Saving Detroit

Out-of-the-box rescue idea -- partisanship aside -- has intriguing merit

One normally needs to be reading the classics, either of fiction or nonfiction, to stumble across an idea that makes you audibly respond, “Wow!”


But we ran smack dab into just such an idea the other day, in an interview of National Black Chamber of Commerce President Harry C. Alford by radio host Andrea Tantaros.

We would respectfully ask you to overlook the partisan nature of the question and simply consider the merit of the idea.

Tantaros asked Alford if the Republican Party has an opportunity to increase its appeal among black voters. Alford’s answer is stunning in its out-of-the-box thinking – and in its potential to transform America:

“You know, a great opportunity right now for the Republican Party is the city of Detroit, which is a disaster,” Alford said. “It is a disaster, and the Republican governor is taking it over. What if he were to assign that task to Mitt Romney, like we did for the Winter Olympics?”

What an incredibly intriguing idea. Why not try, if it might help?

Again, we urge you to look beyond the politics and to the policy. Ideas aren’t Republican or Democrat. Suffering – which Detroiters sure have been doing – isn’t Republican or Democrat.

It’s time America considered ideas based solely on their merit, and not who’s suggesting them.

That open-minded approach might be a lifeline for America’s major cities, many of which are struggling just to make ends meet.

Detroit is Exhibit A: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has declared the city a financial emergency, a step closer to a state takeover. The city has a $327 million budget deficit and some $14 billion in debt.

Once the nation’s fifth-largest city, it’s now only the 18th – but it would be the largest ever taken over by a state.

“It’s time to say we should stop going downhill,” Snyder said at a forum of citizens, according to Reuters. “There have been many good people who have had many plans, many attempts to turn this around. They haven’t worked.”

Snyder said he has an emergency manager in mind, but didn’t reveal who.

Alford’s idea for Mitt Romney seems a natural – since Romney did rescue the 2002 Olympics, and his father was once governor of Michigan.

But who it is isn’t as important as the ideas the manager brings to the job. It’s our view that the best ideas for turning Detroit around will involve business-friendly policies; no-nonsense law enforcement; galaxy-sized, family-friendly education reform; cuts in out-of-control public benefits and government expenses; and an aggressive program of right-sizing that may include returning large areas to nature.

These are just suppositions from across the country, of course. But some notions and principles cross nearly all boundaries of geography, race and political party. That’s because they work. They work because they appeal to humankind’s universal nature and needs – which include, of course the basics of food, shelter and security, but also hope and opportunity and self-determination and responsibility.

When those needs and desires are thwarted – by economic blight, crime, neglect, racism, irresponsibility, misguided government policies and more – you get flight, despair, decay, debauchery and, perhaps paradoxically, government profligacy.

With many of these things plaguing Detroit – as well as a badly battered American automotive industry – the opportunity is there for one of the great turnarounds in American or world history.

Such a turnaround will be possible only if the city’s challenges are met head-on and honestly – and with an open mind.

Too often in recent American history, America’s major cities have been closed off to ideas and approaches that are deemed “Republican.” And for decades now – despite John F. Kennedy’s plea to the contrary – we’ve elected leaders who keep telling us what our country can do for us, and who inevitably can’t quite figure out how to pay for it.

How’s that working out?