Does Gov. Rick Snyder have enough juice to push throug an unpopular bailout for Detroit? (Dale G. Young / The Detroit News)
One of the more curious commentaries on why Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders are backing a $350 million bailout of Detroit is that itís an election year, and theyíre buying votes.
Buying votes where? Detroit?
In case anyoneís forgotten, the governor is a Republican and so are House Speaker Jase Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, who stood by Snyderís side when he announced the plan to spare the Detroit Institute of Arts and city retirees from bankruptcy pain.
Republicans typically get 9 to 10 percent of the Detroit vote in statewide elections. Snyder could convert that $350 million into $100 bills and pass them out to voters at Detroit polling places and still not push his Detroit total much higher than that.
And for Richardville, Bolger and other GOP lawmakers, they actually risk losing votes in their outstate districts for diverting state dollars to Detroit. Saving Detroit has never topped the priority list of politicians who live beyond the regionís borders.
I suppose Snyder might gain favor from those suburbanites with an affection for the city. And I believe his rising approval rating stems from showing decisive leadership on the Detroit bankruptcy.
But despite the huge amount of money involved, this is not an initiative that will boost the GOP over the top this fall.
Itís a rare case of politicians doing the right thing, making a hard decision without calculating the partisan advantage or disadvantage.
And itís further confirmation that Snyder is turning out to be the best friend Detroit has had in Lansing in 40 years.
By the time he leaves office, if his plans and investment work out, the governor will have helped Detroit shed or restructure $18 billion in debt, a crushing load that would have finished the city had Snyder not intervened.
Snyderís actions should also lead to a larger and more effective Police Department, hopefully resulting in a safer city. His cooperation will help get streetlights on. The cityís favorite park, Belle Isle, will be clean and usable because of his perseverance. And many of the rotting homes that breed blight and crime will be torn down because he made that his cause.
The governor is spending the largest portion of his time on Detroit and its problems. No other recent governor has devoted so much attention to the city, not even Democratic ones for whom Detroiters voted for by rote.
And again, Snyder is doing it without hope for a ballot box return. Neither the unions whose retirees will benefit, nor Detroiters whose city will be saved, are likely to reward him with votes.
And yet heís investing his political capital in mustering a Republican-controlled Legislature to do something it has rarely done ó recognize the special place Detroit occupies in the state, and thus its special claim on the treasury.
As Iíve suggested before, if he can get that done ó and I think he will ó Detroit should erect a statue of The Nerd in the center of Campus Martius.