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Detroit: Financial Manager Will ‘wield sweeping powers to reshape the city’

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DETROIT - NOVEMBER 21:  A neighborhood stands with numerous empty lots on November 21, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan. As car and truck sales have plummeted across the country, large inventories are building at dealerships and factories. The Big Three U.S. automakers, General Motors (GM), Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC, failed after appearing this week in Washington to receive money after asking the government for federal funds to curb the decline of the American auto industry. The city of Detroit, home to the Big Three, would be hardest hit if the government allows these auto makers to fall into bankruptcy.   (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

DETROIT – NOVEMBER 21: A neighborhood stands with numerous empty lots on November 21, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan. As car and truck sales have plummeted across the country, large inventories are building at dealerships and factories. The Big Three U.S. automakers, General Motors (GM), Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC, failed after appearing this week in Washington to receive money after asking the government for federal funds to curb the decline of the American auto industry. The city of Detroit, home to the Big Three, would be hardest hit if the government allows these auto makers to fall into bankruptcy. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

New York Times reporting on the state takeover of Detroit states that “[Michigan Governor Rick] Snyder’s call for an emergency manager, who would wield sweeping powers to reshape the city, underscored a long, troubling arc for Detroit.”

Known as the auto capitol of the United States, Detroit has been remiss by its Democratic-controlled city government.

The same NYT article points out that the state sending in an emergency finance officer to take control of Detroit “set off a flurry of pointed and sometimes emotional reactions here, including an unavoidable racial and political component. Detroit is a mostly black city dominated by Democrats in a mostly white state where Republicans, including Mr. Snyder, control the capital.”

A racial issue? [Off Topic: Building Islam in Detroit]

Fox News reports that “Detroit, the birthplace of the country’s automotive industry, faces a $327 million budget deficit, more than $14 billion in long-term debt and persistent cash flow issues.”

Auto Bailout

The bailout of two (GM and Chrysler) of the Big Three auto industries in 2009, by the then super majority Democrat Congress and WH administration, has failed the initial reason for the bailout.

The CATO Institute remarked that the November 5, 2008 “report by the Center for Automotive Research [(CAR)], a Detroit-based consulting firm, warning that three million jobs were at stake in the automotive sector unless the U.S. government acted with dispatch to ensure the continued operation of all of the Big Three automakers.”

Notwithstanding the CAR report was referring to job losses across America with ties to the Big Three in Detroit, jobs losses in other industries have occurred, the U.S. government sold its stock in GM at a loss, GM has sent manufacturing of its Jeep line to China, and Detroit is now bankrupt.

Precedent

According to Matt Fabian, a managing director at Municipal Market Advisors, “Detroit is a huge and prominent American city, so anything that happens with Detroit will set a much bigger precedent.” [NYT]

Is the “precedent” being set a show of partisan politics or is Detroit being seen as a testing ground on how government can come in take over for elected officials who they deem incapable of fulfilling their duties as afforded them by the people who elected those officials into office?

The aforementioned CATO article also pointed out the CAR “report gave no consideration to the more realistic scenario that one or two of the Detroit automakers might turn to Chapter 11 reorganization” and how the “mainstream media obliged the script” that “elevated the automobile industry ‘crisis’ to the top of the news cycle for the next month, and helped mold the debate in the simplistic, polarizing dichotomy of ‘Main Street versus Wall Street’.” And alleged the 2008 report “was timed to remind the president-elect, as he contemplated his victory the morning after, of the contribution to his success by certain constituencies now needing assistance themselves.”

The ties between the current administration and big labor unions are strong, as was highlighted in the media when Teamster Leader Jimmy Hoffa made remarks at an Obama rally in 2011 regarding the Tea Party – “Let’s take these sons-of-bitches out!” – as well as the constant visits to the White House by Union patriarch Leo Gerard.

Is the issue in Detroit a simple matter of Union-busting?

“After Mr. Snyder became governor in 2010, he and the Republican-held Legislature approved changes to the state’s two-decade-old law, giving such managers more wide-reaching powers, including the ability to drop union contracts with cities. In November [2012], voters rejected that new version of the law, but the Legislature quickly passed a third version, which also allows relatively broad powers to change the terms of labor contracts and which will take effect this month.” [NYT]

With Detroit being considered one of the largest cities in the U.S. and home to the one of the largest job suppliers – the auto industry – how is it that Detroit is struggling financially?

NYT alleges that Detroit’s woes “are in some way a reflection of the city’s own story. Beyond the nagging budget questions and the mounting debt is a place that grew with the auto industry into a city of more than 1.8 million residents and 139 square miles, then shrank decade after decade even as the city’s boundaries and infrastructure did not. With a tax base of some among about 713,000 remaining residents, Detroiters complain of late buses, high crime and darkened streetlights.”

The auto-industry was what brought over a million jobs to the Detroit area; the area began to shrink in size of population alone; the auto bailout occurred to help hold up the industry who apparently had budgetary issues itself; the city falls into a severe state of poverty.

The 2009 bailout failed to restore Detroit to its former glory.

Watching a city fall under its own weight and the ensuing government takeover leaves a blind spot in most minds.

Should a state government allow one of its own cities to fail, possibly causing more chaos and woes upon the citizens of that city, in order to uphold the rule of law regarding sovereignty? Or should a state government set a precedent of appeared over-reaching by taking control of the city’s budget in an alleged effort to re-build the city’s finances for the betterment of the remaining residents?

[notify textbox-white]As an aside:
Qatar Airways to add new U.S. destinations to its route network including Detroit[/notify]
And what will be the outcome of California, who is now experiencing its own form of bankruptcy on a state level? Will the federal government send in its new budget director to take over the state? Or will the citizens take it upon themselves to straighten out the situation?

Off Topic

[notify textbox-grey]Building Islam in Detroit

Detroit has been home to Muslim communities for over a century. Its first mosque was established in Highland Park in 1921. Today large, old, multilingual mosques can be found throughout Detroit, and many of these congregations are building new mosques and schools whose grand proportions reflect confidence and prosperity. Recent immigration, conversion to Islam, and the shifting religious and political orientations of second and third generation Muslim Americans are also creating dozens of new, less imposing houses of worship. Small, modestly financed mosques occupy abandoned storefronts, refurbished churches, and the basements (or second floor offices) of benevolent entrepreneurs. Together these mosques represent a sacred architectural landscape in which intra-Muslim difference is made and managed. Even before the new immigration of the 1960s, the Muslims of Detroit were doctrinally and ethnoracially diverse. One of the oldest mosques, in Harper Woods, is Albanian, and Elijah Muhammad and W.D. Fard began their collaboration in Detroit. The city’s first Muslims came mostly from Turkey, the Balkans, and Greater Syria. Arabs are still the single largest Muslim population. The growth of African-American Muslim and South Asian immigrant populations has broadened the arena of intra-Muslim relations, and the accumulated history of Muslims in Detroit now provides a wide range of precedents for the formation of new identities.

Building Islam in Detroit will examine aesthetic, institutional, and discursive frameworks that have shaped Muslim identities and spaces in Detroit. Our team includes Muslim and non-Muslim scholars who specialize in the study of Arab, African, and South Asian societies. Some of us have extensive research experience in Detroit; some of us have none. We are historians, anthropologists, urban planners, a linguist, art and architectural historians, an archivist, and a photographer. Together, we will look closely at the institutions Muslims have built in Detroit, at their histories, their architecture, how they signal their Islamic status to the public (or choose not to), and the materials they use to mark their particularity within a diverse Muslim community. We will explore the design vocabularies (e.g., iconography, building shapes and features), devotional forms (e.g., prayer, teaching, celebration, mourning), and identity practices (e.g., Arabic instruction, outreach, development of websites and newsletters, cultural and ecumenical programs) that make these spaces communal and Muslim.

University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School[/notify]

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