Politics
3:02 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

State's consent agreement plan delivered to Detroit leaders

Update 3:02 p.m.

The state's consent agreement plan was delivered to Detroit city council today. Among other things, it calls for the establishment of a financial advisory board that would oversee actions by city council and the Mayor.

Detroit Mayor Bing does not like the plan, according to Detroit News columnist Nolan Finley.

And here's some reaction from Detroit city council members:

The Detroit News reports:

Earlier Monday, City Council member James Tate voiced this concern: "By no means am I pleased with what I saw." He and others declined to discuss specifics of what they had read.

Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown, a staunch supporter of the need for a consent agreement, said he had some reservations about the executive summary he read.

From a statement from Detroit City council member Virgil Smith:

“It is clear that the Snyder administration is trying to circumvent the legislative process by any and all means.  The Governor’s Emergency Manager Law is undemocratic and this agreement is also undemocratic.”

“The governor knows that there is a good chance the Emergency Manager Law might be overturned, therefore, on line 18 of the executive summary, they specifically state that they are attempting to ‘survive the potential suspension of Act 4.’  Therefore, this agreement is really not a better solution than an emergency manager; it is actually worse.  I urge my colleagues on the Detroit City Council to vote against this plan.”

And the Detroit Free Press reports that some council members have asked their attorneys to review the proposal, "saying a consent agreement is unconstitutional and anti-democratic."

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson went further, saying a consent agreement is like a death sentence to the city because elected officials lose power in the process. "In a consent agreement, you are consenting to your own demise. It's outrageous," Watson said. "Who puts a noose on their own neck?"

11:33 a.m.

Governor Snyder appeared on Detroit's WCHB Radio this morning and talked with Angelo Henderson about the consent agreement the state delivered to city leaders this morning.

Snyder said the agreement calls for the creation of a financial advisory board that would advise and sign off on proposals put forward by the mayor and city council.

"We would create a financial advisory board. Appointments would be made jointly by me, the city council, and the Mayor."

Snyder said those nominated to the board would have the required "turnaround" expertise. The board would be vetted by the Michigan Association of CPAs.

"It's not to run the city, it's to support the city. The mayor and council would still run the city," said Snyder. "There would be this additional review and sign off to make sure it's being done right."

Snyder said Mayor Bing has been working hard to solve the city's problems, but he hasn't had all the resources he's needed.

Snyder highlighted three things that he hopes will come as a result of the consent agreement:

  1. financial stability
  2. better basic services - public safety, bus service, lighting
  3. creating a positive vision for the city of Detroit - "let's build a better city," he said.

When he was asked about privatizing certain departments like the city's lighting department or the transportation department, or the city airport, Snyder said the city should explore ways to "partner with others" to improve city services.

Gov. Snyder said the state has increased revenue sharing with cities in the next fiscal year budget, but said more money is not the answer. "It can be in a situation where we're putting more money in a hole. We need to fix the basics in the city," he said.

The deadline for the city to sign on to the consent agreement is March 28, "I'm concerned about hitting that deadline, that's why I'm happy to talk with you," he told Henderson.

If the agreement isn't reached, the state could appoint an emergency manager to run the city.

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported earlier:

Detroit will go broke in the next couple of months, with a $45-50 million shortfall expected by early summer.

One Detroit City Council member who saw an earlier draft of the consent agreement said he's concerned that too much power will be stripped from council.

From the Detroit News:

"I'm interested to see how it changes," Tate said. "I certainly don't believe there's going to be a vote on it (today). I felt under the gun when I came into office. I felt under the gun in November. I feel under the gun now. But we absolutely do have to get our finances together."

Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown expects to the agreement to have a mix of things:

"I'm sure there will be things in the document that I get to see (Tuesday) that I absolutely cannot live with," Brown said. "There will be things that I certainly will be willing to negotiate. And there will probably be quite a bit of it that I certainly agree with 100 percent."

10:46 a.m.

The Associated Press reports the state's consent agreement plan aimed at correcting Detroit's troubled finances has been delivered to city officials this morning. The plan includes privatizing some services.

More from the Associated Press:

Councilman James Tate says the deal includes an advisory committee that would remove some power from elected officials. Tate says the consent agreement reads more like a "one-way edict."

If approved, the deal could keep the state from appointing an emergency financial manager in Detroit, which faces a $197 million budget deficit.

The Detroit City Council, Mayor Dave Bing and a 10-member financial review team were expected to assess the proposal. Council wasn't expected to vote on it Tuesday.

Snyder has said he prefers a consent agreement, which would allow Detroit to fix its own finances.