Gov. Rick Snyder is a busy man. The Michigan Republican has not only been running for reelection, he has been rebuilding one of America’s iconic cities.
Now, Brenda Jones, the president of the Detroit City Council, has told reporters that Detroit is “ready for democracy again.”
Jones and her fellow council members, along with the mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, voted Sept. 25 to remove Kevyn Orr from his position as emergency manager of the city.
It was an amicable parting with the man appointed by Snyder to run the city that had become the poster child for municipal mismanagement.
“Together, we have confronted problems that have lingered for decades,” Snyder said in a statement released by his office. “There have been difficult decisions and sacrifices. Hard work is still ahead of us. We remain focused on improving the quality of life for all residents and building a strong and sustainable financial foundation for the city.”
If Detroit wasn’t dead broke when Snyder appointed Orr to run the city over the howls of outrage from people like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, it was at least comatose.
It was heartbreaking for anyone who remembered the golden days of a city powered by the auto industry’s Big Three, humming with the ferocity of capitalism and moving to the rhythm of Berry Gordy Jr.’s music company, Motown.
Most of the city’s street lights were out, the police department had a plan for municipal triage judging some neighborhoods to be beyond salvation and the city couldn’t even provide toilet paper for some firefighters to use at their fire stations.
The city lost two police chiefs to sex scandals by the time the Orr arrived from Lansing.
Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Monica Conyers, a city councilwoman who was also the wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), were doing time in federal prison facilities for their corruption convictions.
Snyder said there was no other alternative. State officials had to take over Detroit from elected officials and move an emergency manager into Detroit City Hall.
Snyder also chose a course that was familiar to other business people like himself when an entity was so wrecked there was nothing else to do but to burn down the village to save it from itself.
Michigan’s largest city, the center of the U.S. automotive industry since Henry Ford put vehicle production on an assembly line, was declared bankrupt — the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history — July 18, 2013.
Detroit was not the first city in Michigan to have its operations taken over by an emergency manager appointed by Snyder.
It was only one of 12 Michigan cities and five school districts judged to be so mismanaged that elected officials needed to be replaced by state-appointed emergency managers.
They were all broke, but none was in worse condition than Detroit.
Life in Detroit is slowly getting better.
Detroit and state of Michigan officials were making their case for the “Grand Bargain” with the city’s creditors and employee unions in bankruptcy court the last days of September and the first days of October.
Detroit is expected to exit bankruptcy with hundreds of millions of dollars in financing to protect the city’s pensioners and fund improvements to critical city services.
And Detroit’s private sector sees new opportunity in the Motor City.
Mike Ilitch, the owner of the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers and Little Caesar’s Pizza, and Dan Gilbert, the chairman and founder of Rock Financial and Quicken Loans and the owner of the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers franchise, are buying up and rehabilitating hundreds of millions of dollars worth of abandoned property.
The Ilitch family recently announced plans for a $450 million arena for the NHL Red Wings franchise in the heart of Detroit, and $200 million worth of apartment, restaurant, office, retail and outdoor park construction covering 45 city blocks.
Gilbert is working to bring retail back to downtown Detroit and has purchased more than 9 million square feet of vacant office space.
After years without a supermarket in the city limits, the regional chain Meijer is opening stories in Detroit. Whole Foods opened a 21,000-square-foot store in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood in June.
Even Warren Buffett said he was ready to invest in Detroit during the Detroit Homecoming Conference in September, an effort to get “expats” who have moved out of the Motor City to come back home.
And the city’s street lights are finally starting to come back on at night.
Meanwhile, Democrat Mark Schauer, who was serving in the Michigan Legislature when the state’s economic, political and social infrastructure was collapsing, bringing Detroit down with it, is campaigning for governor on a platform of undoing most if not all of what Snyder has done in his first term in office.
The Michigan GOP ran a campaign reminding voters of Schauer’s relationship with Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich.). It also “celebrates” the 7th anniversary of the Oct.1, 2007, Michigan government shutdown.
“The only record Mark Schauer can run on are his Lost Decade days of government shutdowns and record-high unemployment,” said Bobby Schostak, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. “Schauer served alongside Jennifer Granholm and did nothing as Michigan’s fiscal house fell into complete disarray, and then he continued his reckless spending spree in Washington. He had his chance, and he did nothing to move us forward.”