Detroit Emergency Manager

The abandoned Packard Automobile Factory is emblematic of the financial stress of many minority Michigan communities.
Albert Duce / Wikimedia Commons

When voters went to the ballot to kill the Emergency Manager Law, the state legislature responded in the lame duck session by passing a new emergency manager law that no voter initiative could remove. It was signed into law by Governor Snyder.

Opponents sued on several claims, but a federal judge recently ruled against those claims.... except for one.  

This claim alleged racial discrimination, citing the contrast between 52% of the state's African American population living under emergency managers compared to only 2% of white residents. 

user memories_by_mike / Flickr

This Week in Review, Jack 
Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss the latest polls for Michigan’s governor and U.S.Senate races, Detroit’s decision to keep emergency manager Kevyn Orr on board for now, and the latest scandal with Aramark, the state’s food services provider.

Kevyn Orr
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

 

Eighteen months is how long emergency managers are allowed to stay in power under Michigan's emergency management law. It has now been 18 months that Kevyn Orr has been in charge of Detroit's finances.

There have been closed-door meetings between Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit City Council this week, talking about Orr's future.

Michigan Radio's Detroit reporter Sarah Cwiek says the meeting has been working on the transition process but specific details are still unknown. 

Detroit Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer says Orr has been walking a fine line, and his current situation is a strange place to be.

*Listen to our conversation with Sarah Cwiek and Nancy Kaffer above.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr was in Lansing today. He testified before the newly-formed House committee on Detroit's recovery and Michigan's future. 

The committee will begin debate on the package of bills that would have the state contributing close to $195 million to the city. 

With Detroit's bankruptcy heading toward a July trial over Orr's plan to eliminate the city's debt, state lawmakers are fast-tracking the package of bills. They hope to get the bills to the House floor for a vote as early as next week, and eventually onto the governor's desk by early June.

MLive Capitol reporter Jonathan Oosting was at today's session, and he joined us from Lansing. 

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Peter Martorano / Flickr

Even before Detroit got itself an emergency manager and became the biggest city in American history to declare bankruptcy, the headlines and images coming out of the Motor City have been pretty grim. 

And, as travelers abroad are discovering, that has led to all kinds of encounters with "the locals" when they discover you're from Detroit. 

So, do you tell them that you're from Detroit, or do you hide it?

That's the question posed by Detroit Free Press travel writer Ellen Creager. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

On the one-year anniversary of his appointment, Detroit’s emergency manager spoke about the latest developments in the city's bankruptcy in a speech at the University of Michigan.

One thing in the works is getting a $120 million loan from Barclays of London. A state board approved the loan today. The Detroit City Council also approved the deal, despite concerns that the money might be used to pay big-money bankruptcy consultants. But, emergency manager Kevyn Orr says, ‘not so.’

Detroit’s bankruptcy process, like this long and dreadful winter, is unlikely to end anytime soon. While it is still officially a “fast-track” bankruptcy, it is definitely a muddy track.

As of now, federal bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes has a hearing June 16 to consider the city’s “plan of adjustment” bankruptcy proposal, but that now seems certain to be pushed back.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will allow appeals to Detroit’s bankruptcy eligibility ruling, The Detroit Free Press reported.

Detroit’s largest union – AFSCME Council 25 – and the city’s two pension funds – Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System and the General Retirement System – are among the creditors who filed an appeal to Judge Steven Rhodes’ December ruling that Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy.

According to the Freep’s Nathan Bomey and Matt Helms, Detroit’s bankruptcy case would continue as the appeal case works through the courts.

The central argument for the union and pension funds is that the city did not negotiate “in good faith” prior to filing for bankruptcy, meaning the city and state "rushed" to bankruptcy court.

Rhodes, in his ruling to approve Detroit's bankruptcy, determined that good faith negotiations were not possible under the circumstances.

demccain / flickrriver

A new chapter has begun in the long history of Detroit's Belle Isle, which is transitioning to become Michigan's 102nd state park. 

The full change takes place today, as state park officials assume control of the park under the lease imposed by Detroit's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr. The move should save the city between $4 and $5 million a year. 

Starting today, motorists will need an $11 state recreation passport to enter the park. 

Detroit Free Press editorial editor Stephen Henderson joins us today to talk about what we can expect for the future of Belle Isle and the city of Detroit. 

Listen to the full interview above. 

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager is delaying the release of his plan to shepherd the city through bankruptcy.

A spokesman for Kevyn Orr told The Associated Press on Thursday that no new date is being given for the report's release because the city is continuing mediation with creditors.

Orr had said he'd submit his plan to a federal bankruptcy judge in early January. The court-imposed deadline is mid-March.

mich.gov / Michigan Government

Today, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes ruled that Detroit is eligible to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, and to cut the pensions of city retirees.

What does it mean for residents? Current city employees? City pensioners?

Eric Scorsone, a municipal finance expert from Michigan State University, talks to us about what lies ahead after today’s ruling.

Listen to full interview above.

Duggan for Detroit

In the weeks after the Detroit’s mayoral election, a top aide to Gov. Rick Snyder recently quipped that “adults” are now running Detroit’s city hall.

Does that point to a better working relationship between the governor, Detroit’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, and the city’s Mayor-elect Mike Duggan?

Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes is taking a look at the relations between Detroit’s leadership and the governor’s office.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Well, it was quite a week for our state’s largest city. Voters elected a white mayor for the first time since 1969.

Had you gone to Lloyds of London 10 years ago and bet that within a decade, America would have a black president and Detroit a white mayor, today you would be very rich indeed.

But in the city Cadillac founded, attorneys today will offer closing arguments in a trial to determine whether the city will be allowed to file for bankruptcy. While everything in Federal Judge Steven Rhodes’ courtroom is by the book, there is an element of Kabuki-theater unreality about it all.

Nobody really believes the application will be denied. If it were, creditors would tear what remains of Detroit apart with the efficiency of a pack of wolves with a lamb.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

On Tuesday, Mike Duggan won his campaign for mayor of Detroit, beating out Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon 55% to 45%.

Now, the big question after Duggan’s victory: How will the new mayor and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr work together? Will their relationship be more constructive than that of Orr and Mayor Dave Bing?

Daniel Howes, a business columnist with the Detroit News, talks to us about the new relationship between Duggan and Orr.

Listen to the full interview above.

This week, Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes is hearing arguments on whether the city of Detroit is eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. Both Governor Snyder and Detroit Emergency Manger Kevyn Orr have testified. They argue that bankruptcy is Detroit’s only path to solvency.

John Pottow weighed in on the matter on today's Stateside program. Pottow is professor of law at the University of Michigan who specializes in bankruptcy and consumer protection.

"I think the hardest issue about this is this Michigan constitutional provision about protecting the pensions," Pottow said. "This gets to what's animating the objectors and the unions is, why would the governor want to rush Detroit into bankruptcy? It's not what people generally clamor toward. And their concern is that because of this protection the workers have under the state constitution, that the governor might be trying to use the federal bankruptcy law as a way to get around the Michigan constitution."

Listen to the full interview above.

State officials must turn over the names of all candidates considered for Detroit’s emergency manager job.

A Wayne County Circuit judge court ordered that information be made public Tuesday.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Emergency Loan Board considers city and school finances in southeast Michigan

"This week the state's Emergency Loan Board will consider the finances of the City of Highland Park, Royal Oak Charter Township and the East Detroit Public Schools. All three are operating with deficits. The Emergency Loan Board will determine if probable financial stress exists in each case. If it does, the governor will appoint his own review team to make a recommendation on what to do next. That could include the appointment of an emergency manager," Lindsey Smith reports.

State seeks to block disclosure in manager case

"The state is asking a judge to block disclosure of emails and documents that members of Gov. Rick Snyder's administration exchanged while deliberating over candidates for Detroit's emergency manager. Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency motion on Snyder's behalf seeking intervention in a lawsuit brought by union activist Robert Davis against the state Treasury Department that seeks documents," the Associated Press reports.

Detroit bus drivers protest violent attacks with a "sick out"

Detroit bus drivers are protesting against a rash of violent attacks on bus drivers. Unionized bus drivers in Detroit have threatened to call in sick today.

mich.gov / Michigan Government

Unions representing Detroit city workers and retirees got a chance to question Gov. Rick Snyder under oath Tuesday about the city’s historic bankruptcy filing.

A federal judge is set to begin hearings on whether the governor and Kevyn Orr — the emergency manager he appointed — properly filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Detroit Free Press video / Detroit Free Press

DETROIT (AP) — A nonprofit fund that Gov. Rick Snyder created is paying for housing and some other expenses for Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager.

The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News report payments by the New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify Fund previously weren't disclosed.

Kevyn Orr was hired in March. Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel says the fund paid $4,200 a month for Orr's condominium at downtown's Westin Book Cadillac since April. She says it also will cover Orr's commuting expenses to visit family in Maryland.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Officials from the administration of President Barack Obama are expected to visit Detroit next week to meet with community leaders, elected officials and others.

The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News report the Sept. 27 meetings are part of ongoing discussions involving the White House amid Detroit's financial troubles. The city this summer made the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Emergency manager Kevyn Orr is working on a plan to train up to 100 new firefighters, as well as moving fire stations and supplying them with new equipment.

Plan developer Edward J. Plawecki Jr. tells Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley that his work is a response to a severe shortage of personnel and equipment. Detroit now has 796 firefighters, 40 operating fire stations and 20 ambulances.

The newspaper says union leaders have been meeting regularly with Plawecki on the drafting of the plan, which will be released in mid-September.

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit has filed a lawsuit against an insurance company the city says is improperly withholding $11 million a month in casino payments and taxes.

According to The Detroit News, the suit against Syncora Guarantee Inc. was filed on Friday.

Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr says the casino revenue Syncora is holding up each month is enough to pay Detroit firefighters for two months.

A representative for Syncora declined to comment when contacted by the Detroit Free Press.

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has reminded two of the city’s biggest unions that their contracts are expiring soon.

In letters sent this week, Orr emphasized that he’s not required to conduct collective bargaining sessions.

Under the state’s emergency manager law, he could impose new terms on the unions.

Mark Young is President of the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association, which along with AFSCME Council 25 is one of the affected unions.

He says the officers should get a new collective bargaining agreement.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is turning his focus to the city’s pension system.

This morning, Orr directed Detroit’s Inspector General and Auditor General to begin an investigation into the city’s pension funds.

The order specifically directs investigators to look for evidence of “possible waste, abuse, fraud and corruption”.

A spokesman says Detroit’s emergency manager has been looking into the city’s pension system, and what’s been found so far suggests further investigation is needed.

The probe is expected to take 60 days.

mich.gov / Michigan Government

Tonight, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr will hold a public informational meeting. It's scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Wayne State University Law School Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will be there and will give us an update later tonight.

According to Kirk Pinho at Crain’s Detroit Business:

The meeting is required under Public Act 436 of 2012, the state's emergency manager law, within 30 days of Orr submitting his financial and operational plan to the state Department of Treasury, although it does not need approval from the electorate or the treasury department.

Orr submitted his plan on May 13.

The plan largely reaffirmed what was already known about Detroit's financial problems, including that the city has a budget deficit of $380 million and over $15 billion in debt and liabilities.

The Wayne State Law School is located at 471 W. Palmer St.

Sarah Cwiek/Michigan Radio

Next week Kevyn Orr will be meeting with creditors to start negotiations in attempts to keep the city from going bankrupt.

According to Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press, the negotiations will includes over 150 representatives from the city’s major creditors including national banks who hold the city’s bonds, insurers, union representatives, and pensioners.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Over these past couple of months, have Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr's loyalties been more with the city he's running? Or with the state who hired him?

Detroiter Karen Dumas was the chief of communications for the City of Detroit.

These days, she heads up her own PR/Communications firm, Images & Ideas, and she has been watching what's been happening at City Hall.

Her recent column in Bridge Magazine shows that when it comes to Emergency Manager Orr, Karen Dumas has growing doubts.

She joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Grand Rapids flood 3-4 inches away from disaster

"A National Weather Service water expert says Grand Rapids was 3 to 4 inches of rain short of a disastrous breaching of its flood walls when the Grand River rose to record levels after heavy spring rains. The flooding forced the evacuation of an estimated 1,700 people in the Grand Rapids area and began easing after a forecast heavy rain on April 19 failed to materialize," the Associated Press reports.

Proposed legislation would lessen penalties for marijuana possession

"Legislation pending in the Michigan House would lessen penalties for people who are caught with small amounts of marijuana. The measure makes possession of one ounce of marijuana a civil infraction, rather than a misdemeanor," the Associated Press reports.

Pelosi says Detroit doesn't need an emergency manager

"Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi took a swipe at the appointment of Detroit's emergency manager last night during a speech in Detroit. The House Democratic Leader said there doesn't need to be anyone else 'running the city of Detroit,'" the Associated Press reports.

The James Scott Memorial Fountain on Belle Isle Park.
Mike Russell / wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - Donations from businesses and federal grants will allow Detroit to keep open 50 public parks slated for closure this year due to lack of money.

Mayor Dave Bing says Wednesday that the donations include $5 million over five years from auto industry supplier Lear Corp. Other donors include General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Marathon Petroleum and the Kellogg Foundation.

Several businesses, community groups and residents also have adopted parks in order to keep them open.

The parks donations follow a pledge of $8 million from businesses and foundations for 23 EMS units and 100 police cars.

Detroit's finances are under control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The city's budget deficit is about $327 million.

More than 200 city parks were closed between 2008 and 2009.

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

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

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

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

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