Detroit consent agreement

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he’s happy a “distracting” court case brought by his own city attorney was dismissed Wednesday, and the city can now follow through on its consent agreement with the state.

Bing said he was “not happy with” his corporation counsel’s decision to push the legal challenge—but insists that’s all in the past now.

The standoff between Lansing and some Detroit city officials over a lawsuit showed little sign of fizzling out Tuesday.

But it also appears the state might be looking for ways to give the city some leeway if the contentious situation continues much longer.

The standoff began last week when Detroit’s corporation counsel, Krystal Crittendon, went to court asking for a judge’s opinion about whether the consent agreement between the city and state should be voided.

Charles Pugh

Detroit's top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, plans to argue in court that the city's consent agreement with the state is not legal.

The Detroit News reports that Crittendon contends the state owes the city "more than $220 million in past-due state revenue sharing payments and millions of other unpaid bills." She says the city can't enter into a consent agreement with the state since the state is in default.

The state has denied they owe Detroit money, and Gov. Rick Snyder and state Treasurer Andy Dillon have said they'll withhold $80 million in revenue sharing payments to the city if the lawsuit goes forward.

Crittendon is expected to appear in Ingham County court tomorrow for an initial hearing.

Crittendon said it is her legal obligation to go forward with her lawsuit. From the Detroit News:

"Those of you who have worked with me should know that I take my legal, moral, ethical, professional and charter-mandated responsibilities very seriously," Crittendon wrote. "They are not for sale and will not be compromised."

Yesterday, Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported Detroit Mayor Dave Bing was unsuccessful in persuading city council to back his effort to stop Crittendon from moving forward with the lawsuit.

Today, we here more about council's reaction to the lawsuit and the state's threat of withholding money from the city.

Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh said state officials are "scaring the hell" out of Detroit by threatening to pull funding from the city. More from MLive's Jonathan Oosting:

Council President Charles Pugh today questioned reports that Detroit is poised to run out money this week and called the state "irresponsible" for threatening to withhold expected funding because of concerns over a pending lawsuit by the city's top attorney.

"They can have those concerns," Pugh told reporters this morning. "But you don't put the city at risk of not being able to pay our police officers and firefighters and scaring the hell out of citizens by saying we're going to run out of cash. That's irresponsible, and it makes me angry because we didn't have to get to this point."

Outside Detroit City Hall
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the city will run out of money this week if a city lawyer doesn’t back off from a lawsuit challenging a consent agreement with the state.

Bing was hoping to unite City Council members behind his efforts to get that lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, to drop her legal action.

But at a contentious appearance before the Council this morning, Bing found little support.

And the mayor says that leaves the city vulnerable to going broke.

Today, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing asked the city Council to pass a resolution asking the city’s top lawyer to back off a legal challenge to Detroit’s consent agreement with the state.

State officials say that litigation compromises a complex bond transaction, and say until the legal challenge is dropped, they’ll withhold about $80-million promised in the consent agreement.

But most City Council members say lawyer Krystal Crittendon is only following the law, and they’d like a judge to rule on the consent agreement’s validity.

Council President Charles Pugh, who voted for the consent agreement, says he hopes Lansing “does the right thing.”

“And that’s not allowing the city to run out of money," said Pugh. "That would be so irresponsible, just because they don’t agree with the court action. Her opinion does not prevent the state from living up to its responsibilities.”

Mayor Bing says he doesn’t think the state is bluffing about letting the city go broke. He left the Council meeting to attend ongoing discussions with state officials.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Detroit in a game of revenue-sharing chicken with the state

Detroit's top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, is challenging the legality of the city's consent agreement with the state in court. State officials are threatening to withhold millions of dollars in state revenue sharing payments if the lawsuit is not dropped.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and his Chief Financial Officer, Jack Martin, warn the city could go broke as soon as next week.

That’s because Detroit’s top lawyer, Kyrstal Crittendon, filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the city’s consent agreement with the state.

Crittendon argues the agreement is “void and unenforceable” because the state owes the city money—and it’s illegal to enter into a contract with a debtor.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

State threatens to pull revenue if consent deal challenge continues

Detroit’s top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, is challenging the city's consent deal with the state of Michigan. State officials want the challenge to stop. The state Treasurer's Office sent the city a letter. From the Detroit Free Press:

The state Treasurer's Office warned the City of Detroit on Thursday that it could lose $80 million or more in state revenue sharing unless Mayor Dave Bing gets a lawsuit dropped by next week that challenges the city's financial stability agreement with the state.

Mayor Bing issued a statement last night saying he'd received the letter. Bing said Crittendon "believes she has the right to file the complaint."

However, as I have said before, this action only impedes our progress and places the City’s fiscal recovery in grave jeopardy. My team is working closely with the State to mitigate any negative impacts on my administration’s plan to financially stabilize the City. We want this matter resolved expeditiously for the sake of the citizens of Detroit.

Michigan House panel aims to put limits on abortion

A set of bills going through the legislature will put more restrictions on abortion providers in the state. A state House panel passed them yesterday, and now the bills are on the way to the state House floor. More from the Detroit News:

A House committee on Thursday advanced a three-bill package to the floor requiring abortion clinics to be licensed surgical centers, imposing new requirements for disposing of the remains of aborted fetuses and making it a crime to coerce a woman into terminating a pregnancy.

One of the bills includes a ban on late-term abortions for unborn children 20 or more weeks developed, with a narrow exception when the mother's life is at risk, said the bill sponsor, Rep. Deb Shaughnessy, R-Charlotte.

Polls show it's close between Obama and Romney in Michigan

Michigan is looking more and more like a swing state for either candidate. From the Huffington Post:

A poll released on Thursday by Lansing-based pollster EPIC-MRA has President Obama and Mitt Romney running neck and neck in Michigan, with Romney leading with 46 percent to Obama's 45 percent.

In a release, the Michigan Republican Party touted the results as evidence of Romney's growing strength in his home state. That would represent a shift from other polling conducted in the state, as well as EPIC's polling in April, which gave Obama a 4-point lead.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Federal investment in Detroit light rail? Ray LaHood in Detroit today

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will be in Detroit today to meet with a group of business leaders and government officials. The topic of discussion will be the on-again, off-again light rail system in Detroit.

More from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

The M-1 project on the main thoroughfare of Woodward Avenue could eventually connect with a regional system.

Governor Rick Snyder plans to attend. He says light rail is part of a strategy to make Michigan’s largest city as attractive to entrepreneurs and young people as Chicago or Boston...

Businesspeople and government officials hope for more federal financial support for the project, which would operate for several years before reaching the break-even point.

Detroit's top lawyer says consent agreement with the state is not legal

Detroit's consent agreement with the state of Michigan is facing a legal challenge by Krystal Crittendon. More from the Detroit News:

The city's top attorney, Krystal A. Crittendon, could single-handedly derail the historic consent agreement between the city and state if she can convince a judge to endorse her opinion that the document is illegal.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports Crittendon doesn't have the full support of Mayor Dave Bing and some city council members:

Mayor Dave Bing initially made conflicting statements about a legal challenge. He publicly opposed it, but then admitted he supported the “concept” of the letter.

But now Bing says litigation would be a distraction.

Officials with the state have called the challenge nonsense. They plan to move forward with the agreement.

Venus and the Sun come together for a once-in-a-lifetime show

Tonight, the planet Venus can be seen crossing in front of the sun. It's known as the "transit of Venus" and it only happens once around every one hundred years.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith says she "stumbled across the transit while gulping down an awesome new beer at one of my favorite spots in Benton Harbor, The Livery Microbrewery."

People in Michigan will be able to see the transit of Venus for a roughly three hour window beginning at 6 o’clock and lasting until the sun sets.

The transit won’t happen again until the year 2117, so it’s a pretty big deal to professional and amateur astronomers alike.

“Oh yeah, we’re having a full out party,” said Richard Bell, President of the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society.

Detroit’s top lawyer is going to court to challenge the city’s consent agreement with the state. But she doesn’t have the full support of Mayor Dave Bing, or some Detroit City Council members.

Corporation counsel Krystal Crittendon wrote a letter to state officials weeks ago.

It looks like Detroit’s yearly budget process will get resolved without the squabbles that have plagued it in past years.

 

Mayor Dave Bing said Thursday he’ll sign the budget the Detroit City Council approved last week.

The Council made few changes to the budget plan Bing proposed back in April. It slashes nearly $250 million  from the city’s now roughly $1.1 billion budget.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Kate Davidson / Michigan Radio

At a press conference this morning, Detroit Mayor Bing said he'll approve Detroit City Council's budget.

Here's Bing making the announcement at the Mackinac Policy Conference this morning:

Bing's announcement means the typical high-stakes budget battles seen between executive and legislative branches of government won't happen in Detroit this year.

Suzette Hackney of the Detroit Free Press reports:

For the first time in recent history, Detroit's executive and legislative branches of government quashed potential squabbles over the city's budget and agreed to make $250 million in cuts in an effort to steer Detroit back toward fiscal stability.Detroit Mayor Dave Bing this morning said he intends Friday to formally adopt the budget, which contains key public lighting, transportation and public safety initiatives...

The 2012-13 fiscal year begins July 1. This budget is the first under a consent agreement that gives the state significant oversight into Detroit's finances. The $1.12-billion spending plan calls for Detroit's human services department to be eliminated, the transportation and lighting departments will be privatized, and 2,600 jobs will be cut.

The budget reduces the city's general fund by $246 million -- a $171-million spending reduction and $75 million to go toward paying down an accumulated deficit.

Detroit's budget must also be approved by a "financial advisory board" which was set up under a consent agreement with the state. The seats on the nine-member board are still being filled.

A financial advisory board that will help guide Detroit’s budget process is expected to start meeting “soon”—but it will apparently be missing some of its members.

That Board is a key part of Detroit’s consent agreement with the state, and is supposed to have a prominent role in the city’s ongoing budget process.

Its nine members were to be appointed by state officials, Mayor Dave Bing—and the Detroit City Council.

The Detroit City Council approved a new budget for the next fiscal year on Thursday.

But the Council spent a lot more time talking about Detroit’s consent agreement with the state—and whether to challenge it in court—than about the budget.

The budget that Council approved by a 6-3 vote is pretty similar to the $1.1 billion plan Mayor Dave Bing’s office proposed in April.

The Council restored some money to the budget. But they mostly preserved the roughly $250 million in cuts the mayor proposed.

Detroit’s top lawyer says the city’s consent agreement with the state isn’t legally binding.

Corporation counsel Krystal Crittenden sent a letter to Governor Snyder’s office calling the agreement “void and unenforceable.”

The letter cites money the state owes the city—and says Detroit’s charter forbids it from entering into agreements with debtors.

Another Detroit city department says it simply can’t function if proposed budget cuts go through.

The law department says “there is no way” the unit can run on what’s allotted in Mayor Dave Bing’s budget proposal.

Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittenden told the Detroit City Council the city’s new charter gives the law department new responsibilities.

Bing proposes slashing their budget by more than half. But the Council moved to restore most of that funding.

There's some job switching going on today in Michigan as Highland Park Schools emergency manager Jack Martin got the nod to become the new chief financial officer for the City of Detroit.

The CFO position was created as part of the city's consent agreement with the state. Jack Martin has been the EM at Highland Park Schools since last February.

Martin is a certified public accountant and was the CFO for the U.S. Department of Education from January 2002 through December 2005.

Martin's move to Detroit left the EM position at Highland Park Schools open which will now be filled by Joyce Parker. She's the current emergency manager for the city of Ecorse. She'll continue on in that role part-time, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

A union that represents some Detroit transit workers is asking the U.S. Department of Labor to withhold federal transit money from the city. In a letter to labor secretary Hilda Solis, the union says the money should be withheld until Detroit and the state get rid of a provision in a recent consent agreement that suspends collective bargaining requirements. 

Attorney George Washington represents AFSCME Local 312. He says the Urban Mass Transit Act spells out that the preservation of transit employees' collective bargaining rights is a condition for getting federal mass transit money.

Washington says that flies in the face of the consent agreement Detroit recently entered with the state. That agreement lays out a series of conditions the city is expected to impose unilaterally by July 16.  

"Nobody has talked with the union about any of that, and there's no bargaining going on. They're just trying to issue orders and dictates," said Washington.

In a statement, Michigan Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton said this:

"It is unfortunate that, at a time when the city and state are working collaboratively to address the city’s financial crisis and delivery of key services, some are willing to take actions that promise only to further erode the city’s bus service and, perhaps more critically, its fiscal condition."

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

State could be forced to pay new Detroit officials' salaries

Under the consent agreement with the state, the city of Detroit will have to appoint new officials to lead the city out of its financial crisis. Who will pay the salaries for these new officials is a new bone of contention according to Jonathan Oosting at MLive:

The [consent] agreement... requires the formation of a nine-member Financial Advisory Board to oversee city budgets and hiring of a Program Management Director to oversee implementation of key initiatives.

The deal calls for the city and state to split the salaries of advisory board members, who each will make $25,000 a year, while the city is required to cover the full salary of the PMD, expected to earn triple figures.

As MLive.com first reported this weekend, some city leaders believe the state may end up assuming full responsibility for those costs.

Some council members feel the Headlee Act prevents the state from mandating new services without compensating the city for those services.

Oosting reports Detroit City Council is expected to meet in a closed door session with the city's law department this afternoon.

U.S. Attorney General says violence in Detroit is "unacceptable"

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told thousands of people gathered at an NAACP fundraising dinner that violence in Detroit is "unacceptable."

He told the crowd last night in Detroit that his administration is directing "unprecedented" resources nationally in order to reduce young people's exposure to crime.

Holder said an average of two young black men get killed each week in Detroit. He called the statistic "shocking."

Higher train speeds between Detroit and Chicago

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says Michigan, Illinois and Indiana are each contributing $200,000 for a study looking into the creation of a high-speed rail corridor between Chicago and Detroit.

LaHood says the study will seek ways to cut Amtrak passenger train times between the cities and to more efficiently move goods.

The Department of Transportation says the study will build on the progress that Michigan has made in achieving 110 mile per hour service between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Detroit’s City Clerk says budget cuts would compromise her ability to run elections.

Janice Winfrey took her case to the Detroit City Council Friday.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing wants to cut the election department's budget by 25%, from $7.4 million to $5 million.

Bing says that’s part of across-the-board cuts that need to happen as the city grapples with state mandates to reduce its deficit--outlined in the consent agreement between the city and state.

The Detroit City Council is interviewing candidates for the city’s new financial advisory board this week.

The nine-member financial advisory board is a requirement outlined in Detroit’s consent agreement with the state.

The City Council gets to appoint two members, and approve the rest, who are appointed by the Governor, State Treasurer, and Mayor.

On Wednesday, the Council interviewed Mary Beth Kuderik, Chief Financial Officer for the UAW Retiree Benefits Trust.

Council members seemed keenly interested in Kuderik’s record managing health care costs—one of the city’s biggest long-term expenditures.

Kuderik says she thinks the city could save a lot of money in health care costs.

“My sense is that there would be opportunity for savings, even in terms of cash flow,” she said.”

Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown cautioned it won’t be a part-time job to start.

“There is so much information that you have to be brought up to speed on, to understand how the city operates, that I really do see it being a full-time job for 30-45 days,” Brown said.

The Council has until May 10th to finalize the board.

So far, only one advisory board appointee lives in Detroit. That’s a concern to some Council members.

Several Council members have said qualified city residents they’ve approached have declined interviews, saying the issue is too contentious.

wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - Some Detroit municipal union leaders say striking is one of several options being discussed during ramped-up strategy sessions before new contract talks with the city begin.

American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 25 spokesman Ed McNeil says no strike vote has been taken "at this point."

McNeil said "people are looking at the system itself and are pretty disgusted with the city."

Union strategy sessions have become more agitated since Mayor Dave Bing and Gov. Rick Snyder approved a consent agreement that avoided appointment of an emergency manager in Detroit but now calls for steeper benefit cuts and more work rules concessions.

Detroit has an accumulated budget deficit of $265 million. Bing wants to cut more than 2,500 jobs and shave $250 million in annual expenses.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing returns to work today

Mr. Bing is expected back at city hall following his recovery from pulmonary embolisms in both lungs. Bing had an
operation in late March for a perforated colon, then returned to the hospital earlier this month after doctors discovered the blood clots in his lungs - a potentially life-threatening condition.

Bing, 68, was away for much of the drama surrounding the city's consent agreement vote with the state, but Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis said Bing was continually informed and was providing his input into the process. From the Detroit News:

In a conference call with reporters 10 days ago, Bing said he was fully engaged in the process of hiring a chief financial officer as well as appointing members to the financial advisory board that will oversee the city's fiscal restructuring.

In that phone interview with reporters, Bing said he would start slowly and not work full days until his health is 100 percent.

Appointments to Detroit's financial oversight board continue

Five have been appointed to the nine-member financial advisory board - four more appointments are left.

The Detroit Free Press reports Detroit City Council will interview candidates today:

The council will interview candidates at 2:30 p.m. today and at 1 p.m. Tuesday at council chambers on the 13th floor of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

"It will be a world-class board," council President Pro Tem Gary Brown, who is heading up the selection process for the council, said last week. "I've seen all the candidates, and people will be pleased with the level of competency on this board."

Council President Charles Pugh said the council could vote on its selections as early as Friday.

The financial advisory board will have oversight over the city's finances. Each member will be given $25,000 in annual compensation for their service on the board.

Number of low-birth weight babies increasing in Michigan

The Michigan League for Human Services’ Kids Count in Michigan report released today says the number of low-birth weight babies and babies born to unwed women is increasing, according to the Lansing State Journal.

The Journal reports that the authors of the report call for funding to implement changes from a state infant mortality summit.

The report says the 10 counties with the best health indicators for mothers and children are Houghton, Ottawa, Livingston, Leelanau, Midland, Grand Traverse, Oakland, Emmet, Clinton and Washtenaw.

The 10 worst are Berrien, Calhoun, Alcona, Genesee, Clare, Lake, Saginaw, Wayne, Crawford and Luce.

People in public life are in the spotlight, and are often the target of people's vitriol when they make unpopular decisions.

It's no different in Detroit.

Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins told WWJ she's received death threats after her vote to approve a consent agreement with the state earlier this month.

From WWJ:

“I’ve received some threats, yes,” said Jenkins. ”It’s especially unnerving when in addition to threats, people are picketing at your private home.”

Jenkins said it’s all over her “yes” vote supporting the consent agreement. While things haven’t escalated to violence, Jenkins has had to ask for police protection at least once...

Jenkins said when she ran for a seat on City Council, she had no idea how difficult it would be.

“I had no idea, but I keep saying, you can’t complain when you get what you asked for. I asked for this, but I had no idea. I knew it would be rough, but I didn’t know it would be this rough,” she said.

Jenkins told WWJ that other council members have also received threats - she didn't identify their names.

Detroit, as you probably know, is trying desperately to avoid emergency manager status, bankruptcy, or both.

Governor Rick Snyder isn’t the most popular figure in Motown these days, but he is on the same page with city leaders on that, which is why he helped craft the so-called consent agreement.

The mechanics of it are still being worked out. But yesterday, Mayor Dave Bing proposed a new city budget that was almost frightening in terms of its austerity, and depressing when you think of the services this once-great city used to provide.

Dave Hogg / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he's at least 80 percent healed from major surgery and plans to return to city hall on April 30.

Bing had surgery for a perforated intestine in late March and then returned to the hospital on April 4 because of blood clots in his lungs. His health problems occurred while the city and the state of Michigan were working on an extraordinary deal to fix Detroit's finances.

The 68-year-old mayor said during a conference call Friday the only thing holding him back is the healing of his incision. Bing says he lost 12 pounds because of restrictions on what he could eat.

A deal between Detroit and the state calls for a chief financial officer, a program manager and a nine-member board to oversee spending.

michiganradio.org

Earlier this month, some opposed to the state's efforts to enter into a consent agreement with Detroit tried to stop the process from going forward - arguing in front of an Ingham County judge that the state did not comply with Michigan's Open Meetings Act.

The judge agreed and ordered a halt to the process, but in an appeal by the state the Michigan Court of Appeals put a stay on the judge's decision.

Union activist and Highland Park school board member Robert Davis appealed all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Today, the Michigan Supreme Court said it won't take up Davis' appeal.

The Associated Press reports "in an order dated Friday that it wasn't persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed."

Robert Davis is the Highland Park school board member who is currently under a federal indictment for stealing funds from Highland Park schools. He says he will fight the charges.

Laughlin Elkind / Flickr

The consent agreement the city of Detroit signed with the state earlier this month calls for the creation of a nine-member financial advisory board.

The board will have oversight over the city's finances.

Governor Snyder's office released the names of the three members appointed to the board today:

Former state Treasurer Robert Bowman, currently president and CEO of Major League Baseball Advanced Media LP, is the joint appointee of Snyder and Bing. Darrell Burks, currently a senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, will be one of three individuals appointed by Gov. Snyder, and Ken Whipple, chairman of the board of Korn/Ferry International, is Treasurer Dillon’s appointee to the FAB.

Forbes has a profile of Robert Bowman.

Three are appointed - six more appointments are left.

Under the agreement, Gov. Snyder will select two more members of the board, Mayor Bing will select two, and Detroit City Council will select two.

Those serving on the board will receive compensation of $25,000 per year.

Detroit Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis—who’s still serving in place of the ailing Mayor Bing—says the city is moving to comply with the consent agreement.

 “So we’re making progress," Lewis told reporters Thursday. "I’d expect over the next couple of weeks we’ll have that [advisory board] taken care of.”

Lewis says after that, city and state officials will move on to filling two more powerful positions outlined in the agreement: a Chief Financial Officer, and a Program Director.

He also says Bing is slated to return to work part-time in “a couple of weeks.”

Bob Jagendorf / Flickr

The Detroit Free Press reports police and firefighters face a 10 percent wage cut, and the Department of Transportation in Detroit could be cut by $10 million under a proposed $1.2 billion budget presented to City Council by Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis today.

Ifmuth / Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's office is presenting the city's 2012-13 fiscal year budget to the City Council. The presentation is planned for 11 a.m. Thursday.

The annual budget process comes about a week after Bing, the council and Gov. Rick Snyder's office agreed for Michigan to have a role in fixing Detroit's $200 million budget deficit and long-term fiscal restructuring.

Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis said this week that the city is "nowhere near where" it "needs to be" in the budget process due to the time spent negotiating the agreement with Snyder.

A financial advisory board called for under the deal is expected to have little input on the upcoming budget. It will make recommendations to the mayor and help the city when Detroit begins preparations for 3-year budgets.

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