Detroit City Council

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This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley talk about a plan to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, the polar vortex and what the new leadership on Detroit City Council will mean for the city.

Most people in Detroit yesterday were understandably focused on the bone-chilling cold, on attempts to get the streets cleared of snow, and to get those without heat to warming centers.

But something else happened that sent a chill through those trying to manage the city to a brighter future. The newly elected City Council chose its two top leaders yesterday.

I can tell you that virtually without exception, those trying to remake the city counted on Saunteel Jenkins being elected City Council president. Saunteel knows politics and people.  She came from the mean streets, where her 14-year-old brother was shot dead by someone stealing his jacket.

Brenda Jones

There was an important vote today as members of Detroit's City Council chose a new leader.

Councilwoman Brenda Jones edged out previous Council president Saunteel Jenkins.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek explains what happened.

*Listen to audio above.

Wikipedia

A proposed new hockey arena and entertainment district in Detroit has cleared more hurdles.

The Detroit City Council voted Friday on two measures that will allow the $650 million project to move forward.

Detroit’s elected leaders are shocked that the state has put a strict limit on how much it will pay for the city’s many restructuring consultants.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed last year, the state agreed to reimburse Detroit for half the cost of those outside contractors.

But Detroit’s finance director told the City Council Wednesday those reimbursements would be capped at $5 million.

raquel4citycouncil.org / Facebook

Raquel Castaneda-Lopez is the newest member to the Detroit  City Council representing District 6 in Southwest Detroit,​ which includes the largest concentration of Hispanic voters in the city.  Lopez gained political experience running state Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s campaign in 2008. She has worked with non-profit groups for years with a focus on youth programs in disadvantaged communities.

Lopez says she want to keep the focus on the needs of her constituents - safety and access to city services for example. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit City Council has decided not to push an alternative to a $350 million loan designed to help the city pay off some of its massive pension debt.

Council members on Friday discussed the competing plan to the post-bankruptcy petition financial proposal engineered by state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr.

About $230 million from Barclays would be used to fully pay off a complicated pension debt deal involving two major creditors. The rest would be used to improve basic city services.

The Detroit City Council has rejected a $350 million loan deal secured by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

Orr announced the deal with the British financial giant Barclays earlier this month.

The plan was to use most of the money—about $230 million—to pay off two banks who profited from a bad interest rate swaps deal Detroit made on some pension debt years ago.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit City Council has rejected a proposal to lease Belle Isle to the state. But the Council is also putting forth its own, alternative lease deal.

Governor Snyder and emergency manager Kevyn Orr already signed a 30-year lease deal last month.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan has signed a deal to lease Detroit’s Belle Isle.

Governor Snyder and emergency manager Kevyn Orr have both approved the plan.

The state won’t pay anything for the 30-year deal, which has two 15-year renewal options.

But the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will run Belle Isle as a state park, saving Detroit an estimated $4 million a year in maintenance costs.

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When things get tough, Detroit City Councilman James Tate digs deeper.

He (at the suggestions of residents) might have a way to maintain Detroit's miles of vacant lots. 

At tomorrow's city council meeting, he'll talk about the possibility of allowing goats and sheep to graze on tall grasses. 

According to MLive, Tate is bringing in a grazing expert to speak at the meeting. 

"Urban cities are doing this all across the country and having absolutely no issues, whatsoever," Tate said. Allowing the animals into neighborhoods could require changes to the city's urban agriculture ordinance.

Chicago recently used goats (some of whom are named Cream Puff, Orca, and Nugget) to clear invasive plants from a park. 

The grazing expert, according to MLive, was also involved in a similar livestock endeavor in Cleveland. The Cleveland project used sheep -- and one llama -- to maintain a vacant lot. The project received a $2,000 grant from Charter One's Growing Communities program. 

Matthileo / Flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss the proposal to consolidate school districts into county-wide systems, the canceled bus tour for Detroit creditors, and the new changes on the Detroit City Council.

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Saunteel Jenkins replaces Charles Pugh as Detroit City Council President

"Saunteel Jenkins is the new President of the Detroit City Council. The Council voted on new leadership after it lost its two former top officials. Jenkins replaces Charles Pugh, who has vanished from the public eye amidst allegations of a questionable relationship with a teenager," Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports.

Proposed legislation would let voters eliminate income tax

Republican state Representative Bob Genetski is sponsoring legislation that would let voters decide whether to get rid of the state's income tax.

"He supports raising the state’s sale’s tax to make up for the lost revenue. Former director of the state House Fiscal Agency Mitch Bean says the plan would leave an $8.5 billion dollar hole in next year’s state budget," Jake Neher reports.

Orr cancels bus tour with creditors

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has canceled a planned bus tour meant to convince Wall Street creditors that the city's condition is dire and they should accept big losses on its debt.

"Orr says the tour could be rescheduled. But it increasingly seems that his negotiations with creditors are hitting a wall. City Council member Ken Cockrel echoes what many think--that resistance from creditors is speeding up Detroit’s timeline for a possible bankruptcy filing," Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports.

City of Detroit

 The Detroit City Council voted on new leadership Tuesday, and selected Saunteel Jenkins as its new President.

“It feels humbling. It feels good,” said Jenkins, noting she sits in the seat once held by her late mentor, longtime Council President Maryann Mahaffey.

Charles Pugh

A police investigation of former Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh was stopped yesterday.

Police were investigating Pugh after allegations were made that Pugh had "inappropriate contact" with an 18-year-old student that he was mentoring at Fredrick Douglass High School.

According to the Associated Press, "the teen's mother fears that the case is harming [her son] psychologically."

Madison Heights police said in a statement Monday they're honoring the family's request and postponing an interview with the teen.

The department says it isn't forwarding the case to prosecutors because it's necessary to speak with the victim "in order to do a complete and thorough investigation."

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Detroit's pension systems vs. Kevyn Orr

Detroit has two pension systems and both have posted fairly strong funding levels. But emergency manager Kevyn Orr has questioned some of those numbers. Orr spokesman Bill Nowling says using more realistic projections changes the funding levels, but Detroit’s pension systems say their numbers are correct.

Michigan schools might consolidate services

Michigan schools could be forced to consolidate many of their services into county-wide systems if state lawmakers decide to go along with a plan released yesterday by state Superintendent Mike Flanagan. Flanagan wants services like transportation, food, and staff training to be handled at the county or regional level.

“And local districts, they can spend time on student achievement issues and not worry about all that other stuff,” Flanagan told Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher.

Detroit City Council will select new leader

The Detroit City Council is expected to select a new president today. The board typically numbers nine but now has six members after two recently resigned and the former President Charles Pugh deserted his duties.

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, what we call Independence Day, and a lot of politicians will say a lot of things, much of it nonsense, about what the Founding Fathers supposedly believed in 1776.

What is pretty clear, however, is that all of them thought we should have the freedom to determine our own destiny, and to be responsible for our actions. I know they were thinking mainly, if not exclusively, about the rights of property-owning white men.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law which would allow the state to consolidate small, financially struggling school districts with neighboring districts. Inskter in metro Detroit and Buena Vista in Saginaw County would be the first districts affected. Snyder also announced that a work group would be trying to develop a better system for fixing schools with looming financial problems.

"There is a new petition drive to put a referendum on a wolf-hunting law on the November 2014 ballot. If it’s successful, this would be the second ballot challenge to a Michigan wolf hunt. This drive takes aim at the new hunting law adopted after a previous ballot campaign turned in enough petitions to suspend the earlier wolf-hunting law," Rick Pluta reports.

The Detroit City Council is holding off on replacing its leadership over lingering legal questions. The Council will vote next week on who will replace Charles Pugh as Council President. Pugh has been missing for several weeks, and he has been stripped of his pay and responsibilities. The Council will also select a President Pro-Tem, its second-highest leadership position.

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Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh hasn't turned up at a council meeting for more than two weeks.

Today, Joe Guillen of the Detroit Free Press writes that the Detroit City Council will vote on a replacement for Pugh next week.

Council members did not indicate during the meeting that they had heard from him.

“Who knows, by July the seventh, member Pugh, President Pugh or Charles Pugh might have resigned by then,” Councilwoman Brenda Jones said.

The city's law department told council that Pugh's position as council president was vacated once Detroit's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, stripped Pugh of his pay and duties.

A civil complaint was filed against Pugh for an inappropriate relationship with an 18 year-old boy.

Police are looking into the matter, but as Deadline Detroit's Jeff Wattrick writes, the allegations "are remarkably unsalacious at this point."

City of Detroit

This past Tuesday, Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh was absent for his second straight week of council sessions. His whereabouts for the last few days have been unknown and his public Facebook and Twitter pages were taken down last week.

Recently, Pugh is facing allegations that he had an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year old male student he mentored.

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