MARSEILLE, DETROIT AND THE RATIONALE FOR RUNNING A CITY LIKE A CORPORATION

I have been following the Detroit bankruptcy story and thought the following syndicated column from David Sirota (“Don’t Buy the Right-wing Myth About Detroit”, Salon.com, 23 July 2013) worth sharing.

Sirota asks good questions and supports his arguments with statistics, even if, in my view, he fails to ask the hard question: Where is the public interest in these events?

The easy answer is that public servants should be sheltered from the negligence and incompetence of their “political” superiors. In other words, State and municipal employees should be protected by a “civil service code”. In the absence of such a code, the real answer becomes more difficult to find.

Cities are public organizations that should be managed and not left merely to fend for themselves in the harsh world of laissez-faire economics. Municipal governance is profoundly anchored in the politics of territoriality and districting with all that implies.

In granting a home rule charter, policy makers should reserve for themselves an oversight role so that imbalances can be corrected. Had public oversight of territorial organization been the rule, in both Louisiana and in Detroit, “white flight” from city centers to the near suburbs could have been addressed as a public policy issue and tax burdens more equitably apportioned. Governance reform and tax reapportionment within the Aix-Marseille metropolitan area are at the heart of the reforms recently passed in the French legislature as the “Loi sur la modernisation de l’action publique territoriale”.

Unfunded liabilities are a typically American problem, shared alike in the public and the private sector. And yet…

The smart criticism avoids asking hard questions about public responsibility for public pensions (as opposed to private pension liabilities), and further ignores the issue of state responsibility for the regulation of public institutions. What could be more public than a municipal charter? and, what could the rationale be for running a city like a corporation?

If interested, read more here:
www.salon.com, Don’t Buy the Right Wing Myth About Detroit

Published as personal commentary
on the Facebook page of “Democrats Abroad France – Marseille

Photo credits:
– Cover photo of marked-up, peeling wall paper by Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre, 2011. The Ruins of Detroit
– Packard Motors squat and Delray family pictures by Pete Brook, Captivating Photos of Detroit Delve Deep to Reveal a Beautiful, Struggling City, published by (Wired Magazine, Jan. 2013)
– Unknown source (Twilight over Motor City)