News broke Friday that one philanthropist is offering a sizeable small fortune to help save the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts from being broken up as part of the city’s bankruptcy settlement.
Curious that reports of A. Paul Schaap’s proposed donation were published on Friday because 131 years before, on December 6, 1882, a meeting was held of Detroit swells that helped lead to the creation of the DIA in the first place.
Along with finding a way to protect the pensions of retired Detroit workers, saving the DIA collection from sale has been one of the top priorities of those trying to find a way to resolve the city’s bankruptcy. Earlier this week, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes ruled that Detroit’s controversial Chapter 9 filing could go forward, and city Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said officials should find ways to monetize, not sell, the DIA’s city-owned collection to help resolve the need to pay off creditors.
Mr. Schaap has said he will donate $5 million to the effort to protect the DIA and help the pensions. He is meeting with U.S. Chief District Judge Gerald Rosen on the issue. Mr. Rosen has called for foundations to put up $500 million to help protect the collection.
On this date in 1882, at the Detroit home of railroad tycoon James Joy, a meeting was held to encourage individuals to take part in organizing an art exhibit for the city. Among the most enthusiastic participants was Detroit Evening News (yes, the parent to The Detroit News) founder James Scripps and the advertising manager William Brearley.
The two newspaper execs used their influence to help build local interest and convince local philanthropists to put together an exhibit using borrowed art. The exhibit was held in 1883 and was a big success. From that, interest grew on creating a permanent museum. A location was found, the needed funds were raised in a record time and the DIA opened in 1886.
One hopes the enthusiasm of the 1880 backers and Mr. Schaap’s announcement will help spur others to donate and secure the museum as the city resolves all its bankruptcy issues.
Democrats have a bright political talent in Jocelyn Benson.
At just 36, she is the interim dean of the Wayne State University Law School. Three years ago, she lost a bid for secretary of state, but with 45.2 percent of the vote, she performed about four percentage points better than the Democratic base in that Republican wave election.
Ms. Benson managed the rare feat of securing a future as a player in Michigan Democratic politics despite losing thanks to the excitement she generated among Democratic voters and her ability to raise money.
Career-wise, Ms. Benson has settled in nicely, landing the plum post of interim dean at the Wayne State University Law School.
But in terms of her political career, the last three years have been scattershot. There were rumblings in 2011 and again this year about her running for Michigan Democratic Party chair. She declined to run both years.
There has been persistent talk about her waging a rematch in 2014 against Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. There also was some talk of attorney general. There even was talk of a gubernatorial run. Of those posts, the one that Ms. Benson appeared most interested in was secretary of state given her background in election law.
But then in October, the word exploded in Democratic circles that Ms. Benson, who has lived in Detroit, was seriously considering moving to Northville and running for Congress in the 11th U.S. House District. She made the rounds in Washington, D.C., with key Democratic figures, and several Democrats were convinced she was going to run although Ms. Benson tried to tamp down expectations.
This possible bid befuddled many Democrats though. It would mean running in a Republican-leaning seat. It will be a big hill for any Democrat to climb, regardless of the Republican nominee – U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Milford or mortgage foreclosure attorney David Trott. And there would be no spinning a second major loss as anything but a major setback to her political career.
There also is a Democratic candidate whom Michigan Democrats worked to recruit: Bobby McKenzie, a former counter-terrorism specialist at the U.S. Department of State. So Ms. Benson’s consideration of a run created some awkwardness in Democratic circles.
Ms. Benson declared Tuesday she would not run for Congress. Now the focus will return to a secretary of state bid. But that run would be fraught with difficulty.
Michigan Democrats’ priorities for 2014 are, in order, winning the governorship and control of the state House (and which comes first will likely oscillate a bit during the next year), electing U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township) to the U.S. Senate (though the critical funding for that race will come from national sources, making it less of a state party concern), not falling further behind on the Supreme Court where Republicans already have a 5-2 majority and making gains in the state Senate.
Somewhere after those races come the attorney general and secretary of state seats. There will only be so much money to go around, and Ms. Benson, for all her strengths, will need major money to win a rematch with Ms. Johnson. While Democrats would love to win the secretary of state post for the first time since 1990, their number one task – by far – is to end the Republicans’ complete control of the ability to make bills into law.
It is clear Ms. Benson wants to run for a major elected office. It also is clear Democrats would welcome the idea. It’s just totally unclear what office that will be and when.
The full House took a trip down memory lane today when the wireless Internet stopped working, and the members could not vote or use their iPads to access the web.
Luckily, the representatives’ old laptops were still in storage, and even more surprisingly, so was a box of short Ethernet cords to get each of the 110 laptops access to the Internet.
Session began at 1:30 p.m., and eventually House Democrats and Republicans went into caucus while those working in IT retrieved and set up the laptops. About 4 p.m., the House decided to only handle second readings of bills and deal with voting tomorrow.
While technology usually allows for the Legislature to be more efficient, today it showed technical difficulties can grind the process to a halt. Of course, there was always the option for a manual roll call of the members to handle votes, but those are time-consuming and with nothing urgent on Tuesday’s agenda, there apparently was no appetite to give the clerk’s vocal chords a workout.