It’s official: half of Michigan African Americans will go without democratically-elected local government


How do you build a city up armed only with implements of destruction?

This afternoon, Governor Rick Snyder announced that he will appoint an Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit calling it a “sad day” that he wished “had never happened in the history of Detroit”. As I have already detailed in a post that has been cited by MSNBC and Huffington Post among others, this will result in 49% of the African Americans in Michigan being without a democratically-elected government.

Here’s my now-famous chart once again (with the African American population in Michigan updated to the correct 14.3% figure):

City Population % African American # of African Americans
Allen Park 27,921 2.1% 586
Benton Harbor 10,047 89.2% 8,962
Detroit 706,585 82.7% 584,346
Ecorse 9,414 46.4% 4,368
Flint 101,558 56.6% 57,482
Pontiac 59,887 52.1% 31,201
Total 686,945
Michigan 9,876,801 14.3% 1,412,383

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

Here’s what that looks like graphically in this chart graciously provided by my good friends at They Rachel Maddow Show from their coverage last week:

Rev. D. Alexander Bullock issued a warning today:

Today’s announcement will add to the growing tension in Michigan. We wait to see if austerity will trump democracy and prosperity. Emergency management has not been tried on a city the size of Detroit in Michigan. The experiences of Benton Harbor and Pontiac don’t provide a good basis for arguing for the success of emergency management in Detroit. Today, we continue to push to protect our voting rights and demand a sustainable holistic reinvestment approach to solve Detroit’s problem.

Krystal Crittendon, candidate for Detroit mayor, put out a press release earlier this week suggesting the Financial Review Team has reported wildly inflated numbers. It is her contention that Detroit is not in nearly as bad shape as the Governor’s team reported:

The Financial Review Team’s findings in their report concerning the City of Detroit’s financial status should come as no surprise to anyone. The bottom line: the Report provides no justification for the appointment of an emergency financial manager, especially when it makes no mention of $800 million in accounts receivable owed to the City as confirmed by State Treasurer Andy Dillon.

Crittendon, the former Corporation Counsel for the City of Detroit Law Department released another statement today that said, in part:

I urge the Governor to consider the many flaws and inaccuracies contained in the Financial Review Team’s report.

The validity of the EFM and EM laws notwithstanding, I am glad to know now that we have been joined by other civic leaders who agree with our assessment, that if the City were to collect the money it is owed by private corporations and by the State of Michigan, there would be no economic crisis.

We continue to ask for transparency in the resolution of this fiscal matter. We need to have a full review of everything which is owed to the City, as well as everything that the City must pay.

Lisa Howze, another candidate for mayor, concurs:

[T]he state of Michigan’s review team amplified Detroit’s financial obligations by nearly 13 billion dollars. This amount principally includes 6 billion dollars in water and sewage revenue bonds; 5 billion dollars in other post-employment benefit costs accelerated by 25 years; and, 1.5 billion dollars in pension obligation certificates that have an offsetting asset for virtually the same amount.

After a three-month review of the city’s financial reports, Howze and [CPA Randy] Lane presented how the city’s audited financial statements show long-term financial obligations at 2.1 billion dollars. “Debt is not something we fear. Debt is something we manage. The water and sewage revenue bonds are covered by water rate payers and are not at-risk of default,” said Howze during today’s press conference. Lane added that, “Revenues in the water department reached a record 800 million dollars in fiscal year 2012.”

According to Howze, “The reported long-term financial obligations of 2.1 billion dollars comprised principally of $1.1 billion dollars in interest-bearing debt and another 620 million dollars in obligations for retiree health care costs are manageable. There is no need for a state-appointed emergency manager.

A third mayoral candidate, Sheriff Benny Napoleon, agrees as well. He issued a statement today saying, “I also have serious questions about the veracity of the state review team’s report that appears to have overstated the city’s long-term debt, a question the Governor failed addressed in his news conference.”

I’m not an expert or a CPA so I can’t comment on the veracity of the claims of these candidates (though I’ll confess I am a bit skeptical.) What I will say is that I still believe a managed bankruptcy is a far better option for Detroit. It’s one that allows elected officials to remain in power and takes the politics out of the equation. I also believe that the solution to Detroit’s problems will not come at the hand of a single person who has only tools for cutting and slashing in their arsenal. Until Michigan gets serious about real urban renewal in our failing urban centers, the downward spiral into gentrification will stop only when everyone that can has left Detroit. Then, developers and businesses will swoop in to pick the carcass to pieces then exploit these cities for their own personal profit. It truly is the only foreseeable endgame unless something is done to revitalize them.

However, what I or anyone else thinks matters little because, at the end of the day, it’s up to Governor Rick Snyder. He is the one that has all of the power.

  • Carolyn 4444

    I’d like to know more particulars of how a bankruptcy’s procedures & requirements would differ from implementing an emergency manager. It seems that a managed bankruptcy would be a lesser evil than dismantling a democracy!

    • My understanding is that Michigan law does not allow cities to file for bankruptcy without first having gone through the emergency manager process. In any event a federal bankruptcy would be equally if not more destructive to local democratic norms as the emergency manager.

      • This is incorrect. Local democracy is preserved under the municipal bankruptcy process. It’s also one of four choices available under the new version of the law that kicks in later this month (if the governor allows it, of course.)

        • No. In terms of control and decision making, bankruptcy is equally bad or a worse option than the emergency manager law under PA 72. A federal bankruptcy judge doesn’t need to do anything the mayor or city council wants. They will be irrelevant.

          It’s likely that an emergency manager will be in place before March 27 , which means s/he would be working under authority of PA 72, not PA 436.

          But in any event I still think this is rearranging ships on the Titanic. Detroit has no likely way out of its liabilities, at least no way that does not involve other governments bailing it out. But if Detroiters are convinced that bankruptcy is the best option, that’s fine. Go for it. It would greatly clarify issues if the governor stayed completely out.

  • Bob

    Why are you making a racial point out of this? Yes it’s awful that Detroit is having fiscal problems, but it’s awful for everyone involved, of all colors.

    • Toka313

      Because it’s racial. To ignore the racial implications is turning a blind eye to it.

      • Bob


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  • How is this NOT a racial issue? OVER 50% OF MI.AFRICAN AMERICAN POP. IS UNDER AN E.M. (DICTATOR LAW). Pretty self explanitory. As a resident of Benton Harbor, I’ve seen first hand what can go wrong. Thank God, Joe Harris is gone, we are waiting to see what developes with Tony Saunders. But, any time your local legislative voice is silenced, the people are too. Getting the real stories out there to people who don’t LIVE in these cities isn’t easy. THANK YOU Eclectablog! (and Ms. Maddow) The coverage of the Dictatorship of MIch. has been amazing, and TRUTHFUL.

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  • The fiscal condition of the city is NOT the real topic. What we are talking about is removing the authority of democratically elected officials and replacing them with a single dictator, making democracy null and void. Regardless of a city’s fiscal condition or the racial makeup of its’ citizens, overruling democratically elected officials is NOT democracy, and our US government should STEP IN. And I bet it is just a “coincidence” that the cities Rick Snyder chooses are overwhelmingly democrat and minority. The implications are devastating to everything our democracy stands for.

    • You just summed up nearly two years of my blogging in one paragraph.

  • rikyrah

    thank you for your continued and persistent reporting of this travesty

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  • I tend to think that Snyder should have stayed out of the process entirely not because an emergency manager is unwarranted but because I think bankruptcy is almost inevitable anyway.

    Now Snyder and the manager he appoints becomes the focal point of Detroit voters and politicians instead of an issue that was forseeable at least a decade prior. And Crittenden’s claim that the state owes Detroit $ 200 million or more is almost certainly fallacious.

    The Michigan constitution also does not allow the setting aside of pension liabilities. Federal bankruptcy just might. Again, there aren’t any good answers here. But things could not continue as they were.

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