Commentary: The week that was
This was the week in which Detroit got an emergency manager and the state got a right-to-work law. That is to say, the law took effect this week. I’d say that makes for a pretty newsworthy few days. Some things this week were entirely predictable. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton showed up to protest the Emergency Manager. Crowds of demonstrators appeared at Detroit’s city hall crowds which swelled when TV cameras showed up.
The first major lawsuit was filed against the emergency manager law, and the Detroit Tigers sent an exciting new spring phenom, closer Bruce Rondon, down to the minor leagues. That story is worth mentioning, by the way, because a newspaper computer analysis shows that more people read it today than read any of the stories about the state or city‘s drama.
Some stories were not that expected, but not surprising. The new emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, decided to keep the mayor and the city council on the payroll. This hasn’t usually been the case in other emergency manager cities, and strikes me as brilliant. Added up, their salaries and benefits probably come to less than one point five million dollars a year. When you are dealing with a fifteen billion dollar problem, that’s the equivalent of loose change under the sofa cushions. If Kevyn Orr can gain their cooperation and buy political peace while he does his job, that will be well worth it.
Something else came to light, however, that raised more eyebrows. Orr will be working with his old law firm, the Cleveland-based Jones Day, to restructure Detroit’s finances. The city hired the firm a few days before Governor Snyder picked Orr. Using Jones Day to do the heavy lifting makes perfect sense in some ways. The firm specializes in this kind of work, and Orr is certainly familiar with how they operate. Some, however, are already grumbling that he is using Detroit to drum up business for his old firm. We’ll see how this works.
Actually, we have yet to see how any of this will work. So far, things seem to be going well. Tugboats haven’t arrived to pull Belle Isle away, and moving vans aren’t taking the treasures in the Detroit Institute of Arts away to be sold.
Not yet, anyway. Nor are either of those things apt to happen, ever. But within months, Kevyn Orr is sure to announce some decisions that will be dramatic, shocking, and life-changing. After all, that’s why he’s here.
It will be interesting to see how people react when he finally starts doing the hard stuff. As for the Right-to-Work law, we’ll probably have to wait till the first major round of auto contract negotiations before we start to see how this is really going to affect things, long-term. But my guess is that in the case of both the emergency manager and right to work, things are bound to turn our somewhat differently than we thought.
Ten years ago, nobody could have imagined either one. But I would have bet then that I’d go to my grave without seeing same sex-marriage or a black president.
As Chuck Berry used to sing, You Never Can Tell.