Saturday, April 28, 2012

Detroit’s ‘SOS’ Stands for ‘Sink Our Ship’

The Detroit News article reporting on President Barack Obama’s campaign appearance at the Henry Ford Museum last week (“Obama makes Michigan campaign stops, says rivals out of touch”)  noted that he gave his speech “[j]ust steps way from the museum's "Driving America" exhibit and the presidential limousines used by Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy.”

It would have been more fitting to note that he was just steps away from the Titanic centennial exhibit, and just a few miles from where Detroit, his particularly dedicated constituency, is slipping beneath the waves.

Aside from sinking with few survivors, Detroit’s comparison with the Titanic ends there. The crew of the Titanic used everything they had available to alert nearby ships of their need for help, without success, most notably when the nearby steamer Californian failed to respond to the Titanic’s distress rockets. Unlike the Titanic’s crew, Detroit’s leaders, mover, shakers, clergy and other civic megaphones have been doing everything they can think of to keep help from arriving.

It’s not that they want the ship to sink, exactly. They just want all the city’s ingrained inefficiencies, corruptions, and sweetheart deals, the very things that give them their power, to remain off-limits. Put another way, they’re Pro-Iceberg. Not only don’t these guys have no alternative ideas for how to save the city, but they’re more than willing to see it all go down the drain rather than relax their grip on power in the slightest.

At this bleak moment in the city’s life help is coming in the form of the appointment of an emergency manager to save the city from bankruptcy. Appointed by the governor, an EM can break contracts, privatize long-neglected basic city services, and force the city to live within its means.

On Thursday a Board of State Canvassers split along party lines to reject a petition to put a repeal of the EM law on the ballot in November. The Board ruled that the petition failed to substantially comply with Michigan election law requiring a minimum font size for the headline.

Immediately after the vote, opponents swarmed [Jeffrey ]Timmer and [Norman] Shinkle, pointing fingers inches from the Republicans' faces and shouting their disapproval.

More than 140 repeal supporters chanted "shame, shame, shame" and shouted down board members who tried to explain their decision.

"I was pushed and shoved and spit at," Timmer said later. "I was expecting that there would be protests but I wasn't expecting the mayhem."

Detroit NAACP president Reverend Wendell Anthony declared that “The Constitution was not judged on the basis of font size," and vowed the repeal effort is “not over.”

Even Rashid Baydoun, now executive director of the Arab-American Civil Rights League, reportedly “struggled to contain his emotions after the vote.” Since the ACRL’s civil-rights mission, according to the group itself, is combating defamations of the Arab-American community on the Internet and other forms of media,” we don’t see what investment Baydoun would have in the repeal of Public Act 4, as it is of little or no interest to Detroit’s tiny Arab-American community. We pegged Baydoun as a political climber from the get-go, and figure he was most choked up about getting his name in the paper.


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