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Posted on Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

As Detroit plays 'Let's Make A Deal,' which door will it choose?

By Tom Watkins

Decision day looms for Detroit. By law, the governor must pull the trigger no later than April 5 on the future of the state’s largest city. The city leaders must choose or be forced to accept one of 3 options: consent agreement, emergency manager or bankruptcy.

If you don't pay your bills, there are consequences.

This thought crossed my mind as I was paying my own bills at the end of the month and listening to the whining about Detroit's fiscal crisis.

The "crisis" is a result of failed leadership. It goes back decades at both the state and local levels. You cannot pretend to fix problems and borrow your way to solvency.

Not managing your finances well has painful consequences.

Car Payment. If you don't make your payments, the "repo" man will take your car away.

House Payment. If you don't pay your mortgage, foreclosure knocks.

Utilities. If not paid, they are cut off.


Decision day looms this week for Michigan's largest city, with three choices ranging from bankruptcy to allowing a state emergency manager to come in.

Steve Pepple photo |

Credit Cards. Yep, the credit card companies want their money too. Paying Visa with your American Express card ultimately catches up with you and the interest payments are oppressive.

The bottom line? Manage your finances or pay painful consequences.

Gov. Rick Snyder campaigned for office on the promise to reinvent the state. He spent his first year in office getting the state budget in order. He understands the days of pretending and spending need to end.

He is now being cast by some in Detroit as the "repo" man. Gov. Snyder is doing the job we elected him to do. He should not flinch.

We elected him to get Michigan working again. Michigan can't work with a dysfunctional Detroit.

Thursday, April 5th, is decision day. Perhaps it is more like the old game show, "Let's Make A Deal."

Mayor Dave Bing and the Detroit City Council have one of three doors to choose from:

Door Number 1: Consent Agreement. The Consent Agreement must be fiscally sound and have powerful consequence triggers if the city leaders fail to act in implementing the plan.

Door Number 2: Emergency Manager. Both sides agree this option is not desirable.

Door Number 3: Bankruptcy. An option that has dire consequences for us all.

Note, there is no door marked, "same ole, same ole" or "status quo."

All three doors require real change. They also open the door for the true rebirth of Detroit.

Gov. Snyder is no "Dirty Harry." Yet, he has been clear he will fulfill his legal, fiduciary responsibility.

As the mayor and City Council decide which door they will choose, they should be thinking, "Do you feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?"

Decision day is near. Because of an historic failure to lead and act, it is a now a choice between death or serious injury. This is no game.

Tom Watkins served as a elected member on the Wayne County charter commission and is a former state superintendent of schools for Michigan. He can be reached at:


Lloyd Payer

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

How stupid are the people of Michigan the state is the cosigner on there loan detriot should file bankrupt and let the state get cuaght with the bill that would shake up the snyder fans

Lloyd Payer

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 9 p.m.

Ann Arbor you will bre next with a take over by dick snyder.


Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

Frankly. I am disappointed in the Gov. It seems that he has blinked in the face of resistance from Detroit Leaders. Why is he giving the Council and Mayor a significant role in stabilizing the City. They are the same ole politicians whose only concern is maintaining some vestige of power and control not the welfare of the Citizens of Detroit. Guarantee, if this bunch is allowed to remain in a significant role, there will continue to be rancor and conflict that will distract from getting that City back ion track. If the Gov. was serious about sending a message, there's an old broom that I have in my garage that he can use.


Tue, Apr 3, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

I think he is being generous by allowing them to participate and have some say in the path to be taken. If you review various news articles, Detroit CC seems to have a problem getting beyond discussing options, they just don't do it. And here we say are doing the same thing. It will be right up to the deadline before they act. Yesterday on the radio an union official reported the city council will not act, they are hoping for the recall to put the law on hold. Unfortunately, he did not say anything about what will happen to Detroit until the vote is taken. More deficit I guess.

Top Cat

Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.

The Master of the Vacuous Writes Again !


Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

Mr Watkins, Why isn't this written to Freep or Det News? I realize polarizing articles get lots of hits and it does seem comments are WAY down here. But really don't we have enough local polarizing issues to write about? Perhaps you could put your ear to a glass up to the wall at SPARK and tell us what is really going on there. How about Ann Arbor municipal unions? How about Ypsi income tax? How about County government? that seems to remain a mystery. How about what is going on with state revenue sharing for local entities? We have a TON of local issues. Come on.

rusty shackelford

Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

This guy again? Stop encouraging the Thomas Friedman of SE MI 3rd tier periodicals. Seriously, find me a single worthwhile sentence in this article.


Tue, Apr 3, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Why don't you tell us, Rusty, what does not make sense about this article? It makes perfect sense to me. I cannot see why you think this is not "worthwhile." Also, what exactly would you propose to get Detroit back in fiscal order. Raise taxes and bail out Detroit? That is not an option because is does not fix the problem of overspending.


Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

Must be a friend of Ann board trying to get them some activity. This place seems to be dying sadly. I say sadly because I had high hopes for a local news source.


Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

I suspect it will be door #2 - since they expect that their union friends will get the law repealed and their court friends will keep the Em out of office until then. Which will mean door #3 when the state does not give them another handout. Door #1 would be their best bet, but I doubt they will take it. So in 2013, we will see Detroit in Bankruptcy court and by 2015, the water department, street lighting, and large amounts of city property will be in private hands and most retirement deals will be in the trash can.