Facing emergency manager threat, Detroit officials struggle for a plan

Jan 22, 2012

Detroit’s elected leaders are still struggling to come up with a unified plan to avoid a state takeover—even as a state review team continues work in the city.

The Detroit City Council has been critical of Mayor Dave Bing’s proposal to save more than $100 million this fiscal year to prevent the city from running out of cash.

Members suggest it contains too many optimistic revenue projections and unrealistic assumptions.

The Council has its own list of suggestions. But in the end, they can do little more than offer them to the Mayor.

Still, Council President Charles Pugh says both sides agree that the state should offer some kind of help to keep Detroit solvent. But he says that needs to be in exchange for a viable plan to restructure the city and wipe out its deficit.

“Moving forward, they can’t turn a blind eye to their role in helping us. So the question is: what do we ask?” Pugh said.

As the Council tries to figure that out, the Bing administration has focused almost exclusively on getting concessions from city unions.

Those talks have yielded nothing yet, but Bing says he’s still hopeful.

Members also fought over whether to meet with people from the state review this week. Councilwoman JoAnn Watson objected, saying that would undermine the ongoing attempts to overturn the Public Act 4, the emergency manager law.

But most Council members argued that would be short-sighted, including Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr.

“If it comes down to the Council and the Mayor not being able to agree, then we have to make a judgment call,” Cockrel said, “on whether or not we want to be remembered in history as at least having offered a set of alternatives and recommendations, as opposed to doing nothing at all.”