- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008

WARREN, Mich.

Plans are commencing in this Detroit suburb for a holiday celebration. There will be horse-drawn wagon rides, Christmas caroling and a petting zoo for the children.

But as much as Warren tries to embrace the coming holidays as normal, things here are anything but merry for local residents - about a quarter employed by U.S. automakers - as they wait uneasily for word from Washington about a possible bailout plan that could save their flagging industry. Or without it, bring about its demise.

Jim Fouts acknowledges that it’s a tough time to be mayor in Warren, a city that is as dependent on the car industry as Washington is on the federal government.

About 35,000 of the city’s 140,000 residents are employed in auto-related jobs with thousands more auto industry retirees calling it home. Here, a massive GM technical center sprawls across a 330-acre campus, while Dodge maintains three high-tech facilities that employ about 6,000 workers.

Up the road in Sterling Heights, in another 3 million-square-foot complex, DaimlerChrysler employs about 2,400 workers.

Simply put, Mr. Fouts says, if one of the Big Three crumbles, the ripple effect would likely turn Warren into a ghost town.

“I think everybody here is apprehensive,” Mr. Fouts says, noting that nearly every conversation from his constituents begins, “Do you think we’ll get the bailout?” And, “What will happen if we don’t?”

“My city is highly dependent on the auto industry. GM is to Warren what Coca-Cola is to Atlanta or what the president is to D.C. I cannot conceive that Congress would turn them down. It’s not whether they will - but they must.”

He pauses and adds sadly: “If they don’t, it’s going to be a cheerless holiday season here.”

Across the Detroit area, residents are bracing for the unknown, envisioning a Motor City without a motor industry.

Some are bristling at the national backlash as the CEOs of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler were pointedly called on the carpet Tuesday by members of Congress for their wasteful ways, even as they pleaded for more money to halt their fiscal nose dive.

“Why do they hate us?” asks an editorial in the Detroit News, acknowledging the chilly reception to a once-proud industry that served as the backbone for the national economy.

Even native son Mitt Romney, a noted corporate change artist whose father turned around American Motors, called his hometown industry on the carpet for its blatant and reckless mismanagement, suggesting a jaw-dropping “managed bankruptcy.”

“Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check,” Mr. Romney wrote in a published editorial. His terse admonition echoes the sentiments of some here who want the industry to stay afloat but say it needs massive oversight, rather than just more cash, to stem bad business practices.

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