Democrats Picked Up Midwest Governor Seats by Vowing to Fix Schools, Potholes

November 7, 2018

The Wall Street Journal

By: Valerie Bauerlein & Kris Maher

Midwesterners elected gubernatorial candidates who promised to boost teacher pay in Wisconsin, fix potholes in Michigan and reverse deep budget cuts in Kansas. These issues, divorced from national politics, fueled Democratic victories across the region. The traditional political battleground helped hand the presidency to President Trump in 2016, but Tuesday’s election shows some of the states are still up for grabs. Governors are particularly powerful now as they increasingly take the lead on energy, health care and transportation policy.

“When you have gridlock in Washington, naturally people turn to the states,” said Jim Hodges, a former Democratic governor of South Carolina who now advises clients on working with governors. “More and more issues are being pushed to the state stage and to the local stage.” Still, political analysts cautioned against reading too much into the Democratic gubernatorial wins in the Midwest, known for its swing states.

Adding governors in the Midwest could help 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, who would be able to rely on governors’ fundraising networks and potential endorsements, analysts said. But three of the four Midwestern Democrats will be working with GOP-led legislatures, so it is unclear how much of their agendas they will be able to implement.

Blue Versus Red

Democrats picked up gubernatorial seats in the Midwest that were GOP-held for years. Democrats picked up a rare win in deep-red Kansas and reclaimed once reliably blue territory in Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. Republicans held on to governors’ seats in Ohio and Iowa. Overall, Democrats added seven governor seats on Tuesday, ending up with 23. Republicans have 26, with Georgia still too close to call. Republicans previously held 33 governorships, while Democrats had 16.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, a former state Senate minority leader who won the governor’s seat in Michigan, ran economically focused ads and won back many blue-collar voters in places like Macomb County, part of the Detroit metro area, said Matt Grossmann, a political scientist at Michigan State University. “She ran the traditional hard-hat campaign where she was at factories with mostly blue-collar men talking about her background,” Mr. Grossmann said. “That’s a quintessential Michigan campaign.”

Voters said they favored Democrats because of state-specific issues such as expanding Medicaid and repairing infrastructure. They played down issues like immigration, which President Trump focused on before the election. Campaign pledges to restore civility also seemed to resonate among voters in a region that often prides itself on being genial. Marsha Luetjen, 72 years old, considers herself an independent and voted for Ms. Whitmer. “We have some of the worst roads in the country,” said Ms. Luetjen, of Brighton Township, Mich., a rural and mostly conservative area between Detroit and Lansing.

Ms. Luetjen said she hopes the new governor will fix roads and potentially lower the state’s income tax on pensions. “I think those are things that she can probably get done without a whole bunch of hoopla from both sides,” she said. The Detroit Regional Chamber endorsed a Democrat for the first time in a generation, choosing Ms. Whitmer over Republican state Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Chamber Chief Executive Sandy Baruah said he was optimistic that Ms. Whitmer’s leadership would lead to key investments in education and transportation, though he worried she might face significant pressure from her base “to do some things we’re going to have to push back against.” Ms. Whitmer said in a press conference Wednesday she was eager to fix roads, lower auto-insurance rates, improve the quality of drinking water and help underperforming schools. She said she planned to meet Wednesday with departing two-term Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

“The people of Michigan expect, want and deserve leaders who can work together to solve problems,” she said. “I think when you talk you can find common ground. But when you’re not talking, you don’t have any shot at it.” In Wisconsin, state schools superintendent Tony Evers narrowly defeated Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who was seeking a third term.

Mr. Evers said he was looking forward to working with the state’s two top Republican lawmakers on his campaign pledges of better schools, better roads and more affordable health care with protections for people with pre-existing conditions. “Knowing we may not fix all our problems with any single person or any election vote, the real work starts tomorrow,” he said Tuesday. “As I said throughout this campaign, it’s time for a change. The voters of Wisconsin spoke, and they agree.”

In Kansas, Laura Kelly, a Democratic state senator who touted her family’s military background, defeated Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Trump ally and strong backer of the administration’s immigration policies. Ms. Kelly campaigned on education and a shift from recent GOP governors’ policies of tax and spending cuts. In a victory speech Tuesday, Ms. Kelly said she would aim to work in a bipartisan way with state lawmakers, and that one of her first priorities would be funding schools.

“I will listen every day to leaders from both parties and to the people of this state,” she said. “We’ll take the best ideas no matter where they come from, and we’ll work together despite our political labels.” Looking ahead, some cautioned there is little correlation between midterm election results and a sitting president’s re-election chances. “The Midwest was historically the swing region, and it remains so,“ said Mr. Grossmann of Michigan State. ”They’ll be swing states from here on out.”

View the original article here

OU takes the next step in furthering higher education availability

The Oakland Post 

Laurel Kraus

November 28, 2017

As of 2015, around 60 percent of Americans had not obtained an associate’s degree or higher, according to Forbes. Oakland University has entered a full partnership with the Detroit Promise Program beginning fall of 2018 to provide Detroit students with the opportunity to combat that statistic.

“We’re trying to create a culture and an understanding in Detroit that if you graduate high school, there is a pathway for you to go on to higher education,” said Greg Handel, vice president of education on the Detroit Regional Chamber.

The Detroit Promise Program, established in 2013, is a scholarship program in which Detroit students are offered the ability to attend either two or four years of college tuition-free.

“Most of our students come from Oakland and Macomb County,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Oakland, James Lentini. “We’d like to actually expand our opportunities for Wayne County students, and Detroit students in particular with the Detroit Promise, to be able to attend Oakland.”

For the previous two years, Oakland has participated through accepting up to five students in the program each year, but with the full partnership it will now be accepting an unlimited number.

“We are trying to increase our presence in the Detroit area,” Director of Financial Aid Cindy Hermsen said. “I think this is another step toward Oakland University expressing our interest in providing access to students throughout the entire state.”

Students who have lived in the city all four years of high school and have graduated from a Detroit school, achieved a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 and earned a minimum score of either 21 on the ACT or 1060 on the SAT, are automatically eligible for the scholarship but must register with the Detroit Chamber of Commerce.

Since Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced the idea for such a program in 2011, the Detroit Regional Chamber has been responsible for managing it, with funding from the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation.

The Detroit Promise Program is considered a last dollar scholarship, which means that Oakland will first accept and apply all other scholarships and/or grants that a student is eligible for before utilizing the program’s scholarship to pay any remaining tuition balance.

“We build on existing sources of support so that we’re really leveraging our resources in a way that allow us to be sustainable,” Handel said.

While the Detroit Promise Program fully covers tuition costs, it does not aid in books or housing.

“We understand that there are still barriers to students being able to continue, but we’ve removed a major one,” Handel said.

Under the program, five classes have graduated from high school and moved into the community college program and two classes have moved into the four-year university program, according to Handel.

As similar scholarship offered at OU is The Wade H. McCree Scholarship Program, which holds the same academic requirements as the Detroit Promise Program, but awards full tuition to students in Detroit, Pontiac and Royal Oak who are nominated by their school districts.


View the original article here.

November 4 Election Edition: Gov. Snyder’s Re-election to Accelerate Michigan’s Reinvention; Chamber-Backed Candidates Sweep State, National Offices

Gov. Snyder’s Re-election to Accelerate Michigan’s Reinvention

The Detroit Regional Chamber congratulates Gov. Rick Snyder in his re-election and echoes his call to accelerate Michigan’s reinvention. It represents a victory of responsible leadership and substantive results over politics as usual. The Governor’s re-election was the Chamber’s No. 1 priority this year.

The Chamber’s Political Action Committee (PAC) endorsed Snyder for his bold leadership, particularly on the New International Trade Crossing, tax system overhaul and Detroit’s bankruptcy. As alluded to during his victory speech, the Governor has been instrumental in laying the foundation for Michigan’s prosperous future by tackling the tough decisions. The Chamber’s public policies have been lockstep with the Governor since he took office in 2011.

The Chamber looks forward to working with Gov. Snyder for another four years to continue Michigan’s momentum, particularly with road funding and education reform. To view a full list of Chamber PAC-endorsed candidates, click here.

Gary Peters Cruises to U.S. Senate Victory

The Detroit Regional Chamber congratulates Congressman Gary Peters in his victory Tuesday for Michigan’s open U.S. Senate seat. He will serve Michigan well in the Senate with his brand of thoughtful, effective leadership.

The Chamber’s Political Action Committee (PAC) endorsed Congressman Peters in June for his leadership on key issues, such as support for the New International Trade Crossing, as well as his substantive knowledge of a broad range of issues. Congressman Peters’ record of bipartisan leadership also earned him other key endorsements including the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The Chamber has an ongoing and productive relationship with Congresman Peters and is looking forward to working with him in the Senate to further move the region and state forward.

Chamber-Backed Candidates Sweep State, National Offices in Tuesday’s Election

Dozens of pro-growth candidates supported by the Detroit Regional Chamber swept their respective races during Tuesday’s election.

Preliminary results show that 91 out of 94 candidates endorsed by the Chamber’s Political Action Committee (PAC), were elected at the local, state and national level, marking an important step in Michigan’s ongoing revitalization. In addition to Rep. Gary Peters’ victory in the U.S. Senate race, all four of the Chamber’s Congressional endorsements, Debbie Dingell, Mike Bishop, Brenda Lawrence and David Trott, won in their respective races.

These successes were emulated at the state and local level as well. In the state Legislature, 59 out of 60 PAC-endorsed state House candidates and 20 out of 21 PAC-endorsed state Senate candidates were elected. Other major victories included two out of three Michigan Supreme Court candidates, as well as candidates for Macomb County Executive, Wayne County Executive, Michigan Attorney General and Secretary of State.

The Chamber was proud to support these candidates due to their commitment to work across the aisle to achieve results for all of Michigan. The PAC diligently spent the past year interviewing and reviewing candidates to determine those who are in the best position to move Michigan forward. To view a full list of Chamber PAC-endorsed candidates, click here.

Two-Day Detroit Expo Benefits Local Veterans This Week

Military veterans in Southeast Michigan can meet with over 150 agencies, employers and universities at the 2014 Detroit Veteran Expo Nov. 7-8 at Cobo Center hosted by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA).

The Expo is a one-stop shop, featuring resources and information in areas including employment, education, health care and military benefits. On Nov. 8, veterans, active duty military members, guard and reserve members, and military spouses can participate in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s “Hiring Our Heroes” job fair held in conjunction with the Expo from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The job fair is another shining example of Michigan’s willingness, echoed during the 2014 MICHauto Summit, to put military veterans back to work in order to capitalize on their job-ready skills that can help the state succeed in the global economy. The Chamber remains committed to helping veterans succeed in Michigan’s workforce. Click here for more information and to register for the event.

October 16: Registration Open for 2015 Detroit Policy Conference; Gov. Snyder’s Results, Leadership in Michigan’s Reinvention Evident in Debate

Registration Open for 2015 Detroit Policy Conference

Registration for the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2015 Detroit Policy Conference, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 26 at the MotorCity Casino Hotel, is now open. The Conference highlights the positive message of Detroit’s ongoing economic resurgence by bringing together key business, community and political leaders to inspire innovative solutions and urban revitalization. By increasing dialogue between urban and suburban decision-makers, the Conference encourages collaborative efforts to grow business and shape the city and the region’s future.

The 2015 Conference will build off of the momentum from last year’s event, which attracted more than 700 people to downtown Detroit. Click here to register for the event. Stay tuned for speaker updates, agenda and program announcements.

Gov. Snyder’s Results, Leadership in Michigan’s Reinvention Evident in Debate

Citing Michigan’s business growth and job creation as an overarching theme of his administration, Gov. Rick Snyder’s bold leadership was prominently displayed during a televised gubernatorial debate with Democratic challenger Mark Schauer at Wayne State University on Sunday.

Since taking office, Snyder said Michigan has created nearly 300,000 private sector jobs and has one of the highest rates in the nation for per capita personal income growth. Snyder also highlighted the state Legislature’s repeal of the overly burdensome Michigan Business Tax, promoted Detroit’s emergence from bankruptcy, and commended state lawmakers for increasing education spending by $1.1 billion in his first term.

The debate demonstrated that, while Schauer continues to attack the Governor’s record without putting forth a substantive plan to move Michigan forward, the Governor has a clear vision to power the state’s continued comeback. If re-elected, Snyder said his top priorities will be creating more and better jobs for Michigan, investing in the future and promoting good governance. Click here to watch highlights from the debate.

Candidate Spotlight: Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive)

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Political Action Committee (PAC) supports candidates from across the state that advocate for pro-growth policies that are beneficial to Michigan’s economy. State Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) has a strong record of authoring legislation that enables businesses to thrive in Michigan, earning him the endorsement of the PAC.

In 2011, Meekhof was one of the leading voices actively working to repeal the complicated and burdensome Michigan Business Tax and replace it with the Corporate Income Tax (CIT). The passage of the CIT was met with praise from the business community, and its implementation helped set the foundation for a reinvigorated economy in Southeast Michigan.

Meekhof’s years of experience in both the Michigan House of Representatives as well as the Michigan Senate will continue to be a vital component to Southeast Michigan’s resurgence.

For a full list of Chamber-endorsed candidates, click here.

Governor Snyder Opens 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference

“Credit doesn’t matter. Solving the problem is what matters,” said Governor Rick Snyder as he kicked off the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference this afternoon. Gov. Snyder took the stage to address Michigan’s path forward in relation to the Conference pillars of education, cultural change and the 21st century global market following an introduction by Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah and 2013 Conference Chair and the Chairman, President and CEO of ITC Holdings Corp., Joseph Welch.

Snyder opened the Conference discussion by focusing on his strategy to follow through on each of the Conference pillars and their impact on all Michiganders, beginning with Michigan’s role in the 21st century global market. He stressed the fact that Michigan should take a step back, look at what made it great and focus on the importance of engaging in business outside of state borders and globally. He also pointed to innovative ideas as a crucial global commodity.

In looking at education and its role in Michigan’s future, Gov. Snyder pointed to the advantage of having speakers like Gov. Jeb Bush participating in the Conference. He stressed his focus on lifelong and early childhood education as well as the need to move away from the silos of education levels. And to close his remarks, Gov. Snyder discussed cultural change as one of the toughest issues he faced when running for office. He said Michigan has become too divisive and focused on the old ways of doing business. He reiterated his mantra of relentless positive action by pointing out the need for a positive, forward-looking and inclusive cultural environment.

“Let’s have a great discussion, but then let’s spread the word,” said Gov. Snyder. “It’s about all of us being ambassadors to succeed.”

He is also scheduled to give a keynote address to attendees on Friday at 11 a.m.

Tom Walsh: New bridge is an opportunity region can’t waste

By Tom Walsh

From the Detroit Free Press

April 14, 2013

Now that President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department have officially chosen to accept Canada’s gift of a free bridge at the Detroit-Windsor border crossing by issuing a permit for the project, Michigan’s obligation is to put it to good use.

That’s not a given in a state that has squandered or underutilized assets in the past. More on that later.

First, we can celebrate the green light given to the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) for what it is — a symbol of a region looking forward, investing in growth.

“For those of us who are in the economic development business, it gives us something to sell. We now will have a visible symbol and an actual tool to make it a lot easier to attract companies that are involved in international trade,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

David Egner, head of the New Economy Initiative for Southeastern Michigan, said research has shown that Michigan could create a series of logistics hubs that would yield 66,000 new jobs — partly by capturing business that now flows through congested Chicago — but only if a new border crossing provides capacity to handle more traffic.

“It could change the game, including for the west side of the state,” Egner said. “This is a perfect east-west partnership, because today if manufacturers on the west side ship through Chicago, it sits for three days before it moves.”

While border crossing data show that Ambassador Bridge traffic has not fully recovered from the slump after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the NITC project suggests a brighter future, a region on the move.

“The past trajectory of the bridge traffic has mirrored the trajectory of the Big Three automakers,” Baruah said. “As we see their sales start to spike, their challenge is that if the capacity of the bridge between the U.S. and Canada is constrained, then where are they going to add future capacity to build their cars, now that their trajectory is higher?”

The near-term stimulus of construction jobs is important, too. “This bridge is going to take years to build and will probably have, at various times, tens of thousands of people working on it,” Baruah said. “Even though those are short-term jobs, they feed a narrative of good things happening in Michigan.”

When I asked Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday whether Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun might now be ready to drop efforts to block the NITC project, Snyder said he hasn’t seen any such signals yet, but he is open to discussion on how the public and private bridges could coexist.

“You hope at some point that people recognize this project’s going to move forward because it’s for the benefit of Michiganders,” Snyder said. “I’m always open, and I hope the Canadians are open to sitting down to talk. This is one of those milestones that hopefully reinforces the fact that this project should happen and will happen.”

Whatever tack Moroun takes with the existing bridge, it’s crucial that Michigan’s business and civic leaders hunker down seriously to maximize the benefits of the NITC by laying the groundwork for new industries and for expanding existing businesses.

A classic example of failing to capitalize on a major asset has been the region’s lackluster effort to take advantage of the outstanding McNamara Terminal and other upgrades at Detroit Metro Airport.

It has been 11 years now since the 122-gate, $1.2-billion McNamara Terminal opened, winning raves from travelers and the news media alike. But once visitors leave Metro Airport’s baggage claim area, they are peeved to discover they must fork over $70 for a ride to a downtown Detroit business hotel, or nearly $90 to get to Birmingham.

How can a region that’s serious about business and growth put up with the lack of even a mediocre system of shuttles to get people from the airport to major lodging and conference spots in the region? Thankfully, the Metro Detroit Convention & Visitors Bureau is working on a proposal to improve airport transit. Let’s hope they come up with something workable — and soon.

Meanwhile, we should look at the new bridge the same way we look at the airport: It’s a tremendous potential asset, but it must leveraged.

Just as there’s been much talk about the growth potential of an Aerotropolis development area between Metro and Willow Run airports, there has also been much talk of maximizing the busy border crossing to attract more logistics and freight business.

“There are bunches of plans on paper, but nothing that’s been done in an aggregated manner that makes sense and that the state has embraced,” Egner said.

By the time shovels are in the ground for NITC construction, let’s hope there’s movement on how best to take advantage of it.

Contact Tom Walsh: 313-223-4430 or

Saving Detroit: New Manager Targets ‘Greatest Turnaround’ in U.S. History

By Mark Guarino

March 14, 2013

From The Christian Science Monitor

The man slated to guide Detroit to fiscal solvency in the largest state takeover of a city in United States history described his new job Thursday as “the Olympics of restructuring.”

That could be an understatement.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has stepped in to appoint Kevyn Orr, a restructuring specialist who represented Chrysler during its 2009 bankruptcy, as emergency financial manager for the Motor City.

Mr. Orr comes to a city that is drowning under nearly $15 billion in long-term debt and undergoing major population loss. Moreover, the state’s decision to intervene has been fraught with racial undertones, and the Detroit City Council has made it clear that it wants the governor to butt out. Some of the more than 40 unions currently under contract with the city are expected to take legal action if they’re asked to take too large a cut.

Orr spoke to the difficulties ahead when he told reporters at his introduction Thursday: “If we can do this, I will have participated in the greatest turnaround in the history of this country and something I can tell my grandkids about. It is very inviting and exciting.”

Earlier this month, Governor Snyder declared the city is suffering a financial emergency. A state review found Detroit has been dealing with annual deficits since 2005, and that it has unsuccessfully sought to fix them through long-term borrowing.

While Mayor Dave Bing says he intends to cooperate with Snyder and Orr, the city council has opposed state intervention since last summer, when members launched a legal challenge to the consent agreement that gave the state a larger role in overseeing the city’s finances.

“Whoever is picked, they will make that person’s life is extremely difficult, professionally and personally,” says Ken Sikkema, a senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, a public policy think tank in Lansing, Mich, and a former Republican majority leader in the state Senate.

That resentment has festered over decades. As the population of Detroit has dwindled – due to a suffering auto industry and other economic hardships – the city has become more isolated, both politically and racially, from the rest of the state.

Today, Detroit stands in stark contrast with the rest of Michigan: While Republicans control state politics, Detroit is Michigan’s largest Democratic stronghold. Its leadership and population are overwhelmingly black, also in contrast to the rest of the state.

“You’ve got the racial undertones, the union issues, the loss of political power, all of these things are intertwined; you can’t really sort them all out,” says Mr. Sikkema.

The time frame for the emergency financial manager to make a turnaround is 18 months, which “is not enough time” to make a full recovery, although certain things are achievable, says Eric Scorsone, an economist at Michigan State University in East Lansing, who is also on Mayor Bing’s restructuring team.

What can Orr do?

Business leaders say they are anxious for an emergency financial manager to address glaring inefficiencies in the city’s bureaucracy.

“The billing for [property] taxes has been sporadic at best,” says Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and a former US assistant secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush. “Companies may be getting bills from the tax department that are legitimately owed, but it was news to them, or bills they haven’t received for years. This goes to a competency issue. ”

“The percentage of taxes owed but not collected by the city government, both by residents and companies, is phenomenally large,” he adds. “Just the competency and efficiency in tax collection would go a long way to resolving at least some of the financial challenges.”

To be sure, the city needs cash, since it is expected to have only about $3 million by the end of June. Immediate options include cutting payroll, cutting vendor contracts, and privatizing unessential services. The idea would be to make the city government do less, but more effectively.

“The emergency financial manager has to figure out what are core services and what are non-core services and how do we balance these things,” says Mr. Scorsone of the restructuring team.

“I’d be looking at where can I show some success in terms of reconciling some level of service to the people of Detroit,” such as more street lights, expedited garbage pickup, and additional police on the streets,” says public policy analyst Sikkema. “Something that effects people everyday and makes them say, ‘Wait a minute, life is better than it was.’ ”

Any plan could face opposition from the city’s union leadership, leading to delays.

Another option would be bankruptcy, which could be used as leverage against the unions if they refuse to concede to certain changes, Scorsone says.

On Thursday, Orr said “everything is on the table,” and his expertise is in bankruptcy.

“It’s too early to say bankruptcy is likely, it’s certainly a possibility. We’ll see over the next few months if the situation gets bogged down in lawsuits and nobody wants to agree to anything,” Scorsone says.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is time. With 18 months to steer the city toward a path of financial recovery, Orr needs to show his merit, especially after a year or more of legal wrangling and insider deadlock at city hall.

The problem, after all, was more than a few years in the making, said Mayor Bing Thursday. “The financial crisis didn’t start four years ago, it was out of neglect over the last 40 and 50 years, and people who were in key positions did not make the tough decisions.”

Beyond Detroit, City Takeover May Benefit Michigan Governor

By Nick Carey

Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:20pm EDT


(Reuters) – Rick Snyder’s decision to put Detroit in the hands of an emergency financial manager on Thursday may not go down well in the heavily Democratic Motor City, but the Republican governor has the chance to go down in Michigan history as the man who saved Detroit.

The biggest state takeover of an American city in over two decades comes the year before many expect the businessman-turned-governor to seek re-election in 2014. In any political calculating, Snyder probably didn’t count on Detroiters getting him to a second term.

“The people of Detroit are not going to vote for Rick Snyder anyway,” said Bill Ballenger, a longtime pundit and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics. “I think there is a fairly strong majority of people outside Detroit who feel an emergency manager should be appointed.”

For fixing the finances of the majority black city, Snyder tapped Kevyn Orr, an African-American lawyer and life-long Democrat who studied in Michigan and specializes in corporate bankruptcy. At his presentation to the Detroit media on Thursday, Orr acknowledged the political pressures on Snyder, including from those who asked why he was spending so much time on Detroit.

He said the governor told him, “It is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

In his first political office, Snyder, the former chief executive of venture capital firm Ardesta, has earned the reputation in the governor’s mansion as a businessman who gets things done, with little regard for the political fall-out. His campaign to rescue Detroit has the tone of an impatient CEO, employing the slogan “Detroit Can’t Wait.”

Orr’s appointment will likely usher in a new period of painful cutbacks for a city long in decline, but he said he wants to avoid sending Detroit to bankruptcy court. Such a filing, if allowed by the state, would be the biggest Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.


Formerly home to 1.8 million people, Detroit once had significant electoral muscle in Michigan. But Detroit’s population has fallen to around 700,000 people, or less than 8 percent of the state’s population, and the city has less support in the state capital, Lansing, than it did during its heyday.

The former automotive powerhouse’s decline has long been compounded by financial troubles that are almost as well known as the music that made Motown famous.

“Make no mistake, Detroit is bankrupt,” said Jim McTevia, a specialist in restructuring and managing member of management and financial consultant McTevia & Associates. “In this set of circumstances there is no downside for the governor.

“I think Snyder will be remembered as the politician who saved Detroit.”

Cuts by the administration of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to stave off the appointment of an emergency manager were vigorously opposed by some members of the city’s council.

There have also been small protests in the city over the prospect of an unelected official taking over Detroit’s purse strings. Pastor D. Alexander, a local leader of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said Snyder would suffer for a takeover if he runs for a second term in 2014.

“Governor Snyder risks wakening a sleeping giant,” he said. “If Detroit comes alive, he will not be re-elected.”

On Thursday, flanking Snyder and Orr, Bing showed his support for the emergency manager, saying, “There is no doubt that we are going to work together.”


McTevia, the consultant, said a crucial point for Snyder is that any emergency financial manager will need help from city officials to succeed.

“This will take team work to fix,” he said.

Michigan’s governor also has the support of much of the local business community, which has applauded his support for a new bridge to Canada, which many conservatives oppose, and for regional transit and lighting authorities in Detroit.

“The reason why we are so supportive of the governor is that here’s a Republican who has clearly chosen to support Detroit,” Sandy Baruah, chief executive of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Governor Snyder is very pragmatic, not dogmatic.

“He’s all about getting stuff done.”

Lyke Thompson, a political analyst at Wayne State University, said that while taking over Detroit’s finances “could be a win” for Snyder if the move is successful, the opposite would be true if the city ended up in bankruptcy as that “would happen on his watch.”

“Things could get worse before they get better,” he said.

Whether or not Snyder worries about what effect a state takeover would have on his re-election chances in 2014 is another matter. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

Since taking office in 2011, Snyder has frequently annoyed small-government conservatives, as he did last month with a plan to expand Medicaid and raise the gas tax for road repairs.

The governor also incensed liberals and the labor movement in December by signing “right-to-work” legislation that allows workers to opt out of union membership.

“I think the governor looks at issues through the eyes of a businessman and looks for solutions,” said Pat O’Keefe, CEO of turnaround consultant O’Keefe. “I don’t think Rick Snyder cares one way or another if he doesn’t get reelected.

“And if he is successful he will have essentially established the blueprint for restructuring a major city’s finances.”

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Adler)

Detroit Regional Chamber says it supports governor’s decision to appoint emergency financial manager


March 4, 2013

By David Muller

DETROIT, MI – The Detroit Regional Chamber says it supports Gov. Rick Snyder’s decision to appoint an emergency financial manager for the city of Detroit, saying such an appointee would be able to make “quick and difficult decisions that have eluded city government.”

Snyder announced his decision to appoint an emergency financial manger for the city Friday at Wayne State University. He said he has a candidate in mind. His announcement began a 10-day period in which the city can appeal.

Last month, Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah told international business journal The Economist that an emergency financial manger would be “both expected and welcomed.” The statement released by the chamber in the wake of Gov. Snyder’s decision reiterated some his comments.

In the statement, the chamber says that while there are “tremendous revitalization efforts occurring in the private sector,” there is still a “final barrier” to Detroit’s rebirth: financial and government stability.

“While there has been important progress under Mayor Dave Bing, the Chamber echoes the Governor’s sentiments that the status quo is no longer acceptable and the city’s citizens, neighborhoods and businesses deserve more rapid change,” the chamber’s statement reads.

Detroit faces $14 billion in long-term debt and an annual deficit of $327 million. Many of its 700,000 residents, which is less than half of its peak population six decades ago, are having trouble paying their taxes amid widespread poverty.

“The Chamber encourages business leaders to continue to distinguish between the fiscal challenges facing city government and the positive business trends in Detroit, and to continue to work with public and private partners to revitalize Detroit,” the statement reads.

Detroit Regional Chamber Supports Gov. Snyder’s Call for ‘All Hands on Deck’ to Transform Detroit

Private sector recovery needs long-term fiscal solution for city.

The Detroit Regional Chamber supports Governor Rick Snyder’s call for increased collaboration and “all hands on deck” as he declared the city of Detroit in financial emergency during a special town hall meeting today at Wayne State University. Chamber CEO and President Sandy K. Baruah attended the event to show support for the Governor and the new path forward, building on the positive growth under way as the business community leads Detroit’s transformation.

As demonstrated during yesterday’s Detroit Policy Conference, the tremendous revitalization efforts occurring in the private sector speak to the unrivaled potential of the Motor City. The final barrier to Detroit’s ongoing renaissance is financial stability and local government stability – an emergency manager will be in a position to make the quick and difficult decisions that have eluded city government. While there has been important progress under Mayor Dave Bing, the Chamber echoes the Governor’s sentiments that the status quo is no longer acceptable and the city’s citizens, neighborhoods and businesses deserve more rapid change.

The Chamber encourages business leaders to continue to distinguish between the fiscal challenges facing city government and the positive business trends in Detroit, and to continue to work with public and private partners to revitalize Detroit. As the Governor said: “Let’s come together as Detroit, Michigan – not Detroit versus Michigan.” Read more from the Governor on his blog.

The Governor is encouraging an open dialogue on the topic of an emergency manager. For more information or to share your input, visit the Governor’s “Detroit Can’t Wait” website.