emergency financial manager

Education
8:00 am
Thu January 3, 2013

"I couldn't accept that." Why Muskegon Heights teachers quit and how it impacts students

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

This story is the second in a four-part series about how things are going so far in Michigan's first fully privatized public school district. Find part one here, part three here, and part four here.

The on-air version of the story. An expanded online version is below.

At least one in four teachers at the new Muskegon Heights school district have already quit the charter school this year. That’s after an emergency manager laid off all the former public school teachers in Muskegon Heights because he didn’t have enough money to open school in the fall. That means there have been a lot of new, adult faces in the district.

Students say the high teacher turnover has affected them and top school administrators say it has held back academic achievement this school year.

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Education
8:00 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Muskegon Heights students hope for less "chaos" as they return to class today

Muskegon Heights schools emergency financial manager Don Weatherspoon (right) talks to Muskegon Area Intermediate School Board members. Without the MAISD's help, Weatherspoon said “we would be probably still be fighting our way out of the mud."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights students are heading back to class today to begin the second half of what’s been a very turbulent school year.

This story is the first in a four-part series about how things are going so far in Michigan's first fully privatized public school district. Find part two here, part three here, and part four here.  

Muskegon Heights Public School Academy mini series. Feature 1 of 4.

Old district “implodes” after years-long financial problems

The school board in Muskegon Heights battled a budget deficit for at least six years in a row. They gave up the fight a year ago and asked the state to just take over. 

“The system that was in place imploded,” said Don Weatherspoon, the guy the state eventually sent in late April to be the emergency manager.

"Enrollment went down, costs went up, they borrowed more than they could pay back; you’re on a collision course with disaster and that’s what happened," Weatherspoon explained. Student enrollment is a big factor in how much money a school district receives from the state.

“Everything that you can think of basically broke down. Discipline, learning, record-keeping, financial accounting, etc,” Weatherspoon said.

By May, Weatherspoon discovered the district is more than $16 million dollars in debt; so much debt it couldn’t afford to open school in the fall.

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Politics & Government
4:59 pm
Fri December 28, 2012

Former Highland Park emergency financial manager headed for 2013 trial

After years of legal wrangling, Highland Park’s former emergency financial manager will go on trial for alleged embezzlement next year.

A Michigan Supreme Court ruling this week reinstated charges against Arthur Blackwell III.

Blackwell was emergency financial manager from 2005-2008. He’s accused of writing himself $264,000 in checks from city funds.

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Law
1:19 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

Gov. Snyder signed 19 bills today

Gov. Rick Snyder
Rick Snyder for Michigan Facebook.com

Gov. Snyder signed several bills into law today that he says will strengthen communities and protect taxpayers.

This morning, Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta reported Rick Snyder signed an updated local emergency manager law to replace the one rejected last month by voters. 

Mr. Snyder also signed 18 other bills ranging from extending school loan programs to tracking pollution.

In a press release, the Governor said the new laws protect the Michigan economy.

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Politics & Government
11:16 am
Thu December 27, 2012

Michigan's governor signs revised emergency manager law

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) MIchigan (file photo)
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has signed an updated local emergency manager law to replace the one rejected last month by voters.

The governor says the new law is an improvement because it gives local governments more options to come up with a plan to dig out of a financial crisis.

Critics say it's not very different from what voters said "no" to. It still grants emergency managers sweeping authority over local governments that are taken over by the state.

Politics & Government
4:58 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

Benton Harbor’s emergency financial manager's days in charge appear numbered

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris at a press conference in late November 2012.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed Joe Harris to run Benton Harbor’s dismal finances nearly three years ago.

Then City Commissioner James Hightower supported the takeover when others didn’t. But Hightower, who’s now the city’s mayor, says Harris has become increasingly difficult to work with.

Hightower says he and other elected officials told the state they would support a special assessment fee on all property owners in exchange for six conditions. One of them was that Joe Harris be replaced by the end of January.

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Politics & Government
7:48 pm
Mon December 17, 2012

Gov. Snyder says he will sign into law changes to Michigan's emergency financial manager law

Gov. Rick Snyder (R)-MI (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says he plans to sign a revised emergency manager bill that replaces a similar law rejected last month by voters.

The Republican governor told The Associated Press on Monday that he will review the legislation to ensure there are no significant changes and then sign it. The measure gives local governments several options, including accepting a manager, declaring bankruptcy, undergoing mediation and entering a consent decree as Detroit has done.

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Politics & Government
8:45 am
Thu December 13, 2012

Commentary: Orgy of lawmaking

Lessenberry essay for 12/13/12

Don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the current lame duck session of the legislature is trying to do about as much as lawmakers normally do in about ten years. Now I am sure that’s an exaggeration, but it doesn’t feel like one.

Consider this. In a single day, the governor and the Republican majority pushed through the most momentous labor legislation in years, taking the once inconceivable step of outlawing the union shop and making Michigan a so-called right to work state.

They aren’t stopping there, however: The governor is going to have to make a decision on four bills, or parts of bills aimed at making it harder for women to get abortions in Michigan.

For the last two years, lots of people have believed that Rick Snyder may be a pro-business fiscal conservative, but that he was really a moderate on social issues. Well, now we are about to find out.

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Politics & Government
7:58 am
Thu December 13, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Senate passes bills to add restrictions on abortions

The state Senate has passed legislation that would add restrictions for abortion providers. The Detroit News reports,

"The bills would require physicians to determine if a woman was coerced into having an abortion; clinics be licensed and fetuses be disposed of in the same way as 'other dead bodies.'"

Senate likely to vote on emergency manager law today

The state Senate is likely to vote today on a replacement of the emergency manager law that was repealed in the November election. According to the Detroit Free Press,

"The governor's administration says the bill is designed to address shortcomings in the much-maligned Public Act 4, which voters repealed last month, by giving local officials in financially troubled cities and school district more input in decisions -- addressing one of the major sticking points in PA 4."

Senate rejects repeal of handgun checking

The Michigan Senate has rejected a National Rifle Association-backed proposal to let people buy handguns without undergoing criminal background checks. The state House earlier approved a bill to repeal the requirement to undergo a check before buying a handgun. But the Senate voted 27-11 yesterday for a substitute bill that requires background checks by a federally licensed dealer or the police. The bill retains the state's hand gun permitting system.

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Politics & Government
4:44 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

Snyder, Treasurer: Review should spur Detroit to move quickly to fix finances

Bernt Rostad flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says the Detroit mayor and city council are operating under some tight deadlines if they want to avoid a state takeover.

A formal state Treasury review of the city’s finances is underway.

Governor Snyder’s been critical of the slow pace and infighting that have delayed Detroit’s compliance with a consent agreement with the state.

Mayor Dave Bing and the city council took some actions this week, but the governor said things need to move more quickly.

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Politics & Government
5:23 pm
Tue December 11, 2012

Detroit City Council approves contracts, hoping to avoid emergency financial manager

InspiredDesMoines flickr

By passing five key reform measures Tuesday, the Detroit City Council took an important step away from the appointment of an emergency financial manager.

But, as Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press reports, the risk remains.

From the Freep:

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Politics & Government
8:55 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Commentary: Don't forget Detroit

Lessenberry commentary 12/11/12

Chances are you’ve been hearing about only one state government story today: The protests and the politicians battling in Lansing over right to work legislation. That’s a battle, however, whose outcome was decided in one dramatic day last week.

What happens next is something we’ll be working through for years. What’s almost as amazing is that the furor over right to work has been so huge it has all but blotted out another huge, huge story.

Which is, that by the end of January, it is all but certain that the State of Michigan will have effectively taken over the city of Detroit.

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Politics & Government
10:58 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Dillon initiates state review process for Detroit's finances

Detroit’s march toward a state-appointed emergency financial manager appeared to speed up Monday, as State Treasurer Andy Dillon announced his intention to start the review process that could end up there.

The city’s financial advisory board voted to support Dillon's move to start the process. It can last up to 30 days under Public Act 72.

Board members heard ever-more dire news about the city’s finances during the meeting

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Politics & Government
12:51 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

New emergency manager law moves to House floor

A new emergency manager law would replace the controversial Public Act 4, which was repealed by voters last month.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new emergency manager bill advances to the House floor after a partisan vote passed the legislation through the House Local, Intergovernmental and Regional Affairs Committee.

The Detroit Free Press has more:

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Politics & Government
8:40 am
Thu December 6, 2012

Commentary: Detroit's dysfunction leading to emergency financial manager

Lessenberry commentary 12/6/12

I cannot remember any lame duck session of any legislature where lawmakers were trying to do as much in as short a time as they are in Lansing now. They are trying to grapple with vast changes to personal, meaning business, property tax in this state.

They are working on major changes to Blue Cross-- a new regional transportation system for Metropolitan Detroit.

Some vast war over right-to-work legislation is increasingly likely. And now it seems that the lawmakers will be asked to pass some new version of an emergency manager law.

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Politics & Government
7:42 am
Thu December 6, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

New emergency manager bill to be rolled out today

A new version of a local  government emergency manager bill will be rolled out today at the state Capitol. It would replace the emergency manager law that was rejected last month by voters, Rick Pluta reports. Under this new version, local governments deemed to be  in a fiscal crisis would have four options:

1. They could reach a consent agreement with the state.

2. They could agree to mediation to come up with a plan to meet the crisis.

3. They could request a state-appointed emergency manager.

4. They could go into Chapter Nine municipal bankruptcy. Under this measure, the state would pick up more of the costs of emergency managers.

Judge rules emergency financial manager law still in effect

"An Ingham County judge has dismissed a legal challenge to Michigan’s controversial Emergency Financial Manager law.  Under the law the governor can appoint a manager to run cities and school districts in ‘financial stress’.  The old law had been repealed when a new law was passed in 2011 giving Emergency Managers broader powers. An Ingham County judge ruled yesterday that the old law went back into effect when the new, tougher law was suspended.  The ruling means the work of Emergency Financial Managers in a handful of Michigan cities and school districts can continue," Steve Carmody reports.

GOP will continue to push for right-to-work even in 2013

Republicans are hoping a right-to-work bill will be passed in the remaining weeks of the lame duck session. Demonstrators gathered in Lansing yesterday to voice opposition against the idea of Michigan becoming the 24th  right-to-work state. But as MLive reports, if a right-to-work bill is not taken up in this session, advocates will put more pressure on the issue in the New Year.

"Advocates pressuring the GOP-controlled Legislature to act now have let it be known they will gather petitions for a voter-initiated right-to-work initiative if nothing is done. If more than 258,000 valid signatures are collected, the House and Senate would have 40 days to enact the law."
 

Politics & Government
6:30 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Michigan's Emergency Financial Manager law survives legal challenge

Ingham County Ciruit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina listens as attorney Herbert Sanders makes his argument that Michigan's Emergency Financial Manager law should be off the books
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s controversial Emergency Financial Manager law has survived a legal challenge.

But the judge’s decision may have opened a new door to legal challenges.

Michigan’s old Emergency Financial Manager law (Public Act 72) was repealed when state lawmakers passed a new law in 2011 giving the managers even broader powers.  However that new tougher law was rejected by voters last month.

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Economy
5:23 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Stateside: What would a Detroit bankruptcy bring?

A Chapter 9 Bankruptcy could present possible restructuring options for Detroit
John F. Martin Creative Commons

As the prospect of a Chapter 9 Bankruptcy looms over Detroit, many are wondering what will become of the city.

We spoke with Forbes.com contributor Micki Maynard and the Detroit News' Daniel Howes about restructuring the city and those who run it.

“It would be very difficult for the image of the city. It would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the country. It would probably last three years and be very unforgiving to the employees and residents,” said Howes.

Howes insisted that taxpayers would mostly likely have to fund the restructuring of the city.

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Politics & Government
10:35 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

People in Benton Harbor want to save public safety department, but demand more info first

Benton Harbor public safety officers came to the hearing to show their support for the special assessment.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

All the metal folding chairs in the building still weren't enough for the hundreds of residents who showed up at Tuesday night's public hearing.

Benton Harbor’s Emergency Financial Manager Joe Harris says officials from the state treasury department will ultimately decide if city residents will pay a special fee to save its police and fire departments. The city lost 20-percent of its income after voters rejected a millage last month.

Benton Harbor Public Safety Captain Dan McGinnis made the case for the fee. He pointed to a major drop in violent crime this year and cost savings from combining the police and fire departments.

“I’ll leave you with this; no one knows Benton Harbor’s streets like we do. Bottom line, no one knows,” McGinnis said.

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Politics & Government
5:39 pm
Wed November 21, 2012

Benton Harbor EFM will consider special fee to fund public safety

Benton Harbor EFM Joe Harris at a tightly controlled press conference earlier this week.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor Emergency Financial Manager Joe Harris will consider charging property owners a special fee to pay for the city’s police department. The decision comes two weeks after voters rejected a millage renewal worth 20-percent of the city’s income.

At a press conference earlier this week, Harris outlined four rather dismal options; including eliminating the police department or asking the state to just allow Benton Harbor to declare bankruptcy.

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