Culture Change Alert
"Will Detroit Stay Fixed?"
Asks Journalist Nolan Finley
"Bankruptcy does nothing to change the culture," cautioned Nolan Finley, editorial page editor and columnist for The Detroit News speaking October 15 to the ERC Forum.
Finley explained, "For the next mayor, bankruptcy will soon be history, city operations rational, and debt under control."
He warned his War Memorial audience that elected officials who believe that government exists to serve the political class and use it to maintain political status will be counter productive.
If that happens, he said, "We are going to be right back here in five to ten years."
In Finley's opinion, the next mayor will succeed only if he is able to complete what Kevin Orr has put into place, because "what's fixed doesn't necessarily stay fixed."
There's a lot that needs fixing. "The blight is sickening," he said.
"If we don't stop that now, I don't know that we're going to get another chance to save Detroit."
Yet, the downtown renaissance is underway. "Downtown will be fine," he said, because of private initiatives taking place there.
"This is a critical time."
The journalist warned, "Denial is still prevalent, and unless we move beyond denial, we will be right back where we were."
The newspaperman offered hope, saying that with a turnaround, "Detroit could become another success like St. Paul or Baltimore."
To make that happen, Detroit must not "let this experience go to waste."
According to Finley, what's needed is a working tax base.
Achieving that goal is hampered, he said, because the city's income tax and property tax rates are high, topped off by the fact that many aren't even paying.
Where does money come from to pay Detroit's obligations, pensioners, and others who have loaned it money?
Finley flatly stated, "There is no question that money is going to be used from the DIA collection."
"It is an asset. Creditors and pensioners will demand an interest in the asset."
"Kevin Orr knows that the city took that to the pawnshop years ago," he noted.
Finley said that now in bankruptcy, these creditors want it all.
"There are solutions, and the DIA needs to work with Orr to find them."
"Would donors buy some of the art, then loan it back?" he asked.
Looking back, Finley said the art should have been moved into a public trust years ago. Instead, the city transferred the operations, but left DIA and art ownership exposed as a vulnerable city asset.
Detroit Mayoral Election
"I've become a little surprised at how lackluster the campaign has been!" Finley observed.
"I can't recall one which has had this little intensity."
"I thought there would be more heat, passion, and interest in the mayoral campaign. This one is very different."
In many respects, the candidate backgrounds are different. Finley reminded the crowd that one candidate is touting his business credentials, and the other his experience in law enforcement and government.
"I didn't think Mike Duggan could earn a spot on the ballot this way. It looked like when Duggan got knocked off in that lawsuit, Benny Napoleon would be elected," he said.
But Detroit primary success doesn't always point to a General Election win, reminded Finley.
For example, Finley reported, after a poor showing in his 2005 reelection primary Kwame Kilpatrick "caught fire and got into the neighborhoods -- he worked hard and won."
"He came back from a stunning primary loss."
In the 2013 race, Finley reported that Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon is "supported by most of the ministers, and his rhetoric is incendiary, yet it doesn't seem to be taking hold."
"Duggan's primary lead of 23 points is being stretched even farther. If polls are correct, there could be an astounding win for Duggan on Election Day," said Finley.
Finley noted that Duggan is seen as a turnaround guy, a business guy.
This plays to the fact that "people in Detroit are looking for action," Finley said.
He added that they are fed up, and Duggan appears to be a competent manager, and has the skills to run an effective city.
Referring to residential quality of life in Detroit, Finley observed, "Most of us wouldn't live the way people -- even in good neighborhoods -- have to live!"
Duggan's background is not all business. Finley reminded that he is an astute politician with skills honed under former Wayne County executive Ed McNamara and his cronies.
While seen by some as a black eye for the GOP, Finley pointed out that polls show some 80% are not affected much by the federal government shutdown. This is despite the administration's howling and constant media headlines over the course of the past two weeks. [Ed. note: shutdown resolved October 16, 2013.]
On the other hand, nearly everybody will be affected by ObamaCare, many adversely.
When it comes to the health insurance fiasco, he remarked, "People know whom to blame for it."
Finley the Journalist
Finley is editorial page editor of the Detroit News, a position he's held since 2000. He directs the expression of the newspaper's editorial position on various national and local issues, and writes a column in the paper's Sunday edition.
Nolan also co-stars on the MiWeek public television program, which is an exchange of views and ideas with Detroit Free Press editorial page director Stephen Henderson. He also is a frequent panel member of Devin Scillian's Channel 4 "Flashpoint" on Sunday mornings.
Finley started at the Detroit News as a copy boy in the newsroom while a student at Wayne State University, where he earned a Journalism degree. He worked as a reporter, covering City Hall during the Coleman Young administration, and held various editing positions on the City, State, and Metro Desks at the News.
From there, he went on to become business editor and then deputy managing editor, directing the newsroom, and then was appointed editorial page editor.
He is a native of Cumberland County, Kentucky.
The Eastside Republican Club Forum is normally held on the third Tuesday of the month from September through June. Admission is free and the public is always welcome.
For more information about the Eastside Republican Club and its meetings, contact chairman Jenny Nolan at 881-5191.