Last week, as the temperature soared to 90 degrees in Detroit, Michigan suffered a major power outage after an unelected city official decided he needed to send a “strong message” by turning off a portion of the electric grid. This led to dozens of reports of people trapped in elevators and the evacuation of numerous buildings, yet not a single major national news outlet felt this story warranted coverage.
Detroit is currently under control of an emergency manager, not elected by the people of the city, but instead appointed by Governor Rick Snyder.
Gary Brown, the city's chief compliance officer who reports to the emergency manager's office, when asked by local Detroit Fox affiliate about the blackout seemed to imply that it was intentional and done to “send a strong message:"
We did start calling our customers prior to taking them down and asking them to comply and turn off their air conditioners, but they weren't responding as fast as we would have liked them to, and so we had to send a strong message by turning the power off.
Among the buildings that lost power was the courthouse that was on “high alert” after a prisoner escaped earlier in the week, and evacuating major public buildings on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks apparently wasn't considered. Even more disconcerting was that Brown seemed to be laughing as he answered this question.
Brown did claim that these were “precautionary measures” so that “large parts of the city” didn't go dark after two “main lines” on the power grid “went down.”
But this story is about more than America's aging infrastructure -- its implications extend well beyond Detroit. The city's bankruptcy and financial situation has been national news for months, and the power of unelected city managers appointed across the country as cities face economic distress merits a broader conversation, particularly when these officials have authority over basic city services like electricity.
A Nexis search for Gary Brown's quote reveals only two stories, both of which were posted on the website for the Fox News Detroit affiliate that initially interviewed the city official.
A further search for “Gary Brown” and “Detroit” only reveals some local coverage of the controversy and mentions on a few disparate blogs, indicating that not a single major national outlet in the Nexis database covered this story. Given the implications of this tale, it is incredible that no national outlet felt it newsworthy enough to share with its readers.