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Published: Wednesday, 6/13/2012


Common sense for Detroit

Detroit is in an economically hopeless situation. The city has fewer than 700,000 residents left, many of whom are desperately poor. More than half the city's adults are unemployed or not in the work force at all.

The city's budget deficit is more than $200 million and rising, and it has more than $10 billion in unfunded liabilities that Michigan taxpayers could be forced to help shoulder. Under Michigan law, cities that can't pay their bills are placed under the control of an emergency manager. That appointed official assumes the powers of the city's elected leaders and doesn't have to answer to voters.

Two months ago, state officials and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing crafted a consent agreement designed to avoid disfranchising Detroiters. Under its terms, the city and state would create a power-sharing arrangement dedicated to dealing with the economic emergency.

But this accord is being sabotaged by the city's top lawyer, a previously obscure corporation counsel named Krystal Crittendon. She says the consent agreement is illegal, in part because of a disputed water bill the city claims the state owes.

Worse, much of Detroit City Council seems more inclined to destroy the village than to save it. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has been fair and more than patient, but it is time to end this farce.

The governor should appoint an emergency manager for Detroit. He also should strongly consider naming one for surrounding Wayne County. The last few months have revealed an almost unbelievable tale of cronyism and corruption in Michigan's largest county, which is running a considerable deficit as well.

If there were any true visionaries in Michigan government, they might ask the Legislature to merge the city and county governments under a new charter that was designed to encourage rational behavior. Such an arrangement has worked well in Nashville. Indianapolis, and other places where it has been tried.

One thing is certain: Detroit and Wayne County could hardly do worse.

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