other.

    Second, he recognizes Detroit as having opportunity as it restructures post-bankruptcy. That’s a similar message to what is said after natural disasters as communities rebuild: “with disaster comes opportunity.” Landrieu writes, “There is no greater engine for growth, no greater power for innovation, and no smarter investment to make than in Detroit. Now the struggle of years past is giving way to new opportunities.”

    Third, he’s an optimist. “I know Detroit will show us, too, that it can come back better than before. The spirit of Detroit is unbreakable as the iron forged in its furnaces and factories. Bankruptcy is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. It is just a way station on the road toward a better future.”

    We’ll report on the Mackinac Policy Conference audience response to Landrieu and his message tomorrow.




  • Mackinac Policy Conference: Mayor Duggan clarifies Jones Day role, timeline

    In court last week, Judge Steven Rhodes questioned Detroit attorneys what would happen with the city’s contract with the Jones Day law firm if the Chapter 9 case isn’t finished at the end of the September. That’s the timeframe Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has given for his departure from Detroit, and the date he and the judge have had for wrapping up history’s biggest municipal bankruptcy case.

    “We have not had discussions to my knowledge going beyond that,” Gregory Shumaker, a Jones Day attorney, said in court. “The mayor, the city council, it would be up to them whether Jones Day would continue its representation of the city.”

    Following that exchange, the Detroit Free Press followed up with a story about Mayor Mike Duggan’s plans, reporting a spokesperson said the mayor would not support keeping the Washington D.C.-based law firm beyond Orr’s exit.

    Today on Mackinac Island, Mayor Duggan corrected that:

    “There must have been some miscommunication here because Oct. 1, I’m quite confident that the City Council is going to terminate Kevyn Orr’s tenure but it makes no sense to terminate Jones Day. They’re in the middle of all the legal stuff. There’s been no conversation about Jones Day,” Duggan told a crowd of reporters.

    The mayor also said he continues to work closely with Orr. But while the mayor has control of most of the city operations, the Detroit Police Department remains with Orr.

    “Every week I say to Kevyn Orr, ‘I’m ready to run the police department,’ and every week he says, ‘not this week,’” Duggan said.

    What’s the hold up?

    “You’re going to have to ask him,” the mayor answered.

    Orr plans to be on Mackinac Island for a Friday keynote address.

    -By WDET’s Sandra Svoboda

    @WDETSandra and


  • Mackinac Policy Conference: Snyder highlights Detroit, a bit

    Gov. Rick Snyder gave an official welcome at the Mackinac Policy Conference today in an early afternoon address that reviewed examples of the conference’s three themes – impact, entrepreneurship and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education — in action around the state.

    After his formal remarks, he met with media on the porch of the Grand Hotel where he was asked about developments related to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in the city’s ongoing bankruptcy proceedings. The Detroit News reported:

    Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday state lawmakers should not attempt to mix future control of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department with $195 million in state aid needed to bolster municipal pensions and help settle the city’s bankruptcy. As part of its debt-cutting plan, Detroit is proposing forcing the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to make $428.5 million in accelerated payments toward the General Retirement System, or $47.6 million annually. “There’s a lot of good discussion that can happen on water and sewer, but it shouldn’t interfere with the grand bargain in my view,” Snyder told reporters at the Mackinac Policy Conference. “This is the right thing to do; let’s get this package done. And then I’m happy to have separate dialogue on water and sewer.”

    Here’s what he said specifically about Detroit during his formal remarks:

    “I’d like to thank Live Midtown for their great work, Midtown Detroit, Wayne State, Henry Ford, the DMC all coming together to say, ‘let’s encourage people to live downtown.’ Occupancy is over 98 percent in Midtown and downtown Detroit. It’s an environment where young people are striving to live there, and we need more housing. That’s impact folks.”

    “We’re not done with the grand bargain for Detroit. We got it through the House, we need to get it through the Senate. I hope that’s a great opportunity to talk to your senator. … Think about impact in our lifetime, to actually say, ‘We can get the financial affairs of the City of Detroit reconciled, trying to come up with a constructive solution in a very difficult time for a lot retirees.’ … We’re not talking about the city of Detroit going downhill anymore. We can all get on the same page and say, ‘Let’s talk about the growth of Detroit.’ Isn’t that something we should all aspire to? … The comeback of Detroit is critical to the comeback of Michigan. For Michigan to be a great state again, we need and we will get Detroit on the path to be a great city again.”

  • Mackinac Policy Conference and Bankruptcy: What to Watch

    Of course we never know what any of the speakers might spontaneously say about Detroit’s bankruptcy, but following are a few of the sessions where we expect issues related to the Chapter 9 to be front and center.

    WDET will be following the conference at this link.

    Detroit Public Television is broadcasting live for much of the conference and can be viewed here.


    The first full day of the conference is largely focused on entrepreneurship, but two sessions promise some specific Detroit mentions:

    1 p.m. Gov. Rick Snyder speaks as part of official “conference welcome.”

    4:45 p.m. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan will be interviewed by Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley. DPTV is hosting an online screening and chat during his appearance with Next Chapter Detroit’s Sandra Svoboda as a panelist.


    The second day centers on STEM – science, technology, engineering, math – but we’re watching and listening for Detroit bankruptcy topics primarily in the following sessions:

    9:30 a.m. Author Malcom Gladwell gives a keynote address and is interviewed by Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes, who has written extensively about the Detroit bankruptcy. As Gladwell’s writing pushes a message of how entrepreneurship and education can help overcome obstacles, he’ll explain how these lessons can apply to Detroit as well as the entire state.

    2:45 p.m. Gov. Rick Snyder will be interviewed by Vickie Thomas, WWJ city beat reporter, and is expected to review the highlights of his administration.

    5 p.m. WDIV and The Detroit News conducted a survey for the Mackinac Policy Conference, and the results will be discussed at a town hall meeting. They include the statewide view of Detroit as well as attitudes and opinions about this year’s political races and policy issues.


    This is the bankruptcy day with several sessions and speakers focused on the topic:

    8:55 a.m. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, interviewed by WDET’s Craig Fahle, will explain how rebuilding from natural disasters transformed the Crescent City and how lessons learned there could help Detroit’s revitalization.

    9:40 a.m. Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr will be interviewed by Vicki Mabrey, former ABC News correspondent. He’s expected to discuss how Detroit is being positioned for success post bankruptcy and what his plans are toward the city’s long-term sustainability.

    10:15 a.m. The panel titled “Detroit Next: Positioned for the Future,” will be moderated by Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson. Speakers include Detroit City Council president Brenda Jones, Kresge Foundation CEO Rip Rapson, and Jase Bolger, Michigan speaker of the house, and others who will address how “bankruptcy is positioning Detroit to establish financial stability and sustainability and redirect its efforts in city development. With a newly elected mayor and city council in place to guide the city through the post-bankruptcy phase, Detroit offers an environment for unprecedented innovation and collaboration.”

    Here’s the link to the full agenda.

  • On the Craig Fahle Show: The Mackinac Preview

    The Detroit bankruptcy figures prominently into the agenda at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference this year, Chamber president and CEO Sandy Baruah told Craig Fahle  in advance of the annual event that opens today. Why? “What people inside Michigan forget is that the brand value of Detroit and the brand value of Michigan are exactly the same,” Baruah says. “Until the brand of Detroit is fixed and is stable, we’re going to continue to be struggling to attract our fair share of talent and jobs in this state.” We’ll have coverage from the island all week on