Last week as I was listening to the evening news, something caught my attention. It was Detroit's Councilwoman JoAnn Watson emphatically stating (again) that Detroit deserves a bailout. "It was this city that this nation owes so much to, and we should not take a position of being victims," said JoAnn Watson in an interview with Fox 2 news on April 12, 2011.
Michigan itself is hurting. Badly. The playground bully already had our arm pinned behind our back while the rest of the country had only begun feeling a slight pinch in the economy. We have consistently been the state with the highest unemployment rate since 2006 until now, 2011, when we suddenly dropped to having the fifth highest unemployment rate. Given we're the only state to see a significant drop in population with the 2010 Census, the correlation should come as no surprise.
Detroit, on the other hand….
This is a city whose own politicians and city council have made Detroit a laughingstock around the country. From former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick leasing a $24,900 SUV using city funds to Kilpatrick supporters using an advertisement featuring African-Americans being lynched during the 2005 Mayoral campaign as an illustration of Kilpatrick himself being the victim of a media lynch mob, stories of Detroit politics and the corruption are second only to the whole Blagojevich controversy in Illinois. Detroit's own citizens, however, only darkened its black eyes when they re-elected Kilpatrick to office even after Michigan State Police began investigating him and stories of misappropriation of funds accusations began hitting the newsstands.
The Detroit City Council itself has continuously used cultural icons such as the DIA and the Detroit Zoo as bargaining chips to get what it wants from surrounding suburbs. Kilpatrick, his father, former City Council member Monica Conyers, and two other mayoral aides came under fire in an FBI bribery probe related to the Synagro Technologies scandal.
I haven't even begun to get into all the allegations following the "never proven" Manoogian mansion party, the death of Tamara Greene, the firing of various law enforcement personnel including former Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown, the Whistleblower trial, and of course the ever-famous Sexting Scandal involving Kilpatrick and his aide, Christine Beatty.
We've had the State Police investigate City spending. We've had "emergency" superintendents put in place of school spending. We've had the Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox under investigation for allegedly covering up his findings regarding the alleged party at the Manoogian Mansion. And now we've got Snyder in office. Enough said about that moron.
Here are two things I want to address at this point. Number one– all of these instances I mention above have occurred within the past ten years. These are not scandals, blights, mishaps, whatever of Detroit's past, but rather, within its present. Number two– every single person whom I have mentioned above has, at one point or another, been a part of Detroit's spending decisions.
Which brings me to the original reason I began this post. The Detroit library project. Now, anyone who knows me knows my love of books, reading, and well really, anything involving paper. I have two stacks of books in my bedroom alone that are both almost as tall as I am (being 5'3" that's not a particularly great achievement, but can YOU say the same?), and two moving boxes of books in the basement. So usually I'd be all about renovating libraries and such.
Except I'm not. I'm not even close. Reading through Christine McDonald's article in the Detroit News made me see read (think past tense, not present or future and yes, the pun is totally intended). Who on earth approved spending $1,100 on a single chair, let alone 20 of them, in a public library? In three years, the library system has paid out $160,000 not on new equipment or materials to line its shelves, but to food vendors. Food vendors! For a library! Admittedly, it's been awhile since I've been in a library (I may or may not be Troy Library's Most Wanted For Overdue Library Books and Fines), but I'm pretty sure last time I checked, food and drinks inside a library were pretty taboo. As Ms. McDonald went on to mention in her article, the city is contemplating closing 18 of it's 23 branches, and layoffs for 191 of it's 333 staff.
Last time I checked, a portion of Detroit city funds gets earmarked for the library. And now the library is proposing a $2.3M overhaul?
Um, yeah. No.
I'm all for rehabbing city buildings that require it to be structurally sound with non-leaking roofs. I'm on board with with spending $10,000 in microfiche machines to help preserve Detroit's history. Spend hundreds of thousands on books, periodicals, and other materials for research projects and reading enjoyment. Go for it.
YOU DON'T SPEND $2.3M OVERHAULING ONE BRANCH WHEN YOU'RE CONSIDERING CLOSING 18 OTHER BRANCHES!
So, Ms. Watson, getting back to your viewpoint that Detroit is a victim and deserves a bailout from Washington…. You've been on the Detroit City Council since 2003. All of these situations I've mentioned happened "under your watch" (my words, not yours), and under the obviously vigilant eyes of the rest of Detroit. I ask you. Why on earth would Washington give anyone associated with this city, its politics, and most of all, its spending, a dollar let alone millions of them?