The Michigan Legislature passed a package of bills that assign $195 million to help Detroit on the road to financial health. The bailout is unprecedented, but so is the city’s bankruptcy.
The largest city in America’s history to seek the federal court’s protection, Detroit’s crisis is a tragedy that took decades to create, a warning to other American cities with similar problems and a hope that as bad as things got, the Motor City still might be saved.
Gov. Rick Snyder deserves considerable credit. He has long believed Michigan’s biggest city has to be rescued, not left to die.
Snyder understands Detroit is essential to the state’s prosperity and the bad practices that were the city’s undoing must be corrected. He assigned Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to the failing city, a decision that ultimately and inevitably led to Detroit’s bankruptcy protection.
The bailout is the equivalent of $350 million over 20 years. It is to be combined with a $370 million pledge from charitable foundations and $100 million from the Detroit Institute of Arts and an undisclosed amount pledged by two city unions.
But the aid won’t be a matter of throwing more money at Detroit. The money comes with a nine-member oversight commission with the power to veto poor fiscal decisions for at least 13 years. The panel also will set the city’s contributions level to employees’ retirement and health care plans.
There is nothing easy about this grand bargain — and it probably would not have survived were it not for Snyder. To be sure, there were many groups and moving parts that had to come together. But they needed a leader with courage and reason. Snyder met those requirements.
The grand bargain isn’t the final word, of course. Detroit retirees still must approve a 4 percent reduction to their monthly benefits, ending civilian retirees’ cost-of-living adjustments and reducing the COLA for police and fire retirees from 2.4 percent to 1.5 percent.
Detroit retirees are voting on these sacrifices. Lansing’s help should better inform their decision.
If the retirees add their approval, the way will be paved for Detroit’s recovery.
No other American city of its size has gone through bankruptcy. If there is no guarantee Detroit will succeed; at least there is the promise.
— TIMES HERALD (PORT HURON)