Traverse City Record-Eagle


June 23, 2013

Jack Lessenberry: What would Gov. Bernero be doing?

Some people barely remember now, but Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder did have an opponent three years ago: Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. He fought hard, campaigned his heart out, but lost overwhelmingly in a year that featured one of the all-time biggest mid-term GOP landslides.

But what if it had been different? What would a Gov. Bernero be doing today about Detroit and its crisis?

“I wouldn’t be doing it today, because it would have been done already,” the mayor said, chatting in his comfortably cluttered Lansing office. “I would have had a sense of urgency about Detroit. I would have given then 90 days to get their act together, and then if they didn’t, I’d send in an emergency manager.”

But it wouldn’t have been Kevyn Orr.

Governor Virg Bernero would have sent … himself.

“I would have gone down there and gone to work,” he said. Asked how the governor of the state could also serve as Detroit’s emergency manager, he said, “Oh, I’d appoint some guy…”

“But I would be doing the real work myself. Look: What could be a more important job than fixing Detroit? What could any governor do that’s higher priority than that?”

The energetic, cheerful mayor paused briefly. “Look. If you fix Detroit, what you have done to Michigan is take the flagship of our cities and made it work again.

“That would turn around the entire state. And again, what higher priority could there be than that? If you haven’t fixed the greatest city in Michigan, you aren’t going anywhere.”

Bernero’s campaign for governor may not have gone anywhere, but he is still remarkably upbeat. The son of a poor Italian immigrant, he’s always been intense, and cheerfully acknowledges it.

“You know, in some ways this (being mayor of Lansing) is probably a better fit for me. I’m a hands-on kind of guy.

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