Goss on EFM: A step for stability

Editor’s note: Skillman Foundation President & CEO Carol Goss was invited to Gov. Rick Snyder’s announcement Thursday appointing Kevyn Orr as the city’s Emergency Financial Manager. Below, she explains her decision to attend the event.

Why were you at the press conference?

I was there to show my support for moving the city forward. I’m not happy that the city of Detroit has come to a point that this situation is necessary, so broken and with such serious financial debts. But I do believe an EFM is necessary, and that this is the best solution for getting the city to a place of stability in the most efficient way possible.

Do you agree that Detroit needs an EFM?

At this point, I do. It wasn’t easy to get to this place. I grew up here in the sixties, and I believe strongly in the rights of the people – all people – to be a part of the democratic process, to have civil rights, to have their say. This goes against the spirit of what I believe in that sense. However, I just don’t see another way for the city to get out of its current situation without drastic action. I hope this is a short-term solution and that the city is returned to the hands of its elected officials as quickly as possible.

What do you think of the choice of University of Michigan law grad Kevyn Orr?

I believe that Gov. Snyder and his staff have thought very carefully about this selection, and he seems to have great qualifications. It is a very difficult job and would be a challenge to anyone. I hope he is up for it, and I believe he is.

Isn’t this just another move by outsiders to take over our city?

I don’t look at it like that. While I do believe the city residents should have their voices heard, and while I do hope the EFM will take opportunities to hear from residents and respond as best he can to their hopes for the city, I don’t believe there is anything positive to be gained by labeling different groups of people who care about the city as insiders or outsiders. I believe everyone in this fight to right the city is trying to do the best they can to bring Detroit out of a very broken place, and I want to see people stand together and support efforts to do so. The city government is broken, but the spirit of Detroiters is not. That spirit is strongest if we stand and work together. 

So you don’t support City Council’s view that the consent agreement should be extended?

As it stands, I believe the EFM is the most efficient, best chance for Detroit to quickly find its way to a place of stability. In a town short on stability and functioning infrastructure, the stability that an EFM can begin to provide to Detroiters is something that we can’t ignore. If the city can’t provide reliable services and financial stability to its residents, how can we expect families and children to thrive? How can we expect investments into our city that are so needed to support the work that we and others are doing? We can’t.

You’ve been a supporter of President Barack Obama in the past. Now you’re supporting a major policy agenda of a Republican governor? Have your politics changed?

Not at all. I don’t look at this as a decision that is reflective of a certain political party. I simply look at it as the right move forward for the city at this time.  

Is the EFM the best situation for children and families, for neighborhoods and schools?

The Skillman Foundation exists to help change the odds for Detroit kids to lead successful lives as adults. They can’t do that if they’re afraid to walk in their neighborhoods and can’t attend good schools and can’t rely on standard city services. I live in the city. I know personally how disruptive it can feel to deal with lacking services and to worry about my city’s financial stability and future. Most Detroiters I know want the street lights kept on, trash picked up and police on the street. I hope this decision gets us to a place where that is a reality.

Are there any positives to this?

One result of this new stability, I hope, will be that the governor will listen to Detroit organizations that are working to improve the lives of children, and make our neighborhoods more vibrant and safe. It’s important that he make himself more available to the Detroit-based groups who are on the front lines of creating change for Detroit children and Detroit families.