If Detroit was a person, Kevyn Orr would be selling its kidneys

This weekend, upon hearing Kevyn Orr’s suggestion that we explore the possibility of selling the art collection of the DIA in order to satisfy the creditors of Detroit, it occurred to me that our newly appointed Emergency Manager might find it a bit more difficult to pillage the public coffers on behalf of Wall Street if he had no computers with which to send his memos, no telephones with which to communicate with his handlers at ALEC, and no employees to set up auctions. I mean, if Bill Nowling, the spokesman for Mr. Orr, is telling the truth when he says, “We’ve got a responsibility to rationalize all the assets of the city and find out what the worth is and what the city holds,” then why not start in Mr. Orr’s office? Why not let us know what kind of cell phone and laptop he’s been issued, so that we can bid on them, just like the wealthy will have an opportunity to bid on the paintings of the masters? Who wouldn’t want a piece of history – a stack of notepads from Orr’s coffee table, a square inch of his desk, his office chair? I say we all write in, demanding to have every asset he comes in contact with “rationalized”. I don’t know that it would solve the problem before us, but I imagine it may take a bit of the wind out of Orr’s sails to walk across a carpet of rough burlap every morning to take his seat upon a hay bale and scratch his ideals onto the face of an old, muddy shovel.

Speaking of the impressive collection that has been amassed at the Detroit Institute of Arts since 1885, I don’t know whose interpretation will win out, but the museum’s director, Graham W. J. Beal, seems to think that it can’t be touched, as it’s “held in the public trust,” and, for that reason, should be safe from Orr’s carcass picking.

I can’t say it’s a surprising move on the part of the unelected Republican appointee, as his fellow Emergency Managers have a solid track record of going into Michigan’s most vulnerable cities, breaking union contracts, privatizing schools, and selling whatever can be sold, without any thought as to the long time viability of those communities. The DIA’s collection, in the eyes of any sane person, would be seen as a solid foundation from which to build long term stability. In the eyes of Orr, however, these are just assets that have value, and, if the Koch brothers want to buy a panel from Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry” series to piss against in the Ayn Rand wing of their compound, so be it. And, if a wealthy art collector wants to pony up the cash for Vincent van Gogh’s “Self Portrait,” that’s just the beauty of the free market in action. The main thing is, we mustn’t stand in the way of this historically unprecedented transfer of wealth away from communal institutions and the working class… who, if they knew what was good for them, would be working harder instead of wasting their time in museums anyway.

Just remember, when communities stumble, it’s our job as Capitalists, to hold them down, rifle through their pockets, and leave them for dead.

And, finally, as I don’t think my opinion on the matter has changed very much over the past year and a half, here’s false dilemmaShould we allow our cities to go bankrupt, or should we send in an Emergency Manager to ease us peacefully into death. I maintain there’s another solution – one that doesn’t involve cutting taxes on the rich to the tune of $1.65 billion dollars, and instructing our poor to spend the winter in tents.

And, yes, you read that right. When we ended the Michigan Business Tax, it cost us $1.65 billion… or roughly what we’d gain by selling the collection of the DIA into the hands of private collectors.

Just think about that for a while.

[note: For a discussion on which of Ypsilanti’s community assets might be susceptible to an Emergency Manager, click here.]

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  1. 721 H
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    And Orr makes $275,000 for doing what he’s told, taking the heat and living with the guilt.

  2. Oliva
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    And his boss, the guy running the Emergency Manager program for Snyder, is Ann Arbor’s former city administrator, who is now trying to get the job of city administrator for Kalamazoo. Ann Arbor has a long way to go to undo the damage he left behind.

  3. Edward
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    To complete your analogy, Orr wouldn’t even have the decency to pack you in a tub full of ice after drugging you and removing your kidneys.

  4. Oliva
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I meant to include a link re. Fraser, running EM Program for Snyder and former Ann Arbor city administrator: http://www.annarbor.com/news/former-ann-arbor-administrator-roger-fraser-seeking-city-manager-position-in-kalamazoo/

  5. Eel
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    It’s the best time in American history to be a Conservative African American Henchman (CAAH).

  6. Tommy
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    There is a term for men of color like Mr. Orr – two terms actually. Both are fitting. He is doing what he has been instructed to do by his masters. Where is Malcolm X when you need him?

  7. Demetrius
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    My understanding is that Detroit still has a lawfully-elected Mayor and City Council who are legally responsible for running the city.

    Conversely, Mr. Orr has only been appointed under the so-called “authority” of a law that Michigan voters recently rejected (handily) in a referendum.

    So, a semi-serious question: What would happen if Detroit city officials, employees, residents, and the leadership of the DIA, etc., simply refused to acknowledge Orr’s legitimacy? For example, what if people simply stopped showing up for his meetings … what if city payroll staff refused to pay his salary or expenses …? Better yet, what if local journalists stopped covering his every utterance as if it were urgent “breaking news?”

  8. Dennis
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Orr was appointed under the old EM law.

  9. SparkleMotion
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    The two above comments – wow. I completely dig the insinuation that he is not only incapable of independent though, but only exists to do the bidding of “his masters” since he is but a “henchman”. Tommy would have made a fine plantation philosopher.

  10. SparkleMotion
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    *correction – I was referring to Tommy and Eel’s comments.

  11. Ken
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Detroit shouldn’t have sports teams if they are that far in debt. Is there a way to get rid of those?

  12. Eel
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I didn’t say that he was outsmarted by whitey. He’s an adult and he knows what he’s doing. He was hired to play a part just like Cheney hired Bush. Race only plays a part in so far as every EM to be hired by the administration is African American. I’d say that’s one he’ll of a coincidence. Of course, maybe all of Snyder’s VPs at Gateway were African American when he was the CEO. Anyone want to wager? The reality is they hire AA conservatives to dismantle primarily black towns because they know that’s what it takes. This is science.

  13. Tommy
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I, too, echo what Eel states above. Orr is very capable of independent thought; he is also capable of doing the bidding of others who want a piece of action who normally would have no way to get skin in the game. He knows what he is doing; he has been taught well. These guys are like the Mitt Romneys of the world – smile and shake you hand while slitting your throat – welcome to Detroit motherfucker!

  14. Meta
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink


    Sports teams are sacrosanct.

    If you don’t believe me, here’s a headline from this morning: “Chicago’s Choice: Closing 50 Schools But Spending $100 Million On Basketball Arena”


  15. Brain
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m in no way condoning the sale of such a cultural treasure, but I think there has been a large conclusion made here that was jumped to somewhat hastily. Allow me to play devil’s advocate for the sake of just putting a few more facts out there…

    First, if Orr can’t get what he wants from the city to solve the budget, then the city defaults and it’d be the creditors that would be responsible for making the DIA sell off assets. That is if it even went there of course. Let’s also consider, selling off any art wouldn’t likely be a first step by any means (this is just my educated guess) – from my reading, it seems Orr is more interested with skimming from pension plans before anything else (which yes, is also horrible).

    Second, when Orr’s spokesman made the announcement, he clearly stated: “there’s currently no plan to sell any art and that this is a “precautionary measure” to inform the DIA that if Detroit is pushed into bankruptcy “we’re not sure we can protect the assets from the creditors.”” (From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130524/METRO01/305240366#ixzz2UboT38qH) So we’re not really looking at an ultimatum here, but hopefully just a precautionary tale of what may happen – I see it as just a scare tactic to get people to the table and negotiating. Why guess it’s just be a scare tactic? Orr and company warned the DIA “months ago that city-owned assets could be at risk.”, somewhat graciously, giving them time to get their ducks in a row.

    Anyway, those are really the only two points I could think of to try and remove some of the fear factor for those who may be reading this article and using it as their sole basis to come to any conclusion.

    There was a short, yet good discussion about it on the Craig Fahle show on Friday if any of you are be interested in hearing a few other view points: http://wdet.org/shows/craig-fahle-show/episode/friday-follies-may-24-2013/

    That’s all, we can all go back to hating Kevyn Orr now – and believe me, I’m honestly on board with that, just not for the reason given in this article.

  16. Elliott
    Posted May 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    This is the first story I’ve seen on line that notes the cut in the business tax when mentioning this move against the DIA and the people of Detroit. This is not happening in a vacuum. Our cities are being defunded and looted. Make no mistake.

  17. John Galt
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    If God didn’t want the rich taking the kidneys of the poor, he wouldn’t have put them so close to the surface, and so easy to harvest. They literally hang from tiny strings. They’ll easier to pluck than oranges.

  18. Posted May 29, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    My issue, Brain, isn’t that they’re trying to figure out the debts and assets if the city. It’s absolutely what they should be doing. My issue is with the leadership that put them in this situation – a perfect storm of con men like Kwame Kilpatrick and people like our current Governor, who just want to sell the parts off to the highest bidder and be done with it. And, as I said earlier, I hate how shortsighted it is. If we were smart, we’d be shoring up what works and making it stronger. Instead, we find ourselves just selling off what we have of value, instead of considering future viability. But these people don’t think like that. Planning together for the future is socialism.

  19. Brian
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I wholeheartedly agree with you there Mark!!! After my original posting, I automatically thought I should have mentioned that Kevyn Orr is now only there because of the leadership of people like Snyder and Kilpatrick. Spot on. This could have all been avoided.

  20. Paul B.
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, because if someone acts a certain way it’s totally alright to turn racist on them. Way to go, dudes. Super constructive.

  21. Robert
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Legal representation should be retained on behalf of the entire taxpaying citizenry of the City of Detroit. Attorneys should then file a request for a federal order placing all “city” taxes in escrow until that time when the City of Detroit once again has a publicly elected government. Until that time, the taxpaying citizenry of Detroit should seek federal protection against privately controlled city officials from making any attempt to collect ‘taxes’ for the private entity which they now represent.

    Federal criminal complaints should also be filed against the Governor, and his private corporate bosses who have engineered the hijacking of a pubic governmental body. Among these complains would be conspiracy and racketeering. The proof is in the other appointments around the state of so-called EFM, where it has become clear the purpose is to further fleece the taxpaying public under the false guise of ‘fixing’ failing local governments.

    The people of Detroit have no obligation to pay taxes to any private entity of any kind. The City of Detroit is no longer a public entity with the power to tax. In the US, only government entities with publicly elected leadership and legislative representation have the power to tax.

    Additional legal motions should be made on behalf of individual neighborhoods to secede from City of Detroit and return to township status, or reincorporate as new smaller municipalities. Corktown could do this immediately, and there are many others, I believe.

    If people want to be responsible citizens engaged in a democratic system, they must act proactively, and aggressively. Otherwise they will simply be manipulated further into serfdom through the tactics employed by this government which we’ve all seen increasingly corrupted and co-opted by private interests.

  22. 721 H
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    The DIA is fortunate in that it has many powerful friends. My real concern is for the public libraries and the smaller museums.

  23. Robert
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Mortgage Fraud Investigations – Miami’s Steve Dibert asks…

    “Is Detroit’s New Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr A Patsy?”

    …and of course the answer is “Yes.”

    Read his take:

  24. Robert
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Except I think Orr is a willing patsy, because there will be no negative consequence to him. In fact, I will bet you’ll be seeing him get a sweet deal once this Detroit ‘rescue’ fails miserably. There is no way a guy who makes $700 an hour takes on a job for one fifth of that. There is a hidden payoff for him, and I guarantee it’s financial.

    Snyder is no genius, and he’s an incredible wimp. He had no idea what he was really getting into when he ran, and now he’s just taking orders from the operators who put him in. Their plan is always to take advantage of circumstances for their own financial gain. They never do anything for any other reason, so it really shouldn’t keep coming as a surprise when the public loses again and these guys are sitting on mounds of cash they extracted in the process of ‘failing’.

  25. Robert Davis
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Robert, yes, from your above post.

    and now he’s just taking orders from the operators who put him in.
    Their plan is always to take advantage of circumstances for their own financial gain. They never do anything for any other reason, so it really shouldn’t keep coming as a surprise when the public loses again and these guys are sitting on mounds of cash they extracted in the process of ‘failing’.

  26. Virginia Postrel
    Posted June 8, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    “Great artworks shouldn’t be held hostage by a relatively unpopular museum in a declining region.” – Bloomburg columnist Virginia Postrel


  27. Meta
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Orr says there are no plans to sell the collection, but he’s contracted with Christie’s to give an appraisal.

    Christie’s Appraisals Inc. is expected to complete an appraisal of some of the Detroit Institute of Art’s top pieces by the fall.

    Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has contracted Christie’s to appraise the portion of the museum’s collection purchased by the city, including some of the most valuable works.

    Orr said the move came in response to pressure from the city’s creditors.

    “The city must know the current value of all its assets, including the city-owned collection at the DIA,” Orr said in a statement.

    “There has never been, nor is there now, any plan to sell art. This valuation, as well as the valuation of other city assets, is an integral part of the restructuring process.

    “It is a step the city must take to reach resolutions with its creditors and secure a viable, strong future for Detroit and its residents.”

    Among the other assets under appraisal include the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, of which the city owns 50 percent; the Coleman A. Young International Airport; parking garages and meters; and “certain real estate holdings,” according to a news release issued Friday.

    Read more:

  28. Meta
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Jerry Vile, the artist who recently put a giant tub of Crisco under the Joe Louis fist in downtown Detroit, is now putting “for sale” signs up on objects around the city.

    Driven by Detroit’s recent bankruptcy filing, Vile and a small crew of people tagged some of Detroit’s most iconic landmarks Wednesday with pink, yellow and greenDayGlo price tags that included the message: “Motor City Going Out of Business Sale.”

    Vile and friends stamped Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker” at the Detroit Institute of Arts with a giant pink price tag and slashed the make-believe sale price on the Horace E. Dodge and Son Memorial Fountain at Hart Plaza.

    About a dozen people, including graffiti artist Kobie Solomon and Inner State co-owner and artist Dan Armand, split up around the city to place the tags.

    “The reports I heard is that as soon as they went up, they came off,” Vile said.

    About a half-hour after Vile’s crew went through Hart Plaza and the Detroit RiverWalk, the Free Press confirmed that someone was quickly removing the price tags. What’s unclear is who was doing it. A spokesperson for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s office said no city resources were used to remove the price tags, nor were the tags reported to them.

    As part of his blitz, Vile even took out a full-page fake ad in this week’s Metro Times alternative weekly, in which he detailed some of the deals consumers can pick up during a “Motor City Going Out of Business Sale.”

    Vile is best known in Detroit as the creator of the long-running erotic-art exhibition “The Dirty Show,” but the Crisco stunt at the Joe Louis fist and the price-tag statement bring him back to his days writing satire and commentary in magazines such as Fun and Orbit.

    Read more:

  29. Meta
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    The suburbs are threatening to cut their funding of the DIA if Orr sells valuable artwork.

    The beleaguered city of Detroit, the largest in the US to file for bankruptcy, is embroiled in a fresh controversy over fears that it may be preparing to sell some of its 60,000-piece art collection, one of the most prestigious in the US.

    Officials from suburban counties have warned that if the city’s bankruptcy managers sell any assets in the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) – whose collection includes a self-portrait by Van Gogh, a 27-panel fresco by Diego Rivera and works by Rembrandt and Matisse – they will cut their contributions to its funding. The combined income from three counties surrounding the city is worth $23m a year to the museum, a sum that represents almost 75% of its operating budget.

    In a clear message to the city to ringfence the collection, officials from Oakland County will vote next Tuesday on a resolution to stop distributing a property tax levy if any art is sold or if funds from the museum are diverted to pay the city’s creditors. Nearby Macomb and Wayne Counties have similar plans. The museum itself maintains that the artwork is protected by a charitable trust, a position with which emergency manager Kevyn Orr told Reuters last week he disagrees.

    Read more:

  30. dr smith radin
    Posted September 28, 2016 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    I still love this post.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] of Karl’s father’s collection is now owned by the DIA. One can only hope it’s not sold off at auction to pay off the debts of Detroit… Also, I know this is a long shot, but I hear from Jean that […]

  2. […] purposefully establishing a presence in Michigan so that, when the time comes, they can handle the selling of the DIA collection for Kevyn Orr and Governor […]

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