Flint, state officials discuss return to local control

Aug 21, 2014

Flint is making progress toward possibly beginning the process of emerging from state oversight next spring. But there’s still a lot to do.

State officials met with Flint’s emergency manager, mayor and city council members this week to discuss a possible plan to transition the city back under local control.
State officials met with Flint’s emergency manager, mayor and city council members this week to discuss a possible plan to transition the city back under local control.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s been under an emergency manager since 2011.   

State officials met with Flint’s emergency manager, mayor, and city council members this week to discuss a possible plan to transition the city back to local control.     

Emergency manager Darnell Earley says the city still has to show it’s ready to be run in a financially responsible way. 

“It was emphasized during those meetings that the decision depends on whether or not that capacity can be demonstrated,” says Earley.

Flint leaders have taken steps toward reining in the city’s financial issues.

The city council has signed off on several steps, including a deficit elimination plan, to smooth the path of a possible transition from state oversight. 

Flint emergency eanager Darnell Earley says the city still has to show it’s ready to be run in a financially responsible way.
Flint emergency eanager Darnell Earley says the city still has to show it’s ready to be run in a financially responsible way.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

If the state agrees, when Darnell Earley’s term as emergency manager ends next year, he could be replaced by a Transition Advisory Board appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder. 

The board would cede much of the day to day running of the city to local elected officials. But the board would retain veto power over city council decisions.

Mayor Dayne Walling says he favors having the governor appoint a board to oversee local elected leaders during a transition back to full local control.   

“I believe there is nothing wrong with having oversight,” says Walling. “If you’re doing the right thing, then it is easy to work with a group that’s also looking at the books.”

Mayor Dayne Walling says he favors having the governor appoint a board to oversee local elected leaders during a transition back to full local control.
Mayor Dayne Walling says he favors having the governor appoint a board to oversee local elected leaders during a transition back to full local control.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

But Flint still has some distance to go before state receivership is lifted.

The city is still working to eliminate a roughly $13 million deficit.  

Flint also remains locked in a legal battle with its retirees over health care. If the city is not allowed to reduce benefits to its retirees, city leaders have suggested that Flint could be forced into bankruptcy. Earley says the two sides continue to meet to discuss a potential settlement of the lawsuit.

But, if Flint’s financial problems persist, Snyder could appoint another emergency manager to run Flint when Earley’s tenure ends next year.