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Keeping an eye on Detroit’s situation

August 13, 2013
Stephen Fletcher , The Alpena News

About 50 years ago when I was an undergraduate I took a psychology course. On the first day the professor warned us that all of the neuroses and psychoses which we were about to study were present in each of us.

Continuing, he cautioned that it is a matter of degree of influence on our behavior of the neuroses and psychoses that determines whether or not we are mentally ill. He shared this so the entire lecture hall didn't show up on his doorstep seeking counseling.

In Michigan all of us are genuinely interested with the proceedings in the City of Detroit relative to the financial health of the city. We know that an "Emergency Manager" has been appointed for both the school system and another for the City. We know that the City has applied for financial protection in Federal Bankruptcy Court. We all are either appalled or amazed.

We are caught up in the process. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has stepped in to try to protect the pensioners and the UAW is up in arms. There is daily picketing and name calling and it's all quite a spectacle. We are eagerly awaiting the results from court rulings which are more than a year away if the bankruptcy follows the usual course. We all are fixated on the wrong thing.

The bankruptcy is going to happen. There also are emergency managers elsewhere in Michigan like Benton Harbor and Flint. We have no more control over the outcome than the Romans did when watching the Christians battle the lions. In a sense, this is the same kind of blood-letting only it's financial this time.

The real question is what happens to Detroit after the judge rules. Do we just go back to a democratically elected mayor and council? If so, then why wouldn't the same political names of the past return to power? And if that happened, then the probable result would be a repeat of what already occurred. All that will have happened is that the scoreboard will show no debt and the shout will arise: "Let the games begin."

The city leadership which failed financially could, under this scenario, rise again politically. If I am correct in this assessment, then what did we gain via bankruptcy? How do we ensure that after the bankruptcy proceedings end city management will improve in the southeastern part of the state? Given a long history of criminal behavior exacerbated with a strong dose of nepotism, what can we expect from Detroit's elected officials in the future?

If Detroit is psychotic, then we are at least neurotic in Northeast Michigan. To my knowledge there has been no growth of taxable property value in five years for any political subdivision in our five-county area. We still are among the highest unemployment levels in the state on any given month and government and school finances are at a worrisome level.

Of course, I have been advocating consolidations of cities, counties, school systems, and townships to cut the administrative overheads. To date, the fiscal crunch hasn't gotten bad enough that there has been much appetite for such a change. The nice part about our area is that the whole area is economically suffering on a equal basis.

We are not as sick yet as the Motor City but our governmental fiscal health is declining. How long will it be before some of our political subdivisions are visiting the "Emergency Manager Room?"

Like my professor cautioned, "It's all just a matter of degree of influence" upon our government's behavior that determines whether or not we are fiscally ill.

 
 

 

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