Traverse City Record-Eagle

Op-Ed Columns

June 12, 2014

Phil Power: Rising tide starting to lift Michigan

"A rising tide lifts all boats.”

The line kept running through my head as I mulled over the optimistic chatter at the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s policy conference on Mackinac Island. I’ve been going to these gatherings for some time now, and this is the first time in years that I’ve heard such optimism expressed about so much by so many.

The line about a rising tide was used by President John F. Kennedy back in 1963. He did not, however, coin the phrase; in fact, it was modeled on the slogan of the New England Council, a regional business group. Regardless of origin, the idea being that when things are going well for some, they tend to go well for everybody.

Taken together, things in Michigan seem to be moving in the right direction — more so than they have in a long time. This seems to be partly because of events - and also outstanding civic leadership.

One big plus is that the process of ending the Detroit municipal bankruptcy without wholesale catastrophe — while still not completely in the bag — seems to be moving, thanks to remarkable leadership on all sides: Newly elected Mayor Mike Duggan has moved smartly, assisted (!) by the City Council. Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr is proving to be smart, skilled — and surprisingly compassionate.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven W. Rhodes is actually moving the ponderous legal machinery; his official mediator, Gerald Rosen, another federal judge, has been the prime and effective mover for the “Grand Bargain,” and Gov. Rick Snyder, facing re-election this fall, is keeping his eye firmly on the ball.

Leadership is a little like pornography. You can’t define it, but you know it when you see it. And it isn’t just happening in Detroit.

Lansing, for so long the symbol of partisan gridlock, actually seems to be working reasonably well these days. The Legislature last week passed (on time again) a $10.18 billion General Fund budget; it’s expected Gov. Snyder will sign it promptly.

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