Traverse City Record-Eagle

Op-Ed Columns

March 17, 2013

George Weeks: Media chatter as Snyder tackles Detroit woes

During World War II, Detroit was widely known as America’s Arsenal of Democracy. Now it’s increasingly known as a national arena of agony. Moan-town.

As the Wall Street Journal aptly said of Gov. Rick Snyder’s decision to appoint an emergency manager for Detroit:

“The state of Michigan is taking on one of the most difficult turnaround projects ever attempted: a rescue of a sprawling city with $14 billion in debt, a depleted tax base, a legacy of government corruption — and very little time left to avert financial collapse.”

The corruption was underscored by the March 11 conviction of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on 24 charges, including accepting bribes, after a five-month trial. He’s behind bars awaiting sentencing for what could be another 20 years or so.

While CNN and some others nationally essentially reported the development with little political spin, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow called the appointment of highly credentialed emergency manager Kevyn Orr, a bankruptcy attorney and turnaround expert, a “Republican takeover of Michigan’s largest city.”

Nonsense. Orr is a self-declared Democrat who worked on the presidential campaigns of John Kerry and Barack Obama. More to the point, Snyder is doing what governors before him likely would do under the circumstances as declared by assorted evaluations of the need.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, in pledging cooperation after earlier reservations, told his embattled city: “We must stop fighting each other.” Wise words.

Newly-elected Democratic State Chairman Lon Johnson said: “Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Lansing Republicans have deliberately starved our communities of billions in revenue, while giving corporate special interests a huge tax break. Snyder and Lansing Republicans are forcing an unnecessary, hostile takeover as a solution to the problem that they themselves created. Meanwhile the democratic rights of Detroit’s citizens are being trampled to protect the interests of Snyder’s wealthy CEO friends and their lobbyists.”

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