Traverse City Record-Eagle


December 29, 2013

Jack Lessenberry: Detroit, Mich. have changed much in last year

What a difference a year makes: Last year at this time, there were still those who thought Detroit might be able to avoid an emergency manager, and bankruptcy was still an abstraction.

Nobody had heard the name Kevyn Orr. Former Detroit Medical Center boss Mike Duggan had moved into the city to run for mayor, but few thought he had much chance. Instead, people were still talking about whether Mayor Dave Bing could find a way to work with City Council President Charles Pugh.

Statewide, there was still widespread shock over Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature’s ramming through Right-to-Work legislation in a single day. The unions, already stunned by the voters’ emphatic refusal to protect collective bargaining in the Michigan Constitution, vowed to repeal the hated law.

Today, there is remarkably little conversation about Right to Work, and virtually no talk about repealing it.

So where will Detroit — and Michigan — be a year from now?

Nobody knows. What is clear is that the political landscape today is considerably different than a year ago — especially in Michigan‘s largest city. Nearly all-black Detroit did indeed turn to Duggan, the first white mayor elected in 44 years.

The city, however, is in bankruptcy court and is being governed by an emergency manager — though one who seems to have worked out a unique power-sharing agreement with the mayor-elect.

The once-powerful Charles Pugh abandoned his job and fled the city, after being accused of improper conduct with a teenage boy. Though still in office for a few days, Mayor Bing did not run for re-election, and for months has seemed largely forgotten.

In Detroit, as 2014 dawns, everyone is focused on these key issues: How much will the bankruptcy cost the city? How long will the whole process take? Will the Detroit Institute of Arts’ treasures be sold? How much will retiree pensions be cut?

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