Detroit City Council

Detroit’s elected leaders are still struggling to come up with a unified plan to avoid a state takeover—even as a state review team continues work in the city.

The Detroit City Council has been critical of Mayor Dave Bing’s proposal to save more than $100 million this fiscal year to prevent the city from running out of cash.

Members suggest it contains too many optimistic revenue projections and unrealistic assumptions.

The Council has its own list of suggestions. But in the end, they can do little more than offer them to the Mayor.

Ifmuth / Flickr

The Detroit City Council has scheduled a discussion of Mayor Dave Bing's budget reduction plan. It's set for Thursday afternoon.

A review team is looking into Detroit's finances - a step in a process that could lead to Michigan taking over the city's government. Its recommendations will be forwarded to Gov. Rick Snyder.

A preliminary review determined there was "probable financial stress" in city government and that Detroit faces a general fund deficit of about $200 million. Auditors say Detroit may run out of money as early as April.

Bing, the council and city labor union leaders have been collaborating to convince the state that an emergency manager is unneeded.

Bing has said he'll cut 1,000 jobs early this year to save about $14 million.

Courtesy of Detroit City Council website

The state Department of Treasury continues its review of the City of Detroit’s finances.

While Governor Rick Snyder insists he doesn’t want to see Detroit under and emergency manager…the city doesn’t seem to be making much headway in fixing its financial issues.

Detroit City Council President Pro Tem, Gary Brown has some ideas on how the city can save money and cut spending. He spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

 

Yesterday, Detroit City Council sent a clear signal to Governor Rick Snyder and the rest of the state. By their actions, they said “we need you to send in an Emergency Manager and strip us of all financial power. You have to do this, because we are psychologically incapable of seriously addressing our financial problems.”

They would indignantly deny what I just said, of course. Barely a week ago, they huddled around a microphone with Mayor Dave Bing, and defiantly agreed they didn’t need outside help.

The Detroit City Council has rejected one member’s efforts to slash its own budget.

Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown wanted to cut the council’s roughly $13 million budget by a third.

Brown says that’s the same level of concessions city unions are being asked for to avert a fiscal catastrophe in Detroit —and the council should lead by example.

“That’s $5 million the unions don’t have to look for, that we don’t have to ask the unions and the lower-wage city employees to come up with," Brown said. "I think that’s leadership.”

But most of Brown’s colleagues rejected the measure. They said 30 percent was an “excessive” cut that would damage the council’s ability to function.

Council member Ken Cockrel Jr. says the council has already cut its budget about that much over the past three years, and additional cuts could damage the council’s ability to do its job.

“What it really comes down to is, you can do cuts that are responsible for the sake of sharing the pain, or you can do cuts that are really all about trying to score political points,” Cockrel said.

Cockrel says if it wasn’t for Council’s diligence, the depth of the city’s fiscal crisis might never have come to light.

Members ultimately voted the measure down 6-2.

A Detroit City Council member is pushing his colleagues to cut the council’s budget by 30 percent. The move comes the same day the state initiated a financial review process that could end in the appointment of an emergency manager for the city.

The Detroit City Council’s budget is more than $13 million, and includes perks like city-issued cars and cell phones for council members.

Gary Brown is the Council President Pro Tem. He says like other city employees, he only pays ten percent of his health care costs. Brown’s proposal calls for upping that employee contribution to 30 percent. He says that’s a change the entire city workforce needs to accept.

"And the message, if we don’t show leadership on this issue, is that we’re asking our employees to do something we’re not willing to do," Brown said.

Brown made a similar proposal last month that went nowhere. This time he’s introduced a resolution that will get an up-or-down vote next week.

user steveburt1947 / Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and other city leaders stood side-by-side at city hall Thursday night, saying they’re all ready to work together.

The show of unity comes as the city scrambles to stave off a state-appointed emergency manager. Governor Snyder has threatened to send in a financial review team that would initiate that process if the city doesn’t get its act together.

Both Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and the Detroit City Council have put forth proposals aimed at avoiding a state financial takeover.

A recent cash flow report suggests the city is likely to run out of cash by spring, and be $45 million in the red by the end of June 2012.

Bing, who announced 1000 city layoffs last week, issued more details of his proposal Tuesday. They include, in addition to the layoffs:

Detroit is running out of money.

Last week, the mayor outlined some of his money saving ideas.

It's a plan that some on Detroit's city council said didn't go far enough.

Now, Detroit City Council is unveiling their plan.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the council's plan is a "is a last-ditch effort to avoid an emergency manager as the city faces the prospect of running out of cash by April..."

The Freep reports the council's plan would increase income taxes on Detroit residents from 2.5 percent to 3 percent, and nonresidents from 1.5 percent to 2 percent:

More from the Detroit Free Press:

As the city nears insolvency, Detroit City Council unveiled a rescue plan today that would increase income taxes by .5% on residents and nonresidents, lay off hundreds of firefighters and police officers and outsource ownership of the ailing busing system.

Other proposals include:

•Sharing health department services with a hospital or Wayne County.

•Cutting up to 2,300 workers.

•Eliminating subsidies to the Detroit Zoo, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Eastern Market, the Detroit Institute of the Arts and Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Museum.

•Demanding the Detroit Public School System pay its $15 million electric bill due to the city.

 

Some Council members have also floated the idea of a possible consent agreement, that would allow them to bypass the Mayor and implement the deeper cuts.

That would essentially give the Council most of the powers of an emergency manager, without stripping power from elected officials. It would require state approval.

user k1ds3ns4t10n / Flickr

The permit allowing Occupy Detroit protestors to camp in Grand Circus Park expired Monday but city officials granted a one-week extension, allowing protestors more time to clean up and relocate to another venue.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Some council members likened the peaceful Occupy Detroit to the civil rights movement aimed at extending rights to disenfranchised black people.

"All of us sit here because some people fought, because some people occupied, because some people demonstrated," Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said. "They did it because it was the right thing to do."

Saying the Occupy Detroit protesters have been peaceful and cooperative, Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said he was not opposed to the one-week extension.

Yesterday, Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported that there seemed to be little animosity amongst protestors regarding an eventual move:

Occupy Detroit participants says an extension will benefit everyone.

“[It’s] so we can maintain our peaceful protest within Grand Circus Park, and leave within a reasonable amount of time," says activist Zachary Steve. "We'll be able to clean up the park, and make sure to maintain a good relationship with the community."

Occupy Detroit says it plans to move its encampment to another, privately-owned location in the city for the winter months.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

It looks like “Occupy Detroit” won’t be forced out of downtown Detroit’s Grand Circus Park immediately.

The group’s permit expires Monday, but Occupy protesters want the city to extend it for another two weeks.

It appears they will do so, though the Detroit City Council won’t finalize the issue until Tuesday. Detroit Police also say they’ll follow the Council’s lead, and won’t evict protesters.

Detroit’s Chief Operating Officer says the city will bring in an outside company to oversee bus maintenance.

Chris Brown says that’s part of Mayor Dave Bing’s strategy to address the city’s bus crisis. The situation has many Detroiters waiting as long as three hours for buses.

The city had instituted furlough days and cut overtime pay for bus mechanics, which led to a lack of buses on the streets. Officials have also accused bus mechanics of a deliberate work slowdown.

Detroit Police say a technology known as “Shot Spotter” would help the department’s battle against gun violence.                                                     

The department wants to use $2.6 million in federal money to pilot the gunshot-sensing technology system.

Police Chief Ralph Godbee says it would be an invaluable tool in locating shots fired, and deploying officers quickly.

But City Council members, who must approve the project, were skeptical. Councilman Gary Brown questions Shot Spotter’s effectiveness—especially since it won’t include video.

“According to the Department of Justice, this is an expensive piece of equipment for…the value that you get out of it,” Brown says.

Brown also suggested the department doesn’t have enough manpower to respond to all detected gunshots.

The Council delayed a vote on the issue until next week.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will meet with City Council members behind closed doors Wednesday.

Among other things, they’ll discuss a confidential analysis detailing the city’s finances.

The analysis itself hints at cash flow problems for the city. Detroit is trying to work its way out from under a $155 million deficit.

Congressman Hansen Clarke wants Detroiters to stop paying taxes to the federal government, that money should be put aside as a trust fund to help re-build the city.

Clarke made the case for his Detroit Jobs Trust Fund before the Detroit City Council Tuesday. That’s legislation he’s introduced that would divert the money Detroiters pay in federal taxes over five years.

Some would go to erase the city’s—and its school district’s—debt burden.

The next two months will be crucial in determining the long-term future of Detroit’s water and sewerage system.

Detroit owns and operates the municipal system that serves more than three million people in southeast Michigan. It’s been under federal oversight for wastewater violations since 1977.

The Detroit City Council has approved a budget deal that promises to avert drastic cuts to police and fire, recreation and bus service.

The council voted to restore $25 million of the $50 million it cut from Mayor Dave Bing’s budget.

Bing says the vote is good news. But he says tough things are still in the city’s future.

Layoffs will be a reality, there’s no way around that, and with those layoffs there’s obviously going to be some service problems. So we’ve got to get better at servicing the citizens that are here, as well as the businesses that are here.

Two council members voted against the deal. They say they’re not convinced the mayor’s revenue projections will hold. And they say if they don’t, the budget will have to be revisited.

The new fiscal year starts tomorrow.

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The Detroit City Council is set to vote this hour on a budget deal that splits the difference between Mayor Dave Bing’s proposal and the council’s steeper cuts.

After breaking off negotiations with the city council earlier this week, Mayor Bing presented a compromise budget today. And it appears the votes are there to pass it.

The two sides have been at odds over how much money to cut from next year’s budget. The city council has been more hawkish – approving $50 million in cuts on top of what Bing proposed.

The newest plan would restore half that. Officials with the Bing administration say that should be enough to avert police and fire layoffs, parks closures, and bus service cuts.

What if, back in the early days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had exploded an atom bomb in Detroit? Let’s say that two-thirds of the people were eliminated.

Even a higher percentage of jobs were lost. Land was left polluted; tens of thousands of buildings dilapidated and vacant, and the school system was essentially ruined. What would we do?

Well, I think the answer is clear. If something like that had happened in the early 1950s, both state and federal authorities would have responded with a massive outpouring of aid. Blighted areas would have been cleaned up, Buildings rebuilt. Detroiters who came through all this would have been battle-scarred but immensely proud.

Well, it’s more than half a century later, and while no nuclear device has gone off, much of Detroit does in fact look like it has gone through a war. Maybe not a nuclear war, but parts of it could easily have been pounded by allied bombers during World War II. 

The population is largely poor, undereducated, jobless and desperate. Yet there is no massive outpouring of aid. Mostly, there’s just a collective shrug of our shoulders. People who live in Grand Rapids don’t want to think about Detroit. Some of them act as if it didn’t even exist. What is even more bizarre is that some people in the Grosse Pointes and Birmingham act the same way.

They know that it is no longer socially permissible to say that Detroit is beyond help because its inhabitants are virtually all black and don’t share the cultural values other Americans have, most notably, the work ethic. They don’t say that, but many think it.

Sarah Hulett / MIchigan Radio

The budget stalemate between Detroit’s mayor and city council continues. But council members say they’re hopeful Mayor Dave Bing will reopen negotiations after pledging to end them.

City Council President Charles Pugh says there are still nearly two days left before the start of the new fiscal year:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says there’s no more reason to negotiate with City Council over the budget. That means he’ll implement the Council-approved budget, even though he maintains it will mean devastating cuts. Bing and the Council have been wrestling for months over how much money to cut from next fiscal year’s budget. Council wants to cut $50 million more than Bing. Bing then proposed an amendment to restore $30 million, but Council voted that down Tuesday.

The Detroit City Council appears to be standing firm in an ongoing battle with Mayor Dave Bing over how much to cut from the city’s budget. The Council wants to cut more from the budget than Bing to chip away at the city’s roughly $155 million accumulated deficit. But Bing says that’s irresponsible.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Kate Davidson / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has raised the stakes in his ongoing budget battle with the Detroit City Council. Bing and the City Council have been sparring over how much to shave off the city’s budget. The Council wants to cut $50 million more than Bing. Last week, the Council overrode Bing’s veto, meaning its budget is set to go into effect July 1. But Bing says those extra cuts “won’t solve” the city’s fiscal crisis.

The Detroit City Council has voted to override Mayor Dave Bing’s budget. The City Council added $50 million in additional cuts to Bing’s budget. By overriding his veto, they put those cuts into effect. Bing blasted the Council afterward, saying the cuts will lead to public safety layoffs. He also says their action could move the city toward a takeover by an Emergency Manager. City Council President Charles Pugh called that assertion “idiotic.”

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The Detroit City Council voted today to override Mayor Dave Bing's budget and restore $50 million in cuts.

From The Detroit News:

The Detroit City Council voted this afternoon to override Mayor Dave Bing's budget for the second straight year.

The mayor, who worked in closed-door meetings during last week's Mackinac Policy Conference to reach a last-minute deal, was unable to deliver one. The council voted 8-1 to override Bing's veto, with only Councilman James Tate in opposition.

The council's spending plan included $50 million more in cuts to the proposal Bing delivered in April.

Mayor Bing has scheduled a news conference for 3:30 p.m. today to address the council's vote.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has vetoed the city council’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Detroit City Council trimmed an additional $50 million from the budget plan submitted by the mayor. Many members said they were not convinced the mayor’s revenue projections would hold.

Mayor Bing says the council’s plan would have resulted in layoffs in public safety, jeopardized Sunday bus service, and forced the city to return millions of dollars to the federal government. He says the council was bent on enacting drastic cuts to send a political message:

"But our fiscal crisis is too important to become just another political battle where no one wins."

The mayor and council members will spend the next few days on Mackinac Island for an annual policy conference hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber. The island has been the site of many political deals in the past. But if a compromise is not struck, the city council could vote to override the veto next week.

Charles Pugh

The city of Detroit is ramping up efforts to cobble together a budget and a five-year deficit elimination plan. Detroit City Council members got a copy of Mayor Dave Bing’s deficit elimination plan Tuesday. The Council wants more cuts than Bing proposed. They say that’s necessary to avoid a possible state takeover of the city’s finances. Council President Charles Pugh says a Council work group believes the city should cut at least $120 million from the upcoming budget.

Two years ago, a band of young idealists crisscrossed Detroit, collecting signatures. They had a goal: To make the city a better place to live, with a decent, responsive, functioning government.

They thought the place to start was revising the city charter to  elect a council that would be responsible and responsive. For years, all nine council members have been elected at large, which meant they are in charge of everything and nothing.

They easily could and did ignore constituents they found annoying. Not that this mattered much; as it now stands, Detroit council members have the power to approve the budget and major city projects, but they are powerless to do small everyday things.

They cannot, for example, even ask the lighting department to replace a burned out bulb in a street light.

Worse, the system is set up to produce the worst possible results. Voters are supposed to select nine names from a primary ballot that may include two hundred names. Nobody can possibly know enough to do that, so they pick familiar-sounding ones.

In recent years, this had led to the election of a former school board member famous for being corrupt and the bizarre wife of a congressman who set new standards for bad behavior. Both are in jail now. In recent years, the council has also included an ex-congresswoman who lost her job after holding a fundraiser in a strip club and a once-famous singer who often did not appear to realize where she was or why she was there.

Well, the idealists made things happen. They got voters to approve writing a new charter, and this November, it will be on the ballot. If voters approve, Detroit in the future will have only two at large councilpersons. The other seven will represent manageable-sized districts of just over one hundred thousand residents each.

Other things the new charter would do include creating an inspector general who would investigate waste, abuse, fraud and corruption in city government, and enact mandatory disclosure rules on contractors and lobbyists making political contributions.

That’s the good news. Now for the bad.

Both the Detroit City Council and Mayor Dave Bing say this is a crucial week for getting the city’s budget in order. Detroit will end the fiscal year in June with a budget deficit of at least $180 million. Both Mayor Bing and the Council declare they’ll work together to avoid a state takeover of the city’s finances. Both say much of that will depend on whether city unions and pension boards will agree to concessions.

The Detroit City Council heard some advice about the city’s budget situation Tuesday. Council fiscal analyst Irvin Corley told them that Mayor Dave Bing’s proposed budget is “mostly reasonable.” But Corley also warned that Bing’s proposal contains more than $200 million in “soft” revenue that might not materialize. Corley says the Council should cut the Mayor’s budget further, and the two sides need to find an agreement that truly addresses the city’s fiscal problems.

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