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Published: Tuesday, 6/3/2014


Detroit’s grand bargain

Fix the problem, not the blame, for the benefit of Michigan and this region

Richardville Richardville
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Detroit wound up bankrupt for many reasons; many people — living and now dead — made bad decisions. The point now is to fix the problem, not fix blame, for the benefit not only of all of Michigan, but also for this region.

Michigan’s future depends to a great extent on having its largest city emerge from bankruptcy in a way that will enable it to survive and someday thrive. Detroit’s future also will have a direct impact on the future of the Toledo area.

Getting that done depends largely on an unlikely source: Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R., Monroe). Detroit and state officials have cobbled together a “grand bargain,” aimed at saving the treasures of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and preventing former city employees who collect municipal pensions from devastating cuts that could threaten their livelihoods.

As part of the bargain, private foundations and advocates of the city art museum have agreed to invest more than $400 million over two decades in a fund to support the DIA. The state needs to donate $350 million in the same period, or $195 million in an up-front lump sum.

Gov. Rick Snyder strongly supports the grand bargain. The state House approved it overwhelmingly last month. Now it is the Senate’s turn: Mr. Richardville supports the bargain, but will need all of his leadership skills to persuade enough of his Republican colleagues to go along.

Many GOP senators loathe Detroit, or fear Tea Party retribution if they help the city, or both. L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County’s frequently contrary executive, is trying to sabotage the grand bargain because of his concerns about the way Detroit operates the regional water and sewer authority.

Failing to enact the grand bargain would have devastating consequences for the entire region. Because of term limits, Senator Richardville must leave the Legislature next January. Passing a bill that saves Detroit would be a good legacy, as well as a test of his capacity for future leadership.

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