Detroit City Council

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.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

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.

via hantzfarmsdetroit.com

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.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

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.

A Detroit-based group says it has developed a model to refurbish Detroit’s Belle Isle without turning it into a state park.

The group says a Belle Isle Park Authority could both run the island, and provide a mechanism for making needed investments.

Tom Barrow, a former Detroit mayoral candidate and a spokesman, said the plan includes a governing structure, entry fees, and other revenue sources.  

Does Detroit have any chance of avoiding bankruptcy and a state takeover of some kind? Frankly, I don’t know. The odds right now look bad for the city being able to continue governing itself.

But miracles and surprises happen. And right now, something is going on which should be a pretty clear test of whether those running the Michigan’s largest city can avoid disaster.

For the second time in as many weeks, the Detroit City Council is taking legal action to force the hand of Mayor Dave Bing.

During a Tuesday meeting, the Council voted to seek a temporary restraining order to stop proposed changes in the city’s health department.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Without major changes, it looks like the proposal to turn Detroit’s Belle Isle into a state park doesn’t have a shot with the Detroit City Council.

City Council members blasted the proposal at a meeting Tuesday, calling it, among other things, “ridiculous” and “terrible.”

Mayor Dave Bing and Governor Snyder outlined the plan last week. It calls for the city to lease Belle Isle to the state for 30 years. In return, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would maintain the island. The state would also make some as-yet-unspecified major upgrades.

The Detroit City Council wants information from Mayor Dave Bing, and they say issuing a subpoena is the only way to get it.

The Council voted Wednesday to issue the subpoena.

Council member Saunteel Jenkin said it came to this because Bing has ignored repeated requests for documents.

“And this isn’t just [a case of] we asked last week, and we didn’t get it this week,” Jenkins said.

If you live in Detroit, I want to wish you good luck trying to wrestle with your election ballot this November.

The rest of us Michigan voters are going to be asked to decide six complex statewide ballot proposals, which is far too many. But Detroiters are going to face a total of ten proposals.

That would be ridiculous, even if this were an enlightened state like Oregon, where everyone is mailed a ballot so they have time to study the races and issues before casting an informed vote.

Despite opposition from Governor Snyder, the Detroit City Council voted to put four proposed charter amendments on the November ballot.

Detroit and Lansing went through a long, contentious process before the two sides reached a consent agreement to keep the city from going broke.

But that agreement has faced resistance from some Council members.

The Detroit City Council has rejected an effort to put a public safety millage on the November ballot.

The Detroit Police Department pushed hard for the five-year millage. It would have raised $56 million over five years to put 500 more “boots on the ground,” in Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee’s words.

But the Council rejected the effort by a 7-2 vote.

Detroit City Council
Detroit City Council / Facebook

The Detroit City Council has rejected a proposal to impose new contract terms on most city employees.

Mayor Dave Bing asked for the changes, which include a 10-percent pay cut and major work rule changes.

City officials say Detroit’s consent agreement with the state allows them to impose the terms even without the council's approval.

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