If you think Gov. Rick Snyder is naming an emergency manager for Detroit so he can impose his will on the city, listen to how he answered a question about whether he’ll now push ahead with the state takeover of Belle Isle:
“I have some concerns about if we were to do it in the emergency manager context,” Snyder said in an interview prior to Friday’s announcement. “It would be viewed as we’re ignoring the fact that the city didn’t want it. I really don’t view it as something appropriate for an emergency manager.”
Snyder says this even though he cites the city’s refusal to accept his offer to run Belle Isle as a state park as one of his greatest frustrations in dealing with Detroit, and also sees it as an opportunity to post an early success for the takeover.
But the governor is not coming into Detroit as a bully. He’s a turnaround expert, not a takeover artist. He did not want this day to come. That’s why he went through the doomed-to-fail consent agreement exercise.
But since he first started discussing a gubernatorial bid with his wife, he knew Detroit would someday be his burden.
“I knew I had to be a participant somehow, going back to the time Sue talked to me about running for governor,” Snyder said. “I knew if I were fortunate to be elected governor, I’d need to be a key supporting resource in taking Detroit from going downhill to growth. I’ve had this in my passion and my fire since the time I took this job.”
Now he’s got Detroit in his lap, and the self-described relentlessly positive governor admits that reality brings the likelihood of sleepless nights.
Snyder didn’t actually expect to have to appoint an emergency manager. He had hoped presenting Detroit’s elected leaders with a step-by-step turnaround plan nearly a year ago would avert a takeover.
But, “they didn’t execute their part of the agreement. I’m saying that as a factual statement,” Snyder said.
The governor says he realizes that his decision will be viewed by many in the city through a racial prism.
“I try to be sensitive to that,” he said. “I always try to learn and be sensitive to others, to appreciate it and understand it. But if you look at the financial review team’s report, it’s pretty clear that the city’s in an emergency. I mean, this is a crisis.”
Looking out 10 years, what does the governor see because of the action he took today?
“I see a place that is still coming back, but that’s growing,” Snyder said. “Where young people are saying, ‘This is a cool place to come hang out and start your career.’
“Just think of how much time and energy goes into people fighting or blaming someone. If we’re able to take that energy and be able to say ‘this neighborhood is great, this school is really cool now, or we solved that crime,’ what that would do for the city, the metro area and the whole state.”