| March 14
March 14 Rick Snyder's decision to put Detroit
in the hands of an emergency financial manager on Thursday may
not go down well in the heavily Democratic Motor City, but the
Republican governor has the chance to go down in Michigan
history as the man who saved Detroit.
The biggest state takeover of an American city in over two
decades comes the year before many expect the
businessman-turned-governor to seek re-election in 2014. In any
political calculating, Snyder probably didn't count on
Detroiters getting him to a second term.
"The people of Detroit are not going to vote for Rick Snyder
anyway," said Bill Ballenger, a longtime pundit and publisher of
Inside Michigan Politics. "I think there is a fairly strong
majority of people outside Detroit who feel an emergency manager
should be appointed."
For fixing the finances of the majority black city, Snyder
tapped Kevyn Orr, an African-American lawyer and life-long
Democrat who studied in Michigan and specializes in corporate
bankruptcy. At his presentation to the Detroit media on
Thursday, Orr acknowledged the political pressures on Snyder,
including from those who asked why he was spending so much time
He said the governor told him, "It is the right thing to do
and the right time to do it."
In his first political office, Snyder, the former chief
executive of venture capital firm Ardesta, has earned the
reputation in the governor's mansion as a businessman who gets
things done, with little regard for the political fall-out. His
campaign to rescue Detroit has the tone of an impatient CEO,
employing the slogan "Detroit Can't Wait."
Orr's appointment will likely usher in a new period of
painful cutbacks for a city long in decline, but he said he
wants to avoid sending Detroit to bankruptcy court. Such a
filing, if allowed by the state, would be the biggest Chapter 9
municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
'NO DOWNSIDE FOR GOVERNOR'
Formerly home to 1.8 million people, Detroit once had
significant electoral muscle in Michigan. But Detroit's
population has fallen to around 700,000 people, or less than 8
percent of the state's population, and the city has less support
in the state capital, Lansing, than it did during its heyday.
The former automotive powerhouse's decline has long been
compounded by financial troubles that are almost as well known
as the music that made Motown famous.
"Make no mistake, Detroit is bankrupt," said Jim McTevia, a
specialist in restructuring and managing member of management
and financial consultant McTevia & Associates. "In this set of
circumstances there is no downside for the governor.
"I think Snyder will be remembered as the politician who
Cuts by the administration of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to
stave off the appointment of an emergency manager were
vigorously opposed by some members of the city's council.
There have also been small protests in the city over the
prospect of an unelected official taking over Detroit's purse
strings. Pastor D. Alexander, a local leader of Jesse Jackson's
Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said Snyder would suffer for a takeover
if he runs for a second term in 2014.
"Governor Snyder risks wakening a sleeping giant," he said.
"If Detroit comes alive, he will not be re-elected."
On Thursday, flanking Snyder and Orr, Bing showed his
support for the emergency manager, saying, "There is no doubt
that we are going to work together."
'PRAGMATIC, NOT DOGMATIC'
McTevia, the consultant, said a crucial point for Snyder is
that any emergency financial manager will need help from city
officials to succeed.
"This will take team work to fix," he said.
Michigan's governor also has the support of much of the
local business community, which has applauded his support for a
new bridge to Canada, which many conservatives oppose, and for
regional transit and lighting authorities in Detroit.
"The reason why we are so supportive of the governor is that
here's a Republican who has clearly chosen to support Detroit,"
Sandy Baruah, chief executive of the Detroit Regional Chamber of
Commerce. "Governor Snyder is very pragmatic, not dogmatic.
"He's all about getting stuff done."
Lyke Thompson, a political analyst at Wayne State
University, said that while taking over Detroit's finances
"could be a win" for Snyder if the move is successful, the
opposite would be true if the city ended up in bankruptcy as
that "would happen on his watch."
"Things could get worse before they get better," he said.
Whether or not Snyder worries about what effect a state
takeover would have on his re-election chances in 2014 is
another matter. His office did not respond to a request for
Since taking office in 2011, Snyder has frequently annoyed
small-government conservatives, as he did last month with a plan
to expand Medicaid and raise the gas tax for road repairs.
The governor also incensed liberals and the labor movement
in December by signing "right-to-work" legislation that allows
workers to opt out of union membership.
"I think the governor looks at issues through the eyes of a
businessman and looks for solutions," said Pat O'Keefe, CEO of
turnaround consultant O'Keefe. "I don't think Rick Snyder cares
one way or another if he doesn't get reelected.
"And if he is successful he will have essentially
established the blueprint for restructuring a major city's