by Tom Stephens
When Capital comes to collect, laws don’t matter; even unjust laws are being broken to speed the process of stripping Detroit of its last “asset.” The question must now be raised: “At what point do you destroy a city to satisfy the creditors?”
Zen Throat-Cutting in Detroit
by Tom Stephens
"Now look, I’m a trial attorney. I can cut somebody’s throat and leave them to bleed out in the gutter with the best of them. But I didn’t want to do that. That’s not my role in this job. My role in this job is sort of the zen of emergency management."
– Detroit Emergency Manager Fascist Kevyn Orr (June 10, 2013)
“Emergency managers make unjust laws; they don’t follow them.”
What laws, if any, do Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, the Jones Day law firm and Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr  think they are working under? The answer is apparently none. Not even the requirements of their own “emergency management” legislation, rammed through a compliant lame duck legislature without any democratic process at all – no hearings or amendments or debate allowed – in December 2012. This was their replacement for Snyder’s previous “dictator” statute, rejected by Michigan voters in November.
Because according to the terms of that bastard legislation, in February 2013 a state-appointed February Financial Review Team was supposedly studying Detroit’s financial crisis and making recommendations to the Governor. And they were meeting and claimed to be studying the situation, all right. But we now know that at that time in the background the Governor was secretly offering the job of Detroit Emergency Manager to Jones Day bankruptcy lawyer Kevyn Orr.
Meanwhile, and also in secret, Orr’s giant 2,400-lawyer corporate law firm was negotiating a lucrative contract for itself as Detroit’s “restructuring counsel.” The race to impose self-interested corporate “solutions” on Detroit was on.
Three months after the joint appointment and retention of Orr and Jones Day as Detroit’s government, with extraordinary “emergency” powers and without any effective checks or balances at all, the time came under the “emergency management” statute for Orr to issue a “financial and operating plan.” This mandatory statutory requirement was evaded by the simple expedient of issuing a financial crisis rehash report on May 12, 2013, that doesn’t even begin to provide any such plan. “Emergency managers” make unjust laws; they don’t follow them.
“The race to impose self-interested corporate ‘solutions’ on Detroit was on.”
Then in June 2013 when the statute required a “public informational meeting,” again no problem for Detroit’s new Jones Day form of government. They announced a meeting on less than 48 hours notice in a room that only holds about 260 people; restricted entry to mostly hand-picked supporters; allowed only 20 people in a city of 700,000 1 minute each to comment on the “restructuring” of the city. We are getting a very clear picture of how Jones Day, Orr and Snyder intend to “solve” Detroit’s problems. Go behind closed doors, make them worse, and then charge an outrageous premium for the service.
The disgraceful scene in the foyer of (my) Wayne State University law school before that “public” meeting, for me symbolized the arrogant and lawless essence of the whole “emergency management” and “restructuring” scam. At the moment when the biggest cop I've seen for quite a while told the diverse crowd packed into the alcove outside the meeting to move back and get out (which was not immediately possible unless those in the rear at the exit doors complied, which they didn't). As soon as the uniformed police officer in charge ordered people to move back, the 8 or 10 best-dressed white people – some media – around me all immediately started to push forward toward the entrance door. (The women next to me who pushed past me and then denied she was pushing explained that her husband was inside saving her a place, then turned and pushed further forward...) A physical expression of racial and class entitlement sanctioned by force.
“They allowed only 20 people in a city of 700,000 1 minute each to comment on the “restructuring” of the city.”
Supporters of “emergency management” say they sometimes find it hard to understand the vitriol of opponents of EMFs, but there was the reason in microcosm, the whole basis of “emergency management” and “Detroit Future City” and the white-entrepreneurial-guy-saves-Detroit phenomenon: When The Man says “move back,” he means working class People of Color move back and upper middle class, predominantly white People move up. And the entitled, privileged beneficiaries understand it. If that weren't true, why did they start to move up at the very moment when the cop told us in no uncertain terms to move back?
Most recently, Orr held a heavily publicized meeting with Detroit’s creditors on June 14, 2013 at Metro Airport. He announced that he will screw workers and retirees, supposedly for the benefit of residents.
In early April Jones Day law firm partner David Heiman described the process to city council staff: “People have to know that if they’re going to mess with us, they’re gonna pay.” High-priced zen throat-slitting. It raises the question: At what point do you destroy a city to satisfy the creditors? When Detroit’s great federal appellate Judge Damon Keith, in the aftermath of 9/11, said “Democracies die behind closed doors,” this is evidently what he had in mind.
Links to previous pieces are provided below for those who may be interested in knowing more, now that Jones Day’s long knives are out and at our throats.
In brief: 1) Democracy isn’t just for good times; we need it more than ever in a crisis. Wall Street Dictators go home! 2) Corporate bottom line ‘solutions’ to social justice problems and crises of communities don’t work, in Detroit or anywhere else; Jones Day asks the wrong question in the wrong frame, gets the wrong answer and is forcing the wrong policy down our throats before slitting them. We won’t pay for Your crisis!
Tom Stephens is a people’s lawyer in Detroit. He can be contacted at [email protected].
“Detroit Debt Owner: Orr will come up with plan to pay bondholders in full” (Bloomberg) http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20130613/NEWS01/130619918/detroit-debt-owner-orr-will-come-up-with-plan-to-repay-bondholders
“Detroit and America’s Racial ‘Exceptionalism’” (Black Agenda Report) http://blackagendareport.com/content/detroit-and-america%E2%80%99s-racial-%E2%80%9Cexceptionalism%E2%80%9D
“Detroit’s Davos” (New York Times)
“Saving Detroit’s Art Treasures – While the Rest of the City is Picked Clean” (Black Agenda Report)
“Death of Democracy Divides Detroit; The People vs. the Corporations (Peoples Tribune) http://peoplestribune.org/pt-news/2013/05/death-democracy-divides-detroit-people-corporations/
“What Matters; Week 7 of the Occupation of Detroit” (Michigan Citizen) http://www.dcoh.org/2013/05/what-matters-week-7-of-the-occupation/
“Banging the Banksters” (Metro Times)
“Destroying Detroit in Order to ‘Save’ It” (Counterpunch)
“Pay in Blood; Modern Politics Made Simple (Empire Burlesque)
“Detroit Spending Millions on Consultants in Turnaround Effort”
“The Parable of the Banksters and the City”” (Black Agenda Report)
“Detroit’s New Bankster Plutocracy” (Counterpunch)
“Everything is Rigged” (Rolling Stone)
“Week 1 of the Occupation; Life, Liberty and Happiness” (Michigan Citizen)
“Snyder’s Coup” (Counterpunch)
“Double vision; Emergency Financial Manager in Detroit” (Metro Times)
“Detroit; Arithmetic of Desperation” (Counterpunch)
“The Politics of Austerity” (Slacker Politics)
“From Detroit to Cyprus; Banksters in Search of Prey” (Black Agenda Report)
“Detroit Citizens Prepare to Fight their Corporate Master” (Truthout)