DETROIT – A receivership or appointment of an “emergency” financial manager by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is hanging over this city’s head, based on the phony claim that its deficit poses an “emergency” for the public health, welfare and safety. The financial manager could usurp the powers of the mayor, City Council, pension board, and the City Charter. The essence of this would be profoundly un-American and undemocratic. It would be a violation of Detroit residents’ right to self-determination.
In the larger historical view, the financial power structure that controls Detroit’s economic investment and development is responsible for the long-term economic depression that has afflicted Detroit as it has become a majority Black, and proud, and disproportionately poor urban location. There has been a financial and investment blockade on Detroit by the private sector.
Now the same financial power structure that for the last 35 years made Detroit what it is economically stands in the shadows as certain mouthpieces of money in Michigan state government threaten that the city may have to submit to receivership.
Detroit did not become overwhelmingly Black because Black people planned to take it over. No, it was by default, from the long-term process, confirmed by social science experts, of out-migration of many whites to Detroit’s surrounding communities. (See Thomas Sugrue’s “The Origin of the Urban Crisis” and Coleman A. Young’s “Hardstuff.”) To this day, at least one official in Oakland County, north of the city, holds office based on opposition to integrating greater Detroit 40 years ago.
My point is, it has not been Black people who made the Detroit metropolitan area the most segregated in the country (according to the last Census).
The out-migration of economic wealth and investment by the financial power structure has created this out-migration, or “flight,” of the population of this area. People must have jobs in our society. There is no other way to survive. People follow the jobs. People in Detroit need jobs and income. Detroit’s fiscal stresses are rooted in the job deficit and the business deficit.
The people of Detroit also have the right to the democratic election of their own leaders. This principle was proven in the election vote on ending the state takeover of the Detroit Public Schools board several years ago. America owes the majority Black population of Detroit equality of citizenship, which means the right of self-determination and self-governance, especially with regard to the financial matters of its city government. This is irrefutable, given the history of the struggles of Black people in the civil rights movement in America.
Drawing on this historical context, Detroiters demand that any accounting of their own government, any assessment of the city of Detroit’s fiscal health, be made based on the following issues:
* Down through the years, returns to city residents in public services and funding do not equal the federal and state taxes Detroiters have paid. We say federal and state governments owe Detroit because we have not gotten full value for taxes paid to them.
* We think the tax breaks given to municipal bondholders on Wall Street should be shared with Detroit, which sold them the bonds, providing the tax breaks based on Detroit’s municipal status. This must now be given back to Detroit in a substantial forgiveness of current bond debts.
* Finally, the state of Michigan, under former Governor John Engler, made a deal with Detroit under former Mayor Dennis Archer: Detroit would reduce its income taxes in exchange for revenue sharing from the state to the city. The state has not lived up to its end of this bargain. It has cut revenue sharing to Detroit. This reversal has hurt Detroit’s fiscal situation.
Declaring a public emergency because of a fiscal deficit is a fraud. A fiscal deficit does not endanger the public health, safety and welfare. The powers-that-be are using this lie as a cover for robbing the people of Detroit of their vote and their assets, and robbing city workers of wages, benefits and pensions.
In a protest rally at the state Capitol in Lansing this month, state Sen. Coleman Young quoted founding father Patrick Henry, saying, “Give me liberty or give me death.” United Auto Workers President Bob King said the struggle against the tea-Republican Party attacks on the people of Michigan will be responded to by a struggle all the way to November 2012. We in Michigan will follow the lead of our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin.
Photo: The famous sculpture of Joe Louis’ fist, in downtown Detroit. The photographer calls it “a symbol of the strength of Detroit and its people.” ktpupp CC 2.0