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Commentary: The week that was

This was the week in  which Detroit got an emergency manager and the state got a right-to-work law.  That is to say, the law took effect this week. I’d say that makes for a pretty  newsworthy few days. Some things this week were entirely  predictable.  Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton showed up to protest the  Emergency Manager. Crowds of demonstrators appeared at Detroit’s city hall  crowds which swelled when TV cameras showed up.

The first major lawsuit  was filed against the emergency manager law, and the Detroit Tigers sent an  exciting new spring phenom, closer Bruce Rondon, down to the minor  leagues. That story is worth mentioning, by the way, because a  newspaper computer analysis shows that more people read it today than read any  of the stories about the state or city‘s drama.

Some stories were not  that expected, but not surprising. The new emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, decided  to keep the mayor and the city council on the payroll. This hasn’t usually been  the case in other emergency manager cities, and strikes me as  brilliant. Added up, their salaries and benefits probably come to less  than one point five million dollars a year. When you are dealing with a fifteen  billion dollar problem, that’s the equivalent of loose change  under the  sofa cushions. If Kevyn Orr can gain their cooperation and buy political peace  while he does his job, that will be well worth it.

Something else came  to light, however, that raised more eyebrows. Orr will be working with his old  law firm, the Cleveland-based Jones Day, to restructure Detroit’s finances. The  city hired the firm a few days  before Governor Snyder picked Orr. Using  Jones Day to do the heavy lifting makes perfect sense in some ways. The firm  specializes in this kind of work, and Orr is certainly familiar with how they  operate. Some, however, are already grumbling that he is using Detroit  to drum up business for his old firm. We’ll see how this  works.

Actually, we have yet to see how any of this will work. So far,  things seem to be going well. Tugboats haven’t arrived to pull Belle Isle away,  and moving vans aren’t taking the treasures in the Detroit Institute of Arts  away to be sold.

Not yet, anyway. Nor are either of those things apt to  happen, ever.  But within months, Kevyn Orr is sure to announce some  decisions that will be dramatic, shocking, and life-changing. After all, that’s  why he’s  here.

It will be interesting to see how people react when he  finally starts doing the hard stuff. As for the Right-to-Work law, we’ll  probably have to wait till the first major round of auto contract negotiations  before we start to see how this is really going to affect things, long-term. But  my guess is that in the case of both the emergency manager and right to work,  things are bound to turn our somewhat differently than we thought.

Ten years  ago, nobody could have imagined either one. But I would have bet then that I’d  go to my grave without seeing same sex-marriage or a black president. 

As Chuck Berry used to sing, You Never Can Tell. 

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