Big things are happening in Detroit. And I take a tricky stance on it in The New Republic. From my article:
It's hard not to feel like a failure. Detroit, my home since 2007, will soon be taken over by an emergency financial manager, hand picked by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Detroit's difficulty in financing public services over 139-square miles is well known, and the state-declared emergency is not surprising. I knew the EM was coming, which is why I am surprised at how tremendously sad I feel. For decades, talented people have worked so hard. There is more that is inspiring in Detroit than people realize when their acquaintance with the city is as thin as a headline. But it has not been enough to thwart the city's long decline. Which is why, despite my sadness, I find myself cautiously optimistic about temporary emergency management.
Because it is an emergency in Detroit. The scale of the disaster is scarcely comprehensible. Saddled with billions of dollars of debt, the current system can't do much beyond treading water. There are a lot of reasons for this—the auto industry, urban sprawl, white flight and institutionalized racism, revenue-sharing cuts, political corruption, disinvestment. Mayoral candidates like Mike Duggan and Lisa Howze are contesting the EM decision. (So did the city council, which officially challenged the state's conclusion.) However Detroit's current mayor, Dave Bing, stood alongside Snyder at yesterday’s press conference announcing Kevyn Orr, a Washington lawyer, as EM. "I'm happy that now I've got a team," Bing said. "Now I've got partners. Our citizens obviously deserve more than they're getting. … Today marks the beginning of bringing health back to the City of Detroit."
To my astonishment, I find myself agreeing. Snyder, a Republican, appointed Orr as EM, a self-described "lifelong Democrat" who helped guide Chrysler through its 2009 bankruptcy. If his time here is appropriately limited—he says he could complete his job in 18 months—he could be a crucial part of this city's future. Michigan's long track record with emergency management has some noteworthy successes, after all. The best hope for Detroit is that Orr learns from this history.
About the image: Nice light on a walk this past autumn. Looking towards the Fisher Building on Second Avenue in my neighborhood, New Center. That's the old General Motors world headquarters on the right.