With Friends Like These, Who Needs Friends

Detroit, Michigan

The Associated Press is reporting that a political action group, funded by the very right-wing Koch family is against a set of bills in the Michigan legislature that seek to provide the city of Detroit with nearly $200 million. The Koch’s are a wealthy pair of brothers who originate from Kansas and made their fortune largely in the oil business. The reported tactic to stop this legislation is to threaten any of the Republicans running for office with a funded challenger that may end, even temporarily, their individual political careers. This year every member of the Michigan House of Representatives is running for office and they have not yet voted on the 11 bills that make up the legislation.
The legislation is centered on the filing of bankruptcy protection by Detroit last year. Through various backroom deals led by the Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr, Detroit will privatize, or sell, the Detroit Institute of the Arts (the DIA) to a private set of groups who have pledged a reported $661 million. The legislation represents Governor Rick Snyder’s portion of the bargain where the details remain in flux but currently a price tag of $194 million has been set. This is the money that the Koch’s are fighting against. It is not clear as to the true reason behind the Koch’s opposition other than it’s a large amount of money going directly to a majority African-American city.
There are many in Detroit who oppose this legislation and oppose the Emergency Manager law and oppose the filing of bankruptcy for the city of Detroit. Ironically those who normally would be at the opposite end of political issues as the Koch’s and their stable of political action groups are in agreement on the desired outcome of this legislation, if not for the same reasons. The opposition derives from the general belief that this entire process is wrong. Many believe, as does Hood Research, that the Emergency Manager law is unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable. Additionally all of the actions leading up to today since before Orr was appointed by Governor Snyder were not approved of by Hood Research and many other city residents and groups.
Last year, in the early part of 2013 before the appointment of an Emergency Manager, Hood Research was opposed to any filing of bankruptcy and opposed the appointment of an emergency manager. Hood Research opposed the legislation, PA 436 of 2012, and the consent agreement of 2011 between the city of Detroit and the State of Michigan. There are many others who were also opposed to the actions under Snyder and former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. The consensus is that Detroit is not a bankrupt city nor is the pension funds underfunded. The New York based Think Tank, DEMOS, published a well written report on how Detroit is not in a state where bankruptcy is needed nor are the pension funds in any emergency as Governor Snyder and his hired appointee Kevyn Orr have proclaimed. All evidence points to Detroit being a financial healthy city with instances of cash flow shortages but not deficits as have been stated. However the bankruptcy of the city is and always was more about politics than about the well being of the city or the residents.
The comparisons of Detroit’s bankruptcy and any other municipality is incompatible because in Detroit, everything of worth is being sold or privatized, city jobs are being eliminated, the ability to raise additional revenue by the city is being blocked. A right-wing ideological strategy is being followed in Detroit on how to form and run a city government. When the city charter comes into conflict with the new government, the charter is ignored. Government appointees are being selected who have no interest or desire for the well being of Detroit citizens. The city is sliding into a permanent decline with self-proclaimed Democrats in charge following a game plan by Republican Rick Snyder.
Detroit is the primary voting base for the Democratic Party of Michigan. When Democrats fail to attract voters from Detroit they fail in the attempt to win state-wide elective offices. This has been a constant for the past fifty years. The many who oppose the bankruptcy, the legislation and the emergency manager have been fighting these largely on their own without sufficient help from the state Democratic Party. The perhaps unofficial position of the state party is to support the bankruptcy process. Thus in many cases those who some Detroiters are fighting against are Democrats. Governor Snyder is clearly using the bankruptcy process to weaken the political impact of the city of Detroit. Snyder is running for re-election this year. A political weak, or divided, Detroit greatly assists his opportunity to win another four year term in office. Thus nothing he or his appointee, the Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, does has strengthened the city of Detroit.
The Koch family represent a right-wing political position where perhaps as few as one percent of Detroiters may agree. The great majority of Detroit voters do not follow in the same political footsteps. However in this issue the two opposite sides may achieve the same goal, to stop or delay Governor Snyder’s attempts to push through this legislation. This legislation represents a change of ownership of the DIA. This legislation creates special laws and oversight for Detroit for the sole purpose to monitor the political strength and vitality of the city. The state has proposed a twenty year oversight arrangement. In that time frame, few who hold political office then will have strong ties to those who hold political office now. A consistent right-wing Republican political campaign during that time may get to change Detroit’s strong historical political support for Democrats into a base for the Republican Party of Michigan.
If a group of Detroiters fighting to keep their pensions, fighting against an unconstitutional law and an unjust process must also fight the Democratic Party, what then becomes of the election this year and in 2016?
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