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Big 3 & Friends Plot "regional" Empire

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I he major commercial, industrial, and financia] interests in southeastem Michigan, led by the Big Three (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler), have come íbrward in recent weeks with a sophisticated scheme to legally take over politica! control of the Detroit metropolitan area and its five million dents. The scheme is called "regional government," and tlie latest version comes in a Bieentennial red-wliite-and-blue package, couched in the facile language of "progressive liberalism" and served up by a white knight named Kent Mathewson, president of a corporatebaeked Troy think-tank called the Metropolitan Fund. Even as the dailies gave gencrously of tlieir space to help Mathewson launch the campaign to sell the new regiunalism to the public, fornier Michigan House Speaker William D. Ryan. the dean of the state legislature, was pr offering the required legal support in H.B. 5527. Regional government is the perfect "nonpartisan" issue. To tion it is to appear lo oppose progress, operation, efficiency, and economy. And with half a lion suburbanites commuting daily to the city to work, shop, and eat, plus 1 70,000 Motor City residents cummuting in the otlier direction, planning of many essential services can obviously benefit by regional COordination. The question is who would control the massive new apparatus, in whose interests it would be used, and what impact it would have on Detroit and the 249 other communities that would be compelled by law to particípate. If approved, the plan would return Detroit's black majority, only now beginning to take control of the city, to their former minority status, and could ride roughshod over independent-minded suburban governments as well. It would créate .1 vast new bureaucracy more elitisi and naccessible and probably more cumbersome and inefficienl than anything Michigan lias seen before. Power (o determine tlie destimes of the región, utul iis various communities and populations. would be vesied in .1 41-member regional council, twenty of whom would be appointed by the amor. Elected mcmbers' constituencies could be as large as hall .1 miliion people, coifipared to 200.000 lui a state senator. The new economie and political base of the regían woukl be the so-eallecl "Midtown Rime." t lio bie white donut of suburban commercial, industrial, and resident ial developmeni encircling the city leavinj; the hole blacks, deprivad 61 thcir politica! pöwei and 1 1 101 1 tax base, the regional aaencv vvoukl luivt' zoning powers over iIk' corporaté-ewned land m the guburbs and would control federal funds flowing [nto the city. The Big rhree and ilicir coïleagues among ihem oiher huge cotporate concerns, the banks. and the utüities woukl in facl gain through the regional counci] ;i virtual mononolv on services in the región. The council's chairperson, hardly an dependent figure ;it SI 0,000 a year, would nave fina] say on regional pólice and fire protection, narks and creaüon funding, road maintenance, waste elimina tion systems, and the water supply. As a federally-designated regional planning agency, the new authority would control where new residential and commercial projects were built and how federal funds were doled out to its communities. With the advent of the present plan. the interestg behind the Metro Fund would liave the simplilïed task of having to influence only 41 people (hall 'ot them appointments), rather than the often balky network of 250 governmenis they must deal with now. The trouble with locally elected officials, from the Big Three's point of view, is that they may see their first responsibility as being to their constituencios, with giant financia] interests coming second. Ford contïnued n page 5 "Regional" Empire Scheme continued from cover and GM can chuose and finance candidates, but they can't vote tliem in. The Metro plan would reverse the priorities, putting "the interests of the entire region," as detcrmined by its most powerfui institutions. first. City and suburbs alike could be easily steamrollered on any given issue. The Metropolitan Fund, whieh brought Mathewson here from Salem, Oregon twelve years ago. has also spawned New Detroit, Inc. (througli its former chairman, Joseph L. Hudson of department store fame); the Pr.nt regional sl:;;a-,e. !'ie Soíhcásterfi Michigan Goiincil of Govemments (SEMCOG): and the Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA). Just as many of the same interests organized New Detroit after the [967 rebellion to ameliorate racial tensions in the city, the new regional government proposal offers a more sophisticated and comprehensive response to an even more serious "crisis"- the taking of politica] power in Detroit by its majority black population. Despite massive postwar fliglit from the city, first by white residents, tlien by their businesses and industries, the corporate powers managed to retain politica! control of Detroit until the election of Coleman Young in 1973. Meanwhile, they had built a new power base m 1 1 ie so-called "Midtown Ring." circling the city from the downiïver area to the Grosse Pointes. [nchided in thé ring are the gargantuan Fairlane Town Center, the Ford-owned city within the city of Dearbom; the Chrysler-owned Northfjeld development; Prudential Insurance 's Southfield megasu ucl ure. Town Center; and the GM Technical Center in Warren. Other "midtown" instituí ions include the super shopping centers of Southland, Livonia Mali, Universal Mali. Northland, TelTwelve, Somerset, Lakcside, Macomb Mali, and Eastland. All these mails and mini-cities are prcscnlly regulated by elected mayors and councilpeople in dozens of small cities. SEMCOG, too, is comprised of elected officials at least theoretically responsible to their electorate. So the "ciVic leaders" have designed a new layer oi government with power vesied in a few officials, half of-them appointed. The "Midtown Ring" also suffers from the consequences of having built up too tast and too thick in its liaste to escape Detroit's blacks. Fleeing industries have helped provide the tax base to S puy for epidemie residential construct ion in the suburbs. But wlien the new cities. closed to ïion-whites. ftwiJ ;,;y werr V.' ..aVmg troublc paying tor f ential services, lliey decided black dollars would be just as good as white. Instead of taking the bait, however. blacks began S moving into siately oíd Detroit homes, developing loyalties to Detroit businesses. and running fot imporUuil polmcal offices. Thcii essentia) response to to SEMCOG has been. "We 'II sit down and discuss regional issues witli you. but don't expect us to serve your roeals." Now blacks run the city wliich includes the Art Centre ReSiSSSSSCi CcTiièr, the fls,cr Bn;!'J;:v;. thS GM Building, and Wayne State l'niversity. They represent an increasingly powerlul political and economie force. and proved ii by electing Coleman Young. I lic financia! interesis behind the Metropolitan I'und, currently pushing vigorously tor a new regional govemment, would like to have all ilus back. cnher the city nor the suburban govemmenis. however, are hit mg to tai; ihe executive committee of SHMCOG bas oppoted ihc ncw plan. SEMCOG, which includes 104 voluntarily participating governments, fears such a "drastic" move and wants to hold on to the power il has now (primanly the power to study issues, make recommendations, and influence the llow of federal dolíais to mombei communities). Urban specialists like John Musil. Director of Wayne State's División yt Urban Studies, aren't convinced the new structure would bc either more efficiënt 01 more económica! than the patchwork oí local govemmenis. "Studies show," says Musil, "that the largei the bureaucracy, the lower the quality of scivices as rated by the citiens and the higliei the cost of those sci vices." ■"House Bill 5527 would créate anothei layei ol govemmenl bureaucracy with greatei inefficiency than SEMCOG," sas Wiülam Cilluffo, executive assisiam to Mayoi i oung. Cilluffo tlso points out that running tor regional board chairperson oi iepleseniaiive would be a costly proposilion, and wonders who would pay t'or ii. "Furthermore," he says. "uho would lake responsibility for the way thé agency shapes up?" Right now, Metro linul publicists aic likely to be less concerned with winning over local officials than with lobbying the state legislatura and selling the general public. These are the people who wfll decide al some point whether the Big I Inee. the banks, and theii tellow financia! iniciesis will succeed in theil scheme to gain political and economie hegemony over Detroit and all '.:! '-;''ü!1'";,lCI1 Michigan Oerek VanPelt is the Editor of this paper Maurcen McDoruúd is u lance writer wlio has prcvnnisly wopked joruetrou . suburban papen. YOUR REGIONAL PLANNERS: Selections from the Metropolitan Fund lixinl of Trustees Rodkey Craighead, President, Detroit Bank & Trust Company Roberl E. Dewar. ('hairman of the Board, S.S. Kresge Company David K. I .isluk. President, Michigan Bell Telephone Company Mas M. Fteher, Chaiiman of the Board, Detroit Renaissance Richard C. Gentenberg, Chairman, New Detroit. Inc. . . riedgecock, Vice President, Consumers Power Companv loseph 1-. Hudson, Jr.. Chairman. J. l_. H'-'"!" Curmiany . . "' .v'ii:i.;ó, v rrarrman pi lic Board, Burroughs Corporation rhorruu ,. Murphy, Chairman l the Boud, (eneral Motors Corporation John J. Riccardo, ChainoaH f the lUwrd, Chrysler Corporation Dean I Richardson, Chairman ut the Board, Manufacturen National Bank of Detroit Horace E, SheJdon, Director, Civic .nul GovemmenUü Affairs, i(rd Motor Company Norman B. WestOR, Vice Chairman of the lio.ird. National Bank of Detroit Stanley J. Winkelman. President. VVinkelman Stores, Inc.