DETROIT (WWJ) – Detroit City Council President Saunteel Jenkins says Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr used a poor choice of words when he described Detroiters in a Wall Street Journal interview,
“Detroiters are not dumb; Detroiters are not lazy. Detroiters work very hard,” Jenkins told WWJ Newsradio 950’s Charlie Langton.
“Are there changes that need to be made in the city of Detroit? Absolutely. That is not a total refection of the people who live here,” she said.
Jenkins was responding to a statement by the state-appointed EM, printed on Friday.
Orr said, “For a long time the city was dumb, lazy, happy and rich … Detroit has been the center of more change in the 20th century than I dare say virtually any other city, but that wealth allowed us to have a covenant [that held] if you had an eighth grade education, you’ll get 30 years of a good job and a pension and great health care, but you don’t have to worry about what’s going to come.”
On Monday, about two dozen Detroit retirees and union supporters gathered outside City Hall demanding an apology.
Among them was Linda Lovelady, who said she’s not lazy — she earned her pension.
“I wish I was happy and rich, like Kevyn Orr who’s getting rich off our backs,” she said. “He is out of touch. He does not know. And all these quotes saying we’re earning $100,000 pensions … We’re not earning $100,000 pensions. I wish I was.”
Orr spokesman Bill Nowing said his boss was referring to Detroit’s politicians, not the Motor City’s citizenry at large.
Jenkins called Orr’s comments “quite unfortunate.”
” … They paint a very inaccurate picture of the people of the city of Detroit and of this region,” Jenkins said. “This is the region that built the middle class for the entire country.”
Jenkins said Michigan as a whole had for too long been completely reliant on the auto industry. “No one planned for GM to go bankrupt,” she said. “I think improper planning is different from being dumb and lazy.”
A bankruptcy trial is tentatively scheduled for late October after Orr failed to reach a deal with creditors.
Orr estimates the city’s long-term debt at a distressing $18 billion, but seems to believe Detroit can make a comeback.
“The eyes of the world are on us,” he told the Journal. This is our opportunity for a great All-American city to show what it really is.”