The Michigan Citizen, one of Detroit’s African-American newspapers, has often had a lonely voice in its sustained criticism of the state’s emergency manager law and Kevyn Orr’s actions authorized by it. In the paper’s most provocative coverage of Orr’s first 12 months, the weekly publication reports on its staff sit-down interview with Orr, who visited the Citizen’s offices last week.
The Citizen posed and Orr answered an array of questions, including some in ways the mainstream media haven’t or, frankly, wouldn’t: “Do you see yourself intervening in evictions or any of the suffering?” and “Some people can hear (your policies) as wanting a whiter, wealthier city. What do you think about that criticism?”
Like it or not, those are the uncomfortable questions some Detroit residents and sympathetic observers have as they view the daily poverty, unemployment and disenfranchisement in most of the city. While downtown enjoys unprecedented investment and white hipsters are lauded in the local and national media, for example, where are the solutions for the unemployed, undereducated and poverty-stricken?, they ask. The Citizen is a voice that can steer the collective conversation about Detroit to include policy perspectives and proposals rooted social justice. In the paper’s ongoing coverage and now timely conversation with Orr, the Citizen hopes, in part, to broaden the framework by which the legacy of Michigan’s emergency manager system will be evaluated.
To his credit, Orr, who has lived in the Miami and Washington D.C. areas, spoke to the Citizen of his ideal vision of Detroit: a widely diverse, safe urban area with balanced books and manageable debt. It’s his job as emergency manager, he says, to focus on the balance sheet and steer the city through a bankruptcy toward a sustainable, healthy financial future. In doing so, he’s proposing up to 80 percent cuts to banks and lenders to free up money for city services. The financial institutions predictably don’t like it:
“They’re going to try to defeat this plan because their view is they’d rather take that money. And I’ve tried to restore it,” Orr says.
The Citizen’s Shea Howell, drawing a vastly different conclusion, says this:
This capacity, to think in a logic that excludes the consequences of your decisions on the lives of others, characterizes much of what we saw in Mr. Orr. This was most evident when he talked of pension cuts. Here he stressed, ‘There are only 20,000 pensioners in a city of 700,000.’ This is just a few people. A sacrifice for the many.
This kind of numbers game is chilling.
History will determine what the state law and Orr’s tenure will ultimately mean to the city … and if the Michigan Citizen was among the first to realize the consequences.
-By WDET’s Sandra Svoboda
@WDETSandra and firstname.lastname@example.org
A few stories we found today:
The Detroit News ran a guest column authored by two employees of the Reason Foundation, an organization with the slogan “free minds, free markets”. They assert the pain of the bankruptcy could be “worth it” if the city finds a cost-effective way to provide services, lowers “taxes to stop the population flight,” and keeps future costs under control.
Gov. Snyder won’t begin lobbying in earnest for his proposed $350 million ($17.5 million a year for 20 years) state funding plan for Detroit until after the city files its restructuring plan, Fox 2 News reports. City officials told The Associated Press they expected to file it Friday.
Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr hadn’t tweeted (@MotownEM) since early December. But gibberish was pouring out of his Twitter account early Thursday morning. Turns out it was a hack job, the Detroit Free Press reports. While many people, institutions and Detroit’s own Nain Rouge have twitter handles (@NainRouge in case you aren’t following), Orr wasn’t enthused about the social media site, his spokesman Bill Nowling told Next Chapter Detroit last week. “I only got him the Twitter account because there were so many fake ones,” he said.in From Lansing
In The Detroit News today, Darren A. Nichols reports on a “work in progress”: the professional relationship between Mayor Mike Duggan and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.
As Orr focuses on the city’s finances and restructuring plan (to be submitted to the bankruptcy court this week) and Duggan leads most of the city’s daily operations, the two men have reached what they say is a productive relationship based on mutual respect.
“We’ve actually had some frank conversations, but they usually end up with a consensus being built in some way,” Orr told The Detroit News. “It’s a level of confidence and almost a sense of earnestness that when an agreement is reached, that’s what’s gonna be done. You don’t have to come back and revisit it.”