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Michigan mayor's auto aid plan: Buy Michigan-made or you're fired

May 5, 2009 |  5:54 am

You’ve got to admire James Fouts and his eagerness to start a courtroom brawl.

The mayor of Warren, Mich., has issued an executive order requiring that all political appointees drive an American-made car. For those who now drive a Honda or a Lexus? Get shopping.

According to Fouts, they have to guarantee that their next car purchase will be a vehicle made by General Motors, Chrysler or Ford.Mayor James fouts of Warren Michigan

To those who don’t want to make the switch?

“They can find another place to work,” Fouts said.

Seem harsh? Consider this: GM and Chrysler are the town’s No. 1 and 2 employers, respectively.

Tax revenues generated by the two carmakers account for 15% of the city’s $98-million annual budget, and one-third of the Detroit suburb’s 138,000 residents rely on the auto industry for their livelihood.

That’s a lot of folks.

When someone dared to point out that Honda and Toyota make many cars in the U.S. with U.S. workers, Fouts shrugged. 

“People understand," he said adamantly, "their salaries are dependent upon whether Chrysler and General Motors succeed, or whether they go out of business.”

Fouts himself drives a new, midnight-black Dodge Charger, which he sheepishly admitted to getting pulled over for speeding in it a while back.

And he is determined that, someday soon, all city workers will join him in driving vehicles made by one of the Big Three. Teachers. Janitors. Sewer crews. Anyone pulling a paycheck from the city.

It’s become a point of contention these days, as Fouts and city officials are proposing the requirement as they negotiate contracts with the local labor unions. Given Chrysler’s recent bankruptcy filing, and GM facing a June 1 deadline to come up with a viable plan to avoid a similar fate, it’s possible that Fouts’ wistful proviso might actually get some traction.

There's more about how the community’s wrestling with the Chrysler bankruptcy over here.

-- P.J. Huffstetter

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Photo: Warren, Mich., Mayor James Fouts. Credit: Associated Press

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