emergency manager law | Michigan Radio

emergency manager law

“When we defer [capital expenditure] or investment in a school district, we’re knowingly ensuring that our students won’t keep up with their peers across the state or the country or the world,” Saunders said.
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One of the state of Michigan’s former emergency managers says the strategy might work for some cities, but an emergency manager just doesn’t work that well for school districts.

Tony Saunders is the former emergency manager of Benton Harbor.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics Jack Lessenberry and Doug Tribou look at Todd Courser's $160 million civil lawsuit, a rejected challenge to Michigan's emergency manager law and a push to stop local communities from regulating plastic grocery bags. Lessenberry and Tribou also talk about a WWE wrestler turned Republican nominee who's looking to pin down a seat in the Michigan House this November.


Hammer told us he was "very disappointed" but "not surprised" with the appeals court ruling.
flickr user swskeptic / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A federal appeals court has upheld Michigan's emergency manager law.

The Sixth Circuit United States Court of Appeals says the law does not violate voting rights, and it does not racially discriminate. 

The court's opinion says there is no fundamental right to vote for local officials. It also says the state has a legitimate interest in fixing financially struggling local governments. 

In light of Monday's ruling, where does Michigan go from here?

I voted sticker
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The state primary results are in, so what's to come in November? This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rebecca Kruth discuss voter turnout and races to watch on the road to Election Day. They also talk about a resurrected plan to bring regional transit funding to southeast Michigan and a dispute over the state's emergency manager law that's playing out in federal court.


According to John Philo, Michigan's emergency manager law "violates people's fundamental right to vote."
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 

Michigan stripped the voting rights from people who live in Detroit, Flint, and other cities and school districts placed under emergency management.

That was a central argument today as opponents of the law took their legal challenge to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.  

Attorney John Philo says the law is also racist in the way it’s been applied.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The state has fully relinquished oversight of Benton Harbor, six years after the city was placed under emergency management to address a budget deficit.

Friday's decision followed a recommendation from a state-appointed receivership transition advisory board.

The southwestern Michigan city will manage operations and finances without oversight. City council ordinances no longer need approval of the board that was appointed in 2014 once emergency management ended.

Both Gov. Rick Snyder and former Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed emergency managers in Benton Harbor.

via Detroit Public Schools

Gov. Rick Snyder is a defendant in yet another lawsuit – this time, a federal lawsuit over the state of the Detroit Public Schools.

Members of Detroit’s elected school board and some parents filed the suit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of about 58,000 students who have attended DPS schools since 2011.

The lawsuit alleges that financial, academic, and other conditions in the district have declined so much they violate students’ civil rights.

Michigan Supreme Court
photo courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could set some parameters on state-appointed emergency managers’ authority to change public employee contracts.

Back in 2012, the city of Pontiac was broke, and under the control of an emergency manager. The city missed a promised $3.5 million payment to a union-run police and fire retirees’ health insurance fund. So the emergency manager issued an executive order skipping the payment after the fact – as well as future payments.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A national group says the experience in Flint suggests Michigan should make changes to its emergency manager law.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has been studying how 20 states intervene when local governments are in financial trouble.

“Sometimes emergency managers may be part of a distressed community’s opportunity to reset their finances,” says Mary Murphy, a manager on the Pew’s state and local fiscal health team, “But they’re not always the right solution to every problem … and Flint certainly calls attention to the latter.”

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Like last week, when he testified before Congress, the Flint water crisis again dominated Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s schedule this week. 

First, the governor outlined a sweeping plan for dealing with the city of Flint’s drinking water crisis.

Then only a few days later, a task force that he appointed put the blame on his office, his appointees and two state agencies for Flint’s lead tainted water.

People in Flint are still lining up for bottled water. 

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

Governor Rick Snyder is standing by Michigan’s emergency manager law. The law was repeatedly criticized at a Congressional hearing into Flint's water crisis on Thursday, and the governor admitted emergency managers failed in Flint.  

NAACP President Cornell Brooks says "the way you can measure trust is when you have a timeline, a deadline and a price tag."
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The NAACP is giving Gov. Rick Snyder 30 days to come up with a “timeline, deadline and price tag” for fixing Flint’s water crisis.

After that, the national civil right organization is threatening “direct action” protests in Michigan.

National NAACP president Cornell William Brooks laid out a 20-point plan for Flint’s drinking water crisis. The plan includes repealing Michigan’s emergency manager law, free home inspections and a new ‘state of the art water system’ in Flint. 

Brooks says it's time Gov. Rick Snyder delivered a specific plan.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan’s emergency manager law has received considerable criticism in the wake of the Flint water crisis. The concept of the state moving in to take power away from local officials to fix a financial crisis is not new. In fact, Public Act 72, known as the Local Government Fiscal Responsibility Act, was passed in 1990.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has the backing of Michigan’s governor to wield more power.

But she needs to get the approval of a state oversight board. 

At a news conference earlier this week, Gov. Rick Snyder said Weaver should have more authority to hire and fire at city hall.  

A Flint resident holds a jug of tainted Flint water.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There is a lot of controversy surrounding Michigan’s use of emergency managers. The Flint water fiasco, the decline of the Detroit Public School system – that all happened under the watch of state-appointed emergency managers.

While much has been said and written about Detroit getting through bankruptcy quickly, there are a lot of long-lasting effects of the city’s time under an emergency manager, including, but certainly not limited to, Belle Isle Park being turned over to state management, which some Detroit residents find frustrating.

Gov. Snyder is taking heat regarding decisions made by his Emergency Managers that lead to the Flint water crisis
Gov. Rick Snyder / screengrab

The fallout from the Flint water crisis is far from over.

Yes, the state’s top water official has been “reassigned.”  

And sure, the Department of Environment Quality director admits they bungled the testing of Flint’s water, and failed at setting up appropriate corrosion control measures. Those measures would have prevented lead from leaching from pipes in the Flint’s water.

But there is a deeper anger in Flint aimed at Governor Snyder, and the string of emergency managers he appointed to run the struggling city when it reached a financial crisis.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools’ elected board has filed a federal civil rights complaint against Governor Rick Snyder.

The Title VI complaint — the portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which deals with discrimination claims against institutions that receive federal funds — asks the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate a number of allegations against the district and its state-appointed officials.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Treasury started reviewing Wayne County’s financial situation Friday.

The state review comes after Wayne County’s top administrator asked for it, earlier this week.

In a letter to the state, County executive Warren Evans wrote this week the deficit is $9.9 million. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In order for parents to make the best decisions for their children, they need to know what’s going on. So do taxpayers and voters.

In my years of writing about school districts all over the state, I’ve learned everyone wants to brag about the successes. No one is in a hurry to admit when things aren’t working for students.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This is a crucial week for the future of the Detroit Public Schools—and possibly holds a key test for Michigan’s emergency manager law, too.

The school district’s third emergency manager, Jack Martin, is expected to leave this week, after serving in that post for 18 months.

Under Michigan’s revised emergency manager law, elected officials—in this case, the Detroit Board of Education—can remove an emergency manager after that period of time by a 2/3 vote. The board has indicated they intend to do just that.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager plans to start prepping for the end of his tenure.

Flint has been under an emergency manager since 2011. 

Current emergency manager Darnell Earley’s appointment ends in April.    He’s working now to begin the transition back to local control.

Today on Stateside:

  • A lawsuit filed against the emergency manager law alleges racial discrimination against minorities. University of Michigan professor Reynolds Farley discusses why so many minorities find their communities and school districts in bad financial shape.

  • There are a number of vacant lots in Flint and many of these lots have grass. Continually having to mow vacant lots is a financial strain on the city. Doug Weiland, Executive Director at the Genesee County Land Bank discusses a recent solution to this problem.

  • A new documentary, Vanishing Borders, directed and produced by Michigan State University assistant professor Alexandra Hidalgo, explores immigration from the perspective of women. Listen to Asst. Prof. Hidalgo discuss her powerful documentary and what she hopes audiences gain from viewing it.

  • In Stateside’s project, The Next Idea, Prof. Rex LaMore, Director of Michigan State University’s Center for Community Economic Development pens an essay on consumerism in relation to economic growth. Listen to Prof. LaMore discuss this concept and why it needs to be reexamined. 

  • When Whole Foods opened in Detroit, there were questions on whether or not the vast majority of Detroit could afford the upscale grocer. Goals were set into place to make the grocer more accessible to the citizens of Detroit. The results, however, have been a mixed bag. Traci McMillan wrote a piece for Slate.com entitled ‘Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat.’ Listen to McMillan discuss her piece.

*Listen to the full show above

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Benton Harbor Board of Education may take a step this evening toward getting its financial house in order. 

Benton Harbor Area Schools faces a $15 million deficit.

Last month, a state panel determined the school district is in a "financial emergency."

Monday, the state Treasury department announced that an agreement has been crafted that will “restore financial stability to Benton Harbor Area Schools as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

As part of the agreement, a consultant will assist district leaders in implementing the plan.

David Lewinski Photography

Q: What do Detroit, Allen Park, Flint, and Hamtramck all have in common?

A: The cities are all under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. 

Last month, the city of Lincoln Park joined that list. But we didn't see the protests and outcry that we saw over the appointment of an emergency manager in Detroit. 

When the city of Lincoln Park was turned over to Brad Coulter, a consultant to corporate turnaround specialists O'Keefe & Associates, the mayor of Lincoln Park, Thomas Karnes, was positive.

user cedarbenddrive/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state Legislature returns briefly from its summer break Wednesday for its only scheduled session day in July.

No full floor votes are expected in either the House or the Senate. But a number of legislative panels will meet to discuss a wide variety of issues.

The state Senate Government Operations Committee is expected to approve two high-profile medical marijuana bills. House Bill 4271 would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Michigan. House Bill 5104 would allow patients to use edible and other non-smokable forms of marijuana.

Andrew Jameson

Governor Snyder has named Brad Coulter as emergency manager for the city of Lincoln Park.

Coulter will take a leave of absence from his job as a consultant with O’Keefe & Associates, a firm specializing in turnaround restructuring and corporate finance services, to try and balance the downriver Detroit suburb’s books.

Lincoln Park’s mayor and city council asked the Michigan Department of Treasury to review its finances last year.

Highland Park municipal building
City of Highland Park

Gov. Rick Snyder has confirmed his decision that Highland Park faces a financial emergency.

The small city located within Detroit’s borders is no stranger to financial troubles.

The Michigan Department of Treasury first reviewed Highland Park’s finances in 1996. From 2001 through 2009, it had an emergency financial manager.

Michigan State University

The latest Michigan community to fall into financial collapse is the tiny half-square mile community of Royal Oak Township, in Oakland County.

Late last month, Gov. Rick Snyder confirmed a financial emergency existed in Royal Oak Township. That cleared the way for action under Michigan's overhauled emergency manager act, PA 436.

What's happened in Royal Oak Township illustrates the changes and options available under PA 436 after voters rejected the previous emergency manager law in November 2012. We wondered if other communities can learn cautionary lessons from the financial troubles of Royal Oak Township.

Eric Scorsone, municipal finance expert from Michigan State University, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint city council is expected to consider a plan tonight that may lead the city out from under state oversight.

Flint has had a series of state appointed Emergency Managers, dating back to 2002 under Governor Engler.

Darnell Earley is the current man in the job. He's outlined a seven- point plan to prepare the city to transition back to local control for the first time since 2011.

Earley’s plan includes addressing Flint’s deficit, legacy costs and strategic planning.

A state review team has officially concluded that a “financial emergency” exists in the city of Lincoln Park.

The small suburb in the downriver area just south of Detroit is running a slight deficit right now, despite having a $4.5 million general fund balance in 2010.

According to the review team’s findings, city officials estimate that deficit will grow by at least $1 million by the middle of this year—more if the city can’t get concessions from its police unions.

Governor Snyder has 10 days to confirm the review team’s findings.

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