emergency manager

this one

Lawmakers are continuing their autumn recess, but they’ll soon be back in Lansing to focus on Governor Rick Snyder’s plan for Detroit schools.

A Flint resident holds a jug of tainted Flint water.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There is a lot of controversy surrounding Michigan’s use of emergency managers. The Flint water fiasco, the decline of the Detroit Public School system – that all happened under the watch of state-appointed emergency managers.

While much has been said and written about Detroit getting through bankruptcy quickly, there are a lot of long-lasting effects of the city’s time under an emergency manager, including, but certainly not limited to, Belle Isle Park being turned over to state management, which some Detroit residents find frustrating.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s new mayor says she wants her city to return to total local control.

Soon after Karen Weaver took her oath of office as Flint mayor, she called on Governor Snyder re-instate total local control in her city.

“I do not embrace the current governance model on a moral or political basis,” Weaver told the standing room crowd that packed the city council chambers to watch her take her oath of office. 

Gov. Snyder is taking heat regarding decisions made by his Emergency Managers that lead to the Flint water crisis
Gov. Rick Snyder / screengrab

The fallout from the Flint water crisis is far from over.

Yes, the state’s top water official has been “reassigned.”  

And sure, the Department of Environment Quality director admits they bungled the testing of Flint’s water, and failed at setting up appropriate corrosion control measures. Those measures would have prevented lead from leaching from pipes in the Flint’s water.

But there is a deeper anger in Flint aimed at Governor Snyder, and the string of emergency managers he appointed to run the struggling city when it reached a financial crisis.

Governor Rick Snyder is facing a tough sell today as he tries to re-start the conversation on fixing Detroit’s schools. And, that’s just one of the political tough sells the Second Term Nerd is facing.

Protesters in Flint.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In Flint, lead levels in some children's blood have spiked dramatically, and scientists believe a new drinking water source is to blame. They're pointing to lapses in oversight from state regulators, who they say should’ve seen the problem coming.

Flint’s water problems began about a year ago, not long after the city stopped drawing water from Detroit’s system. To save money, Flint began getting its water from the Flint River.

Researchers at Virginia Tech received samples of Flint water (both clear and discolored) from residents.
Flint Water Study / Facebook

Yesterday, Gov. Rick Snyder admitted that the decision to switch the city of Flint's water supply from Detroit's system over to the Flint River was not well planned.

“In terms of a mistake, what I would say is, is there are probably things that were not as fully understood as when that switch was made,” Snyder said.

user alkruse24 / Flickr

It’s been almost two-and-a-half years since Michigan’s revamped emergency manager law took effect. Thirteen Michigan cities and five school districts are currently under some form of state oversight.

Now, there are growing doubts about the law’s ability to help schools in financial distress.

401(k) 2013 / Flickr

This week in Michigan Politics, political analyst Jack Lessenberry talks about a new law affecting school districts in trouble, college tuition hikes, a former inmate healthcare snafu, and Michigan veterans.  

One of Benton Harbor’s old emergency managers is expected to head to federal court next month.

Tony Saunders was Benton Harbor’s emergency manager from January 2013 until he declared the financial emergency over, in March 2014.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Parents and students in Highland Park will get a chance to hear what options they have for next year now that the high school is closing.

A couple weeks ago, the state-appointed emergency manager of Highland Parks schools announced the district would be a K-8 district only. He says there are just too few students to make it feasible.

This is what a $2,000 FOIA request looks like.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In order for parents to make the best decisions for their children, they need to know what’s going on. So do taxpayers and voters.

In my years of writing about school districts all over the state, I’ve learned everyone wants to brag about the successes. No one is in a hurry to admit when things aren’t working for students.

User Motown31 / Creative Commons

Highland Park schools can’t afford to offer high school next year, only grades K-8.

There are about 160 kids at Highland Park High school now. That’s only a third of the number of students there three years ago. That’s when district finances got so bad an emergency manager was appointed.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

New emergency managers have been picked to run the Highland Park and Muskegon Heights school districts.   

Steve Schiller will take over as emergency manager at Muskegon Heights, where he worked as a teacher and administrator for 30 years. During the last few years, he’s worked as a consultant for other emergency managers.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Student enrollment at Muskegon Heights has been declining since the 2009-10 school year.

Five years ago, student enrollment at Muskegon Heights schools was double what it is now. But for the first time since 2009, student enrollment was stable this year. Technically, enrollment was up 5 students.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager plans to start prepping for the end of his tenure.

Flint has been under an emergency manager since 2011. 

Current emergency manager Darnell Earley’s appointment ends in April.    He’s working now to begin the transition back to local control.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Natasha Henderson admits there are challenges ahead.

Henderson was introduced today as Flint’s incoming city administrator. Starting in February, she’ll take over running the day-to-day operations of a city still struggling to shake off a multi-million dollar budget deficit and ongoing crime problems. 

Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan / Flickr

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr resigned today. Gov. Rick Snyder had a little send-off for him in Detroit. Here to discuss that and other Michigan politics is the It’s Just Politics team, Rick Pluta and Michigan Radio’s resident political junkie Zoe Clark.

Click on the link above to hear Rick and Zoe discuss Orr's resignation and Michigan politics 

Detroit Public Schools

Detroit City Council recently voted to strip Kevyn Orr of most of his powers as the city's emergency manager. Now, the Detroit Public School Board is hoping to oust their emergency manager as well.

Under Michigan's current emergency manager law, local officials can vote to strip EMs of their power with a two-thirds vote after 18 months.

The Detroit school board voted Monday evening with the belief that Jack Martin’s tenure as emergency manager would end this week.

David Lewinski Photography

Q: What do Detroit, Allen Park, Flint, and Hamtramck all have in common?

A: The cities are all under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. 

Last month, the city of Lincoln Park joined that list. But we didn't see the protests and outcry that we saw over the appointment of an emergency manager in Detroit. 

When the city of Lincoln Park was turned over to Brad Coulter, a consultant to corporate turnaround specialists O'Keefe & Associates, the mayor of Lincoln Park, Thomas Karnes, was positive.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Voters in Mount Clemens face a difficult choice on Tuesday: Approve a big property tax increase or risk a state takeover of their city.

The recession of 2008 cost Mount Clemens more than a quarter of its property tax revenues.   The city also saw a more than 40% drop in state revenue sharing between 2000 and 2012. 

Robert Bruner is Mount Clemens' interim city manager.   He says the city has only been able to balance its books in recent years by slashing employees and by dipping into the city’s reserves which are now nearly gone. 

Benton Harbor High School
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A state review team is hosting a public meeting today in Benton Harbor. The six-member team is trying to determine if Benton Harbor Area Schools is in financial stress.

The Benton Harbor school district has been running a deficit since 2006. It's cut costs, but at the same time, it also has low-performing schools that need to improve test scores to meet state and federal standards. Plus, it’s lost students every year.

It’s already closed buildings, privatized support services and gotten concessions in wages and benefits from teachers.

State of Michigan

Three years ago, only a half-dozen cities and school districts in Michigan were being run by state-appointed emergency managers.

Today, 17 are in some phase of receivership.

That proves not only cities and schools in Michigan are facing tough times, but that Governor Snyder is making vigorous use of Public Act 436, the state's emergency manager law.

Bridge magazine writer Chastity Pratt Dawsey examines the effectiveness of the law and how it measures up to similar laws in other states in a report for the magazine's latest issue. She joined us today.

We also had Lou Schimmel on the show. He's served as emergency financial manager or emergency manager for Ecorse, Hamtramck and Pontiac. Right now he's on the transition advisory board for Pontiac. Our two guests explores a number of questions:

First off, why does the appointment of an emergency manager result in such emotional responses from residents?

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Mosaica Education, the charter company running Muskegon Heights schools, only has a few days left in its contract. But the district still has lots to do to get everything in place for the fall.

Last night the district hired its superintendent at a special board meeting. But it still has to finalize agreements with a staffing agency to hire all of its teachers and few other vendors by Monday.

This summer it has to finish building repairs, and rearrange all the grade levels because an elementary school building will close.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Area Schools has taken the next step in process that could result in an emergency manager.

Gov. Rick Snyder announced today his appointment of a six-member review team. The team has 60 days to determine if the district is in financial stress.

The district’s superintendent, Leonard Seawood, told state officials a few weeks ago it is. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights schools’ emergency manager thinks a new setup to run the district next year will be more economical than hiring another charter company.

For the last two years, a for-profit company ran Muskegon Heights schools. But it ran into cash flow problems. The state had to give the district two cash advances this spring to pay staff and give it an emergency loan to keep schools open through the end of the school year.  

“We are in a survival mode,” Muskegon Heights schools emergency manager Gregory Weatherspoon said at a press conference Tuesday. “We will go for whatever will work and save us money and this was a cost savings to us,” he said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Updated: Emergency manager says new arrangement will be more economical than charter school company

Muskegon Heights schools will not hire another for-profit charter company to run the district. Instead, the district plans to hire its own superintendent, a staffing company and the intermediate school district in Muskegon County to run schools for the next three years.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Despite a previous state takeover, a slew of surprise costs and a dramatic drop in student enrollment have led to a new budget deficit for the public school district in Highland Park.

A multi-million dollar deficit prompted a state takeover of Highland Park Public Schools in 2012. The state appointed emergency manager restructured the district’s deficit into long-term debt with over $7 million in emergency loans from the state.

The manager created a new charter school district to educate students. In 2012  The Leona Group LLC., a charter company,was hired to run the entire district for an annual fee of $780,000.

But now the district is running a deficit again.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Updated 5:10 p.m.

Mosaica Education and Muskegon Heights Public School Academy have come to a mutual agreement to end their working relationship.

“This was a difficult decision for us and our board,” Mosaica Chief Executive Officer Michael Connelly said in a written statement.

“We are very proud of the academic turnaround we were able to achieve under the leadership of Alena Zachery-Ross, our regional vice president and the superintendent for the system,” he said.

Benton Harbor High School
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Area Schools has been running a deficit since 2007. A review in 2011 found financial stress, but the district was in the middle of making changes to save money. No emergency manager was appointed under a previous version of the law.

But State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says BHAS isn’t making enough progress on the deficit.

The deficit is $14.7 million. For perspective, its revenues this year were $31.8 million.