Detroit City Council

Stephen Boyle

Earlier this morning, Detroit’s city council voted unanimously to override Mayor Dave Bing’s veto of budget cuts proposed by the council.

Last week, the mayor rejected changes the city council wanted implemented in the city’s $1-billion budget for fiscal year 2013-14, including cuts to his own office. The Detroit News reported:

“The council wanted deeper cuts to Bing's staff and quicker implementation of a new health care cost-sharing formula.

Bing however did not turn down deeper cuts the council recommended for its own department and the consolidation of its divisions.”

The council's override of Bing's veto was unanimous (8-0). Charles Pugh, the president of the council, said this was proof that the council was “standing united.”

But with Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr at the helm of the city’s finances, how much does a united city council matter when it comes to Detroit’s budget?

The Detroit City Council has approved a more than $1 billion budget for the city’s upcoming fiscal year.

That budget is nearly the same as the one Mayor Dave Bing proposed last month.

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Detroit City Council members used to represent the city at large instead of defined districts. In 2009, Detroit residents voted to elect City Council members by district. For the upcoming election season, visit the link below to see who is running for City Council from each Detroit district.
Politics & Government

The Detroit City Council wants a clearer view of what emergency manager Kevyn Orr is doing.

Some Council members said Tuesday they want to see all city contracts that Orr approves.

Those contracts are public record. Orr spokesman Bill Nowling says they’re working out “how to post them in an efficient manner,” though there’s no timeline for when that will be up and running.

Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr says that shouldn’t take too long because “it ain’t rocket science.”

via City of Detroit

Detroit City Council member and former Detroit mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. says he won’t seek re-election this year.

Cockrel is serving his fourth term on the City Council. He also served briefly as mayor after Kwame Kilpatrick resigned in 2008—but lost the follow-up election to Dave Bing.

In a statement released Tuesday, Cockrel says he’s decided that “now is the time” to leave the Council.

Several people were arrested after protests broke out at a Detroit City Council meeting Tuesday.

Singing, chanting and linking arms, the protesters forced Council President Pugh to recess the meeting for more than an hour.

They were upset that Council was about to take a vote on a restructuring contract with the Jones Day law firm. That’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s former firm.

Detroiters can expect increased fees and reduced services—and the city’s deficit will still keep growing.

At least that’s the scenario Mayor Dave Bing outlines in his proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

This proposal actually cuts much less from the budget—about $36 million—than the prior year. It focuses on more or less stabilizing “essential city services,” like public safety and transportation.

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Wildlife officials recommend wolf hunt for Upper Peninsula

State wildlife officials are recommending today that a hunt on the formerly endangered gray wolf be allowed to take place this fall.

"The Michigan Natural Resources Commission will receive a recommendation to kill 47 wolves as part of a hunt focused in three parts of the Upper Peninsula," Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports.
 

Detroit City Council reviewing Jones Day contract

The Detroit City Council is reviewing a contract with Jones Day, emergency manager Kevyn Orr's former law firm.

"The Jones Day firm is already working with the city on some long-term restructuring. Some Council members suggest there are conflicts of interest because Jones Day also represents several Detroit creditors," according to Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek.

New Regional Transit Authority meets for first time

Transit advocates celebrated the first meeting of metro Detroit's Regional Transit Authority, which will coordinate the region's transit agencies.

"Advocates want the board to develop a master transit plan, and push a region-wide vote to fund transit operations," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit City Council is reviewing a $3 million-plus contract with emergency manager’s Kevyn Orr’s former law firm.

Jones Day would assist the city through its restructuring. Some Council members suggest there are conflicts of interest because Jones Day also represents several Detroit creditors.

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Democrats announce budget priorities

State House Democrats announced a new set of priorities for the state budget yesterday.

“The Democrats’ plan calls for $1.5 billion in new spending on education, tax cuts for middle-class residents and seniors, and small business investments. They say they would pay for that partly by eliminating government waste and cutting corporate tax breaks,” Jake Neher reports.

Consultants recommend changes to Detroit city departments

A restructuring firm hired by the city of Detroit has presented two proposals to re-shape city departments to a city-state advisory board.

“One proposal would downsize the City Council, and make its members part-time. The other suggests ways to consolidate the Police Department,” Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports.

Safety violations at fault for natural gas explosion in Royal Oak

In a letter to state regulators, Consumers Energy said utility workers failed to follow company protocols in the lead-up to a deadly natural gas explosion in Royal Oak earlier this year.

“The utility says workers didn't follow procedures as they replaced a gas main near the house, and then left the area after smelling gas,” reports Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton.

Consultants are working on all kinds of plans to re-shape Detroit city departments, and two such plans were previewed at a Detroit Financial Advisory Board meeting Monday.

One is to drastically downsize the Detroit City Council, and make its members part-time, with just one staff member each

Council member Saunteel Jenkins says that would completely change the Council’s role in city government.

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Kevyn Orr leaves salaries for Mayor Bing and City Council intact

The state's new emergency manager law, which goes into effect Thursday, eliminates salaries and benefits for elected municipal officials when an emergency manager is installed.

But as Michigan Radio’s Sarah Hulett reports, an order signed by Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr will leave the salaries of Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council members intact.

"Salaries range from more than $70,000 for council members to close to $160,000 for Mayor Dave Bing."

State Attorney General Bill Schuette calls for a grand jury investigation into meningitis outbreak

Michigan's attorney general is seeking a criminal investigation into the deaths of 17 residents from contaminated steroids supplied by a Massachusetts pharmaceutical company.

As Rick Pluta explains,

"The grand jury would have the power to compel witnesses to appear and testify, including people from the four Michigan clinics that administered the injections. And it could ask a Massachusetts court to order employees of the pharmacy that made the drug to cooperate."

Wolf hunt in Michigan may be put on hold

A group opposing the hunting of gray wolves is expected to deliver tens of thousands of petition signatures to the Secretary of State's office.

If enough of the signatures are certified, a statewide vote on the proposed wolf hunt will be placed on the ballot in 2014.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

It's the largest state takeover of a city in U.S. history.

The city of Detroit will have a state-appointed emergency manager running things.

Kevyn Orr, a Washington D.C. lawyer and restructuring expert, will start his job on March 25th.

With $14.9 billion in long-term liabilities and a $327 million near term deficit, Orr will have his work cut out for him.

We updated this post as the news broke today.

Scroll down and read up for a look at how things unfolded.

The Detroit City Council will press a challenge to Governor Snyder’s decision appointing an emergency financial manager—but they’ll do so without Mayor Dave Bing’s support.

The Council voted to approve that challenge Wednesday afternoon. Bing then held a late afternoon press conference declaring his opposition to the Council's tactics.

“I tried to figure out a way to support the Council in their efforts to appeal the Governor’s decision and to challenge the Financial Review Team’s assertion that we did not have a plan in place to fiscally stabilize the City,” Bing told reporters.

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This week in Michigan politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the idea of increasing sales taxes on services to help fund road improvements in the state, how sequestration could affect Michigan, and why a Detroit City Council meeting to discuss how to avoid a state takeover was canceled.

At least one Detroit City Council member thinks that a deal to make Belle Isle into a state park can be salvaged.

The state took the deal off the table last week, after a majority of Council members declined to vote on it. Lansing had set the end of January as the deadline to finalize a lease agreement.

But Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown says he thinks a deal can still get done if both sides are serious about it.

Brown used Governor Snyder's catch phrase when he suggested the Governor “use some relentless positive
action” to push the issue.

Noting that he supported the deal last week along with two others,  says three of his colleagues who voted against considering it are persuadable.

“There’s certainly enough time to ask my colleagues," Brown said.

"I mean, ask them what they need in this deal to change their vote. And then give it to
them. And make sure that the deal gets done.”

Governor Snyder pulled the deal off the table after the failed vote last week, saying that was a hard deadline the Michigan Department of Natural Resources needed to include Belle Isle in this year's state parks programming.

State officials could not be reached for comment on whether the Belle Isle deal could be revived.

The Detroit City Council on Tuesday approved articles of incorporation for a public lighting authority in the city.

The state legislature passed bills in December enabling the lighting authority. Detroit has chronic problems keeping many of its streetlights on, though no one can say for sure how many aren't working at any given time.

It allows Detroit to retain ownership of its lighting system, but lets the authority run it. The city currently has about 33,000 lights on its grid; DTE Energy has the other 55,000.

Now that Council has approved its articles of incorporation, the next steps are to find five Detroit residents to act as board members.

Council President Pro-Tem wants to move as quickly as possible to get the authority up and running—and get some of Detroit’s chronically-dark streets lit.
 

“We need to be out of the business of public lighting,” Brown said.

The authority has the ability to issue bonds to upgrade Detroit’s lighting infrastructure. The legislation also carves out $12.5 million of the city’s utility

The resolution passed over the objections of some Council members.

They’re concerned that streetlights will be turned off forever in some targeted neighborhoods—and taxpayers living there will foot the bill anyway.

“The corporation will make all the revenue and profit, while the taxpayers pay off the debt,” Council member JoAnn Watson said. “The city of Detroit’s proposal would only provide designated neighborhoods
with streetlights, but every taxpayer in the city will pay for it.”

Council member Ken Cockrel Jr. says there are “a lot of perfectly legitimate concerns” with the plan.

"But they probably should’ve been raised six months ago before we approved a resolution, sent it to the legislature, and got the legislature to create the authority,” Cockrel said. “You can’t turn back the clock at this point.”

One of the authority’s biggest decisions will be to decide how many of Detroit’s estimated 88,000 streetlights should remain on. That number—and where service is concentrated—are likely to be major points of contention in coming months.

The legislation calls for taking about 40,000 lights offline.

Angela Anderson-Cobb / Flickr

A plan to turn Detroit’s Belle Isle into a state park appears dead.

The Detroit City Council declined to vote on a lease proposal for the island park Tuesday. Now, Governor Snyder’s officer says the state has pulled the offer because the city won’t meet an end-of-the-month deadline.

Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the Governor’s office, says the deal needed to be finalized by then so the Michigan Department of Natural Resources could make funding and programming arrangements for the upcoming fiscal year.

The idea faced fierce opposition from the get-go.

wikimedia commons

It appears that a plan to turn Detroit’s Belle Isle into a state park will be voted on next week. But it’s far from clear how that vote will turn out.

The plan calls for the state to lease Belle Isle from Detroit for 30 years, and have the Michigan Department of Natural Resources manage it as a state park.

Detroit City Council, state officials close in on Belle Isle deal

Jan 22, 2013
Mikerussell / wikimedia commons

State and Detroit city officials appear close to an agreement on a deal that would turn Belle Isle into a state park, the Detroit News is reporting.

A City Council vote to approve the deal could come as early as Monday.

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