TIM SKUBICK: What did you do to help Detroit?

When Michigan’s current batch of living governor’s finally make it to the Pearly Gates you have to wonder if St. Peter will ask this question: While in office what did you do to help the city of Detroit?

First in line is former Gov. Bill Milliken.

“Well St. Peter I worked with Mayor Coleman Young to finagle a way to send state tax dollars into cultural centers in the city. And oh yeah, I let him call me an expletive deleted that started with the word Mother.”

St. Peter: Yeah Coleman had a foul mouth but he meant no harm as he told you that was a “term of endearment.” And up here we appreciated that you found a way to motivate reluctant Republicans to help all of God’s children in the city. Come on in.

Next up, former Gov. Jim Blanchard.

“Hey St. Peter I liked Coleman Young, too but he didn’t much like me. In fact when he sat on his hands during my last re-election bid, the son-of-a ... gun cost me the election.

But I forgave him for that just like I hope you will forgive me for never really crafting an urban policy to get the city on a secure financial path. I wanted to but just never got around to it.”

Governor you will find we often turn our heads up here when needed, so enter.

St. Peter next says hello to ex-Governor John Engler.

John. How are the triplets doing?

“Just fine St. Peter. None of them are going into politics.”

I seem to recall you did do something for Detroit. Didn’t you abolish the duly elected school board down there? You know we believe in voting rights up here for everyone.


“I understand St. Peter, but I had no other choice. The local school board was wasting money, they had chauffeurs, went to conferences in warm places while I was stuck in Beal City and since I wasn’t going to win any votes in Detroit anyway, I installed a new “reform” school board.

St. Peter thumbs through his little book.

I see that was a flop. The kids did not get any smarter and your takeover poisoned the relationship between the city and the rest of the state.

Double gulp.

“Yes, but I did a hand-shake deal with former Mayor Dennis Archer to get some revenue into the city.”

Was the promise kept?

“I can not lie St. Peter. It was not, even though I ran on the platform of Promise Made, Promise Kept.”

Thank you for not lying. You were this close to going somewhere else. Enter.

Ah, sister Jennifer. So good to see you my loyal servant. I’ve been asking former governors what they did to help Detroit?

She winks.

“I got Kwame Kilpatrick to resign as mayor.”

Yes. Yes. That was a gutsy thing to do. He was a bit of a crook wasn’t he? Bet he is sorry we allowed the invention of those texting machines.

“To be honest with you St. Peter, I did wait a long time to act, but when he popped a cop on the front porch of a relative’s home, that was the last straw. I wanted to help the city in other ways but mean-old Mike Bishop and his GOP cronies would not cooperate.”

We’ll deal with them later on. But for now please join us.

“Hello St. Peter. I’m a non-career politician and since you let all the other career politicians in, I’m looking at your data to see if that means I can’t get in?”

Well what are you then?

Sheepishly he says, “One tough nerd.”

Oh yes. Rick Snyder. Saw that commercial on the Super Bowl years ago. Nicely done. It was masterful how you won without telling the voters all the things you would do if elected. Are you sure you’re not a career pol? But what about Detroit?

“Well as you can plainly see I’m the only modern day governor with the nerve to do what should have done years ago. I sent the city into bankruptcy.”

You what?

“I decided ‘enough was enough’ and something drastic had to be done, so I did it. I did it for the citizens of that fine city who had no street lights, not enough police officers, and a whopping $15 billion deficit. And I did it without concern for my own re-election bid.”

You weren’t going to win the city anyway, were you?

“Well probably not but that’s not the point. This was just the right thing to do. So what do you think? Am I in?”

Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series Off the Record since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.