Detroit City Council

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.

Paul Hitzelberger / United Photo Works

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.

Michiganders are feeling better about the economy, but lukewarm on other topics
morguefile user Penywise /

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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State of the State to address road funding

"Governor Rick Snyder plans to propose a more detailed plan to boost spending to maintain roads in next week's State of the State address. His previous calls for an additional $1.4 billion a year for roads and bridges stalled in the Legislature. Snyder in 2011 called for replacing the 19-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline with a tax on the wholesale price of fuel. He also suggested a source of new revenue could be higher vehicle registration fees. Snyder says that he'll present new specifics in his Jan. 16 speech," the Associated Press reports.

Detroit top lawyer fired

"Detroit’s top lawyer lost her job Tuesday. Mayor Dave Bing garnered enough Detroit City Council votes to remove corporation counsel Krystal Crittendon. Crittendon continually bucked Bing’s wishes, and challenged Detroit’s consent agreement with Lansing in court. Bing had tried to have Crittendon removed before. But he couldn’t muster the necessary six votes from City Council. But this time, Bing got exactly six votes. Bing and state officials said Crittendon’s legal challenges threatened to derail Detroit’s efforts to regain its financial footing. This all comes as Detroit awaits a verdict from a state-appointed financial review team—expected as early as this week," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Young drivers banned from using phones

"Young and inexperienced motorists will be banned from using cell phones while driving under a bill Governor Rick Snyder signed into law Tuesday. Kelsey's Law is named after Kelsey Raffaele of Sault Ste. Marie, who was 17 when she died in a cell-phone-related automobile crash in 2010," the Detroit Free Press reports.

News of some Detroit city employees receiving raises and bonuses is raising eyebrows, as the city struggles to stave off a possible state-appointed emergency manager.

Union officials, Detroit City Council members and others are asking why some city officials apparently received raises and longevity pay last week.

Longevity pay is a kind of bonus provided to employees based on seniority. Mayor Dave Bing eliminated the perk for union workers in 2010, and had promised to eliminate it for all city employees.

The debate over appointing a Detroit emergency financial manger continues amidst aggravated communication between Mayor Bing and Detroit Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon.

Detroit Free Press editorial writer Nancy Kaffer provided Stateside with an update on Detroit City Council.

“The City of Detroit needed to draw $30 million dollars- and to get the draw the Council had to pass five key contracts. All five passed, so they will get the money that will stop payless paydays for now,” said Kaffer.

Kaffer expressed concern over the relationship between the mayor and Crittendon.


The Detroit City Council has narrowly approved the controversial—and long-delayed—Hantz Farms project.

The proposed Hantz Farms project has been discussed for years. Detroit financier had originally proposed creating “the world’s largest urban farm” on some of Detroit’s more than 60,000 vacant, city-owned lots.

cncphotos / flickr

This week Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry talked about what legislation is likely to pass before the end of the year, the cash crisis in Detroit, and mass transit in southeast Michigan.

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Detroit deadlock continues

Detroit needs cash if it's going to make payroll in December. $30 million waits from the state.

But Mayor Bing and the Detroit City Council are locked in a battle over a law firm contract. A special council meeting was supposed to be held yesterday to resolve the problem, but the the city's legal department canceled the meeting.

Even it the meeting had been held, Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press reports, Bing would not have had the votes to end the deadlock.

Had a vote been taken, it likely would not have gone Bing's way. The sole council member to vote to approve it, President Pro Tem Gary Brown, said Monday that the Bing administration "doesn't have the votes" to reverse course.

And the city's financial crisis looms.

Legislature aims to cut a source of revenue for some cities

There have been a lot of proposals floated in this lame-duck session of the Michigan legislature, but one plan the Gov. hopes to pass by the end of the year is a phase out of the "personal property tax."

That's a tax that many manufacturers pay to local governments on equipment they own. Local governments that have a big manufacturing base have said eliminating the tax would hurt their bottom line.

MLive's Dave Eggert reports Lt. Gov. Brian Calley plans to unveil a new plan to cut the tax today:

Sources who have been briefed on the proposal said key changes include partially replacing the revenue with a portion of the state's tax on out-of-state retail transactions and allowing local governments to assess a special tax to recoup money for police, fire and ambulance services.

Troy breaks ground on new transit center

The city of Troy is breaking ground on a new transit center today. The project was opposed by Troy's recently recalled Mayor, Janice Daniels, because the funding for the project is comging from the federal government. The transit center will cost $6.3 million to build and will house facilities for bus, train, and car rental services. The transit center will replace Birmingham's Amtrak stop. It's expected to open the summer of 2013.

Efforts to resolve a dispute that’s pushed Detroit to the brink of financial crisis flopped again on Monday.

Mayor Dave Bing called a special meeting with the City Council, hoping Council members would approve a contract with law firm Miller Canfield.

Lansing is sitting on $30 million in Detroit bond money because Council didn’t approve that contract, which was part of a “milestone agreement” between Bing and state officials.

Stateside: Nolan Finley's call for Detroit City Council reform

Nov 26, 2012
Detroit City Council
Detroit City Council / Facebook

Nolan Finley is concerned about Detroit City Council.

In a recent Detroit News editorial, Finley claimed that Detroit Corporate Council Krystal Crittendon “must go.”  

Finley spoke with Cyndy about Detroit’s drastic need to reform its Council.

“The mayor has finally got the message that you have to cooperate or this won’t end well. City Council is still under the delusion that it has power and can escape the consequences of decades of bad management,” said Finley.

Detroit City Council
Detroit City Council / Facebook

Detroit Mayor Bing called for a special meeting today to address the city's impending cash crisis. 

The council was ready to meet, but it appears the meeting was called off after concerns were raised about following the Open Meetings Act.

From WDIV:

A special Detroit City Council meeting on Monday was halted when the city's law department said it hadn't followed the Open Meetings Act.

Bing had called for the meeting in the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to request the City Council to adopt a resolution to approve a legal services contract for Miller Canfield. The mayor had also wanted City Council to adopt a resolution that would amend the city's 2012-2013 budget to address a pension shortfall.

While the meeting was open to the public, concern arose because the notice for the meeting was posted Sunday -- when the building isn't open. It's a requirement of the Open Meetings Act that a notice be posted in public.

If you haven’t been to Detroit lately, it’s easy to have an image of a ghastly ruin full of ominous criminals waiting behind the rubble to shoot you, Well, there are areas where it’s not a good idea to go. But there are plenty of wonderful places too.

Detroit mayor Dave Bing says he’ll resort to mandated employee furlough days before letting the city go broke.

The city is facing a likely $18 million cash shortfall next month. That’s despite having a consent agreement with the state that’s intended to avoid just such a crisis.

This week, the Detroit City Council voted down a contract with a law firm. That relatively small item was crucial to the city’s cash situation because it was part of a “milestone agreement” laying out conditions for releasing Detroit bond money the state is holding in escrow.

Paul Hitzelberger / United Photo Works

Detroit mayor Dave Bing says the Detroit City Council has pushed the city to the brink of another cash crisis.

The Council voted Tuesday to reject a contract with the law firm Miller-Canfield.

Bing maintains that approving that contract was part of a so-called “milestone agreement” with the state, which is holding $30 million Detroit bond money in escrow.

Hantz Farms

The Detroit City Council delayed a vote on a controversial urban farm proposal Tuesday.

Hantz Farms had proposed buying more than 140 acres in vacant land on Detroit's east side for a tree farm. It could expand to include other forms of agriculture in the future.

Some Council members were receptive to the idea, but worried about some details. There was concern about approving the plan without a public hearing, and before the city has an urban agriculture ordinance in place.

Kate Boicourt / IAN

The Detroit City Council has unanimously rejected a controversial contract to overhaul the city’s water department.

Department officials wanted to award a $48 million contract to Minneapolis-based EMA Consultants.

The company proposed to lay off about 80% of the department’s workforce, in what officials called a necessary move to halt future rate increases.

But critics said the plan would do little more than gut and privatize the water system.

Photo courtesy of Birminghan Public Schools

The Detroit City Council has delayed voting on a contract to restructure the city’s water department.

Detroit’s board of water commissioners and Mayor Dave Bing have already approved a plan to contract Minneapolis-based EMA Consulting.

That firm plans to cut up to 80% of the water department’s workforce, and create “efficiencies” by privatizing many so-called “non-core” functions.

But after hearing public concern and anger about the plan, the Council decided to postpone a vote on the $48 million EMA contract.

In part, that’s because the Environmental Protection Agency asked the city not to take action before it can review the plan.

Councilman Ken Cockrel Junior says he want to hear from the EPA before moving ahead.

“The EPA has said they want 45 days to review that contract, and make sure there are no negative impacts,” Cockrel said. “I think when you have a federal agency that is charged with monitoring environmental quality for our country, and they say they need to look at this…I think we need to give them the time to do it.”

Detroit’s water department has been under a federal judge’s oversight since 1977, for periodic failures to comply with the Clean Water Act.

Some Detroiters have expressed their displeasure with the Belle Isle plan.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press reports the Detroit City Council has dug their heels in on a plan for Belle Isle. The plan calls for the state to lease the park from the city and run it as a state park.

The Council has "indefinitely postponed" plans for a public hearing on the plan.

From the Freep:

The council's decision means the proposal can't go forward until council members get what they want: more funding guarantees from the state as well as a fuller hearing on alternative proposals for the island park.

Council members said the state had yet to respond to its request that guarantees of millions of dollars in upgrades to the island be put in writing, information that was not specifically spelled out in the state’s proposed 30-year lease. The lease would be for 30 years with two optional 30-year renewals.