We knew from the beginning that the marketing campaign was really going to make or break the whole project, so we had to choose our language very carefully. That meant “serf” and “indentured servant” were out immediately—too much historical baggage—and "licensee" and "lessee" were too legalistic, not enough implied fun. So we performed the Thunk Tank mind meld, and came up with the answer almost immediately: “Contestant!”
The word implied a sense of promise and great potential, but with no guarantees. Winners would succeed in a great meritocracy, while losers had no one to blame but themselves. “Citizen,” I mean, what a burden, what a dull stink of responsibility that has, but “contestant”… well, hot damn, a contestant gets a moment in the spotlight, the opportunity to vie for greatness. “Contestant” rhymes with “celebrity” and celebrities are sexy. “Congratulations! You’ve been selected to be a contestant on the town formerly known as Munising!” It was brilliant.
Rick Snyder has the name of a game show host and the face of a traveling vacuum cleaner salesman. He’s a businessman, a venture capitalist, and a self-described nerd. I actually don’t think he pushed through the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act as a salvo against Working Class America, or as a nefarious power grab for the oligarchy. I think he truly believes the gospel of corporate efficiency and—as nerds often do—confused a “rational” choice for a “good” choice, without really comprehending the inevitable consequences of his plan. Like many nerds, he’s also a sucker for flashy PowerPoint presentations, and like many corporate executives he’s a sucker for jargon-riddled, buzzword-referencing executive summaries, and this is where we saw our opening.
Michigan had budget problems, and thanks to the LGaSDFA Act, if the governor thought a town was almost broke, and local officials weren’t cooperating with the state to resolve the problems, good ol’ Rick could appoint a Financial Manager to step in and play Sim City with real people. Managers could default on bonds, ignore union demands, rearrange schools … hell, they could disincorporate and merge whole towns if they wanted! For obvious reasons, becoming Financial Managers seemed like a highly desirable position for us, and so we used some of Bronwyn’s connections to certain Olds to get an audience with the Rickster and explain how he was looking at a real crisitunity here.