Kevyn Orr, an attorney who has been pulling down a seven-figure salary with the prestigious Washington, D.C., law firm Jones Day, is the new emergency financial manager (EFM) for the troubled city of Detroit.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder introduced Orr to the public Thursday afternoon in a news conference in downtown Detroit. This followed by 48 hours a last-ditch appeal by the Detroit City Council to stave off an EFM and let the council and mayor have more time to resolve the city's fiscal mess. Not surprisingly, their appeal was shot down.
Orr is eminently qualified. He's a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Law, one of the nation's finest, and has had a distinguished career at Jones Day. He has plenty of experience in turnaround situations, including serving as the chief bankruptcy attorney for Chrysler in 2009.
The fact that some of the idiotic blowhards of Detroit are livid and promising to form a human chain to prevent Orr from walking into City Hall on his first day of work is a great thing. When the kooks and extremists are launching into their drama queen bullshit, you know you're on the right track.
I wonder if Orr will sneak stealthily into city hall at 1 a.m. on the morning of his first day of work, March 25, and doze on a cot until 7 a.m., or if Detroit Police in riot gear, augmented by the Michigan State Police, will pummel the bullheaded nutjobs blocking the front door? Whatever; enough digression.
It seemed as if Orr was the perfect pick, but today we learned that Orr had liens against his home in Maryland due to unpaid taxes. (Snyder's version of Timothy Geitner?) Orr is embarrassed and says he has resolved the matter. But this just adds bathos to what was already a pitiful trainwreck. Leave it to Detroit.
My big question is this: Can Detroit avoid bankruptcy, when emergency financial managers are restricted in what they can do to restructure municipal pension programs? Reforming Detroit's underfunded pension program ($14 billion in liabilities) is the key to turning the city's finances around, but Orr's hands may be tied.
And if a bankruptcy judge takes over, where does that leave Orr? Will he be just a run-of-the-mill administrator, doing the judge's bidding? Time will tell.
The important thing is that Detroit has almost hit rock bottom, and from this point on, might possibly be on the road to recovery. Those inside the Motor City who complain bitterly about democracy being usurped are guilty of a simple-minded, absolutist form of sophistry.
Let me go back to my oft-repeated analogy of the house on fire and the steps firefighters take to douse the flames and save the home: Under ordinary circumstances, it would be an outrage if someone smashed your living room picture window and sprayed water all over the living room furniture and carpeting. But if the house is on fire, and taking such drastic action is all that stands between salvaging the home or ending up with a total pile of ashes and rubble, then go all out! Shatter that window; beat down that door; hell, take a bulldozer to the front of the house!
But beyond the "desperate times call for desperate measures" angle, let's consider two other aspects of the emergency financial manager scenario.
Besides the ineptitude, corruption and mismanagement of Detroit's elected city council, we must consider whether an emergency financial manager truly is a blatant example of stomping on the constitution. (Disregarding the fact that many U.S. presidents have flouted the constitution during emergency situations, e.g. Abraham Lincoln shutting down newspapers that disagreed with his policies, suspending the writ of habeus corpus and sending in troops to indiscriminately gun down draft protesters in the New York City draft riots of 1863.)
A 1907 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Hunter v. Pittsburgh, stated that under the U.S. Constitution, local governments are nothing more than "convenient agencies for exercising … such powers as may be entrusted to them." In short, local governments are adjuncts of state governments. Home rule is not an absolute right, anymore than freedom of speech is.
Lastly, Detroit City Council members who are so indignant about the emergency financial manager (over-the-top blowhard JoAnn Watson called the state takeover an " unprecedented right-wing gangster move") are laughable in their outrage. So you're worried about "gangster" behavior? Well, why not consider the massive corruption, cronyism and mismanagement that has gone on in city government under your watch? Good advice to you who live in glass houses: DON'T THROW STONES!
SPARTANS LOSE - The Michigan State Spartans lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes, 61-58 today in the semi-final game of the Big Ten Conference Tournament. Ohio State will play Wisconsin Sunday in the tournament championship game. MSU played better than in Friday night's narrow victory against the Iowa Hawkeyes, but the Spartans' defense had too many breakdowns against the talented Buckeyes, and MSU also turned the ball over far too often. Hey, it happens!
Earlier today, the Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Indiana Hoosiers 68-56. The Hoosiers won the conference regular season title, but did lose a home game to Wisconsin in Bloomington, Ind., 64-59 back on Jan. 15. So Bo Ryan's Badgers can indeed be dangerous. Ironically, the Spartans beat Wisconsin both times they played them, but were swept by Indiana in the regular season. Sunday's tilt between OSU and Wisconsin ought to be entertaining.
Sunday between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. the NCAA Tournament brackets will be announced. The bread & circuses continue...
...Paul Harvey.....GOOD DAY!......