This article dives into the contentious issue of who is making the decisions in Detroit since the city declared bankruptcy in 2011. When Michigan State Legislature passed Public Act 4, the state government was able to appoint an emergency manager to replace democratically elected local officials in making many finical decisions. In 2013, Kevyn Orr was appointed emergency manager of Detroit and faced pressure to privatize Detroit's water in order to increase Detroit's finical outlook at the expense of cutting off water to many of Detroit's citizens. Fortunately, one year later Orr released control of the city's water to elected Mayor Dugan. However, the deal outlines that the emergency manager may change or rescind it at any time.
Detroit's situation is very complex and there is no easy answer of what is the best method of choosing who is most qualified to lead it out of the ashes. However, Detroit's financial nightmare is no excuse to snuff the voices of its people and allow an emergency manager to control all important decisions. It's true that Detroit needs experts and advisors, but it most certainly does not need an overlord. An emergency manager has no accountability to the welfare of the people of Detroit and is instead a privately appointed individual accountable to finical spreadsheets. Spreadsheets don't show the strife of the citizens of Detroit whose water will turn off if privatized. Spreadsheets can't prioritize allowing people access to water over a $284 million hockey arena in Detroit.
Additionally, a similar non-elected group in Detroit has given rise to some criticism, nonprofits. Nonprofits, usually only praised, also allow voices of potential outsiders and non-elected people to dictate what is best for Detroit. In Detroit's unique circumstance, nonprofits saw a window of opportunity to make serious change. The city government just doesn't have the money to do all the work that Detroit needs to get done, so it took innovative people to find their own solutions. And as long as nonprofits make a strong effort to be representative of the community where they opperate, then they can become a place for citizens to involve themselves in the affairs of their community more so than an aloof entity directing the city. An important aspect to ensuring that nonprofits remain true to the communities they are working in is promoting activism and grass roots organizations.
Elections are by no means a fair and perfect process, but they do force elected officials to reach out to the community and learn of their needs and wishes. Ideally, if those needs are wishes aren't fulfilled, then someone new and better will take the official's place. Detroit requires temporary guidance, but its citizens often know what is best. In my few short weeks living here, one thing I've noticed is that Detroit citizens have vocal opinions. They just need a place to speak and someone to listen.