Thinking for ourselves
By Shea Howell
On behalf of the city
Week 40 of the occupation
January 7, 2014
The carefully constructed claim on competence and legitimacy by the Governor and his Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr, is eroding. The current drama of the proposed Barclay’s loan to pay off Bank of America and UBS reveals the pattern of this erosion.
First, almost no one, even Snyder-Orr supporters, thought the original plan to borrow $350 million to pay $250 million to banks was a good idea. Those of us who objected were told this was the best deal Orr and his high paid firm could get. There was no choice, Orr told us.
Judge Steven Rhodes, in a stunning rebuke of this logic, challenge Orr and company to explain why they had not sought criminal charges against the banks they want to pay off. He also said he did not believe this was the best deal available. Nor did he think there was “no choice.”
In mandatory negotiations on December 24th, a new deal emerged. Instead of borrowing $350 million, the deal was down to $285 million. The banks would get $165 million. This is an $85 million difference.
The critical point here is not the money, although that is no small thing. Rather, the pattern revealed in this incident is that the EM has no clue how to negotiate effectively on behalf of the city. The deal he proposed was among the worst imaginable. His claim that this was the best he could do was patently false. Orr is unwilling to tackle the moral, legal, and ethical implications of bank practices like swaps and foreclosures that are crippling cities around this country.
Whatever Mr. Orr believes about the separation between his current responsibilities and his previous law firm, his actions support the interests of his former firms client-banks over the interests of the people of the city. He does not negotiate on behalf of the people.
Unable to reflect on the seriousness of this situation, Orr plunged ahead with a sham public meeting so he could claim legitimacy when he tries to use Casino wagering taxes as collateral to banks.
Finally, while doing everything to protect the banker-Jones Day clients, he managed to find time on December 30 to go after the pension benefits of 5,600 city employees.
The order for the reductions in pension benefits came as lawyers were still negotiating with retirees.
Tina Bassett, a spokeswoman for the General Retirement System, was reported calling Orr’s pension freeze “an outrageous and over-z