emergency manager

Politics
7:28 pm
Fri December 16, 2011

Benton Harbor mayor-elect works to bring city leaders together

Betty Guy talks to Benton Harbor city department heads, elected officials and residents at The Ideal Place Friday. Guy is the Director of Strategic Planning at Lakeland HealthCare in St. Joseph, Michigan.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

City leaders in Benton Harbor are trying to come together after a turbulent couple of years under a state appointed emergency manager. The emergency manager was appointed to Benton Harbor in 2010 after ten years of deficit spending. 

Mayor-elect James Hightower hosted a workshop Friday to talk about the city’s plan for future.

“You can’t keep looking back, you have to look forward,” Hightower said. “The first step is to bring people together, get them on the mindset of thinking strategic planning, and hear some of the best practices that are happening around the state.”

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History
4:19 pm
Fri December 16, 2011

A look back at Michigan's first emergency financial manager law

Michigan's State Capitol building.
user: mattileo/flickr

With the city of Flint now under an emergency manger, and the city of Detroit under preliminary financial review…we’ve been hearing a lot about Michigan’s emergency manager law.

While Public Act 4, which passed earlier this year, gives E-M’s more sweeping power, the emergency manager law itself isn’t new.

Here to take look at the first E-M law is Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry.

Commentary
1:30 pm
Fri December 16, 2011

Michigan's Future: Asking Basic Questions

There are a number of important debates going on in Michigan about our economic crisis, and our future.

Three of the most intense are these: 

  1. Should Detroit have an Emergency Manager?
  2. Should the Emergency Manager law itself be repealed? 
  3. And what’s the future of public education in this state, and how should we pay for it?

Virtually everyone has opinions about these issues, and I have expressed mine, on Michigan Radio and elsewhere. But it occurs to me that we may all be missing something.

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Politics
5:23 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Senate OKs emergency manager transition bill

State Sen. Phil Pavlov
State Senate GOP website

The Michigan Senate has approved a bill that would allow state officials to appoint a transition team to work with a community after an emergency manager’s term is up.  

“This is insurance to the people of those affected communities under emergency managers to make sure that there’s financial stability going forward, collective bargaining agreements, revenue estimating conferences are also a part of this process, to determine the financial stability of that community going forward,” State Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) said. Pavlov said it’s important the state not abandon communities coming out of financial crises.

The bill would create a transition team for a local government that’s ending its run with an emergency manager. But lawmakers could quickly adopt an alternative version next year if the state’s emergency manager law is stalled by a referendum or reversed by a court.

“The Legislature and the governor are trying to capitalize on our cities’ financial distress by appointing these emergency financial manager dictators that can oust elected officials and overtake local governments without any accountability to the community,” said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing).

Lawmakers won't revisit the emergency manager law before January when they return from a month-long winter break.

Politics
12:28 am
Thu December 15, 2011

Benton Harbor emergency manager “not surprised” at state’s review of Detroit's finances

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris explains parts of Michigan's emergency manager law at a monthly town hall meeting earlier this year.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A former long-time auditor for the City of Detroit says he’s not surprised the city is running out of cash. “I was a Detroiter, still am at heart, for 49 years,” Harris said. Joe Harris also served as Detroit’s auditor general from 1995 to 2005. He’s been the state-appointed emergency manager in Benton Harbor since March 2010.

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Flint
11:38 am
Wed December 14, 2011

Flint emergency manager hires his team to run the city

Flint emergency manager Michael Brown
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager is filling out his team to run the city.   

Flint emergency manager Michael Brown announced today he’s hiring three experienced administrators to take over key positions.  

Jerry Ambrose has been the city of Lansing’s finance director for the past six years. He’ll oversee Flint’s Finance, Budget and Treasury Departments.   

Howard Croft is coming over from the private sector. The CEO of Mid-Michigan Solar will be Flint’s new Director of Infrastructure and Development. Croft will oversee Flint’s city parks, water and sewer, as well as Community and Economic Development.  

Gary Bates has previously worked as Flint’s Labor Relations director. He’s been hired to fill that job temporarily.   

Emergency manager Michael Brown has laid off about a dozen top city officials since taking office two weeks ago. He’s charged with solving Flint’s ‘financial emergency’…which includes closing a multi-million dollar budget deficit. 

Politics
4:14 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

Detroit City Council rejects call for 30 percent cut to its budget

City Council rejected an austerity proposal today from Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown.
Andrew McFarlane Flickr

Detroit leaders are working to come up with cuts that will put the city on a stable financial path, but they don't think a 30 percent cut to their own budget is the right way to go.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported on Gary Brown's austerity proposal last week. From Hulett's report:

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.

The Detroit News reports Brown's proposal has been rejected:

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Politics
6:52 am
Tue December 13, 2011

March to Gov. Snyder's home planned for MLK Day

Critics of a law that puts managers in charge of distressed Michigan cities say they will march to the home of Gov. Rick Snyder.

A coalition of pastors and civil rights activists says the law seems to target black communities. The march is expected to include a protest at Snyder's home in Superior Township, east of Ann Arbor.

Organizers say it will be on Jan. 16, the public holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Emergency managers are in place in Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Flint and Detroit schools. Detroit's finances are also under scrutiny, the first step to a manager possibly being appointed at city hall.

The Snyder administration says race isn't a factor. It says it's simply assigning managers to cities that have poor finances.

Education
1:16 am
Sat December 10, 2011

Flint school board approves deficit elimination plan

An overflow crowd attended last night's Flint school board meeting on the district's $3.7 million deficit elimination plan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A divided Flint School Board narrowly approved a state mandated deficit elimination plan last night.   

The board first deadlocked whether to approve the $3.7 million deficit elimination plan. After being told the district would potentially lose some pending state funding, the board revoted on the plan and passed it.  

Linda Thompson is Flint’s school superintendent. She said the plan should help the district avoid falling under the oversight of a state appointed emergency manager. Maybe.   

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Politics
5:19 pm
Fri December 9, 2011

Michigan emergency manager law opponents optimistic

A leader of an effort to overturn the state’s emergency manager law says the petition drive is invigorated by news that legislative leaders are working on a back-up plan in the event the law is halted.

Brandon Jessup with Michigan Forward said he expects that halt will happen.

“I’m predicting success based on the amount of support we’ve received from across the state. Not just Detroit, but places like Traverse City, Cheboygan County, Grand Rapids, Benton Harbor – clearly – Pontiac, Saginaw, all across the state,” said Jessup.

Jessup said it’s good that lawmakers are revisiting the issue, but they need to do more.

“I’m glad to see the Legislature start to do something, but they haven’t invited the community to come to the table to help draft the legislation, so once again this is another near-sighted attempt," he said. "Not really to solve the solution, to be a solution to the problem, but to thwart our attempts at democracy.”

Opponents say the emergency manager law gives too much authority to state-appointed officials, and robs people of the right to select their local elected leaders.

Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse, Flint and the Detroit Public Schools are all run by emergency managers.

Education
11:36 am
Fri December 9, 2011

Muskegon Heights school board asks for an emergency manager

Muskegon Heights High School. The Muskegon Heights school board is asking for an emergency manager appointment.
Muskegon Heights School Board

Update 11:36 a.m. The Muskegon Heights School Board plans to take the unusual step of asking for a state takeover. And they say they want Marios Demetriou, a Deputy Superintendent at the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, to be the person who servers as their emergency manager. 

The school district has a deficit of around $9 million, and it’s growing. The board blames rising expenses, funding reductions, declining enrollment, and soaring health care costs as reasons for its problems. The Muskegon Heights Superintendent, Dana Bryant, has decided to "give up his job" to "help with financial relief efforts." He'll retire at the end of the year.

The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District Superintendent, Dave Sipka, will act as interim Superintendent for Muskegon Heights in the meantime. If one is appointed, an emergency manager could change or end union contracts to reduce the district’s deficit.

Doug Pratt, with the Michigan Education Association, said employees in Muskegon Heights have made sacrifices, and more concessions are not the answer. “The issue really is the fundamental lack of adequate funding from Lansing, especially when you look at the most recent cut of a billion dollars from public education that the legislature enacted earlier this year,” said Pratt.

Even though they’re asking for one, an emergency appointment wouldn’t come right away. A financial review would have to be performed before an EM is appointed. The Michigan Department of Education says they have not received the official request from the Muskegon Heights School Board yet, but they’ve been notified the request is coming. Michigan Department of Education spokeswoman Jan Ellis said the state has had “great concern over the financial stability of Muskegon Heights for quite some time.” She said the Muskegon Heights deficit has grown from $800,000 to around $9 million in the last 5 years. “Their ability to repay that debt or balance their budget becomes harder and harder, just like it would with everyone’s personal budget, if they got further and further in debt,” said Ellis.

The Muskegon Heights School Board has asked for an emergency manager to run the school district.

Thursday, December 8, 11:36 p.m.

In a statement, Muskegon School Board President Avery Burrel said,

"This is the first step in a long process of rebuilding our district's operational future. With the loss of Dr. Bryant's leadership, and the load of debt we are under, my fellow board members and I felt we must set aside our personal pride and ask the State and MAISD for help. Our children are counting on us to do so, and the future of our district depends on our actions today."

9:49 a.m.

Most school districts or cities work to avoid an emergency manager appointment, but the Muskegon Heights school board is practically begging for an emergency manager.

The Muskegon Chronicle reports the school board owes more than $900,000 to the state retirement system.

From the Muskegon Chronicle:

The school board in a surprising move Wednesday voted to ask that Marios Demetriou, the deputy superintendent for the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, be appointed the district's emergency financial manager.

It also eliminated the superintendent's position, accepting the Dec. 31 retirement of Superintendent Dana Bryant, who in a statement said that considering all the other job losses in the district “I need to be man enough to give up my own job to help with the financial reform efforts.”

There are five emergency mangers operating in the state today.

With other school districts and cities in financial distress, more are likely to be appointed.

News Roundup
9:13 am
Fri December 9, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

In wake of petition drive, emergency manager law being revamped

Lawmakers say they're trying to avoid "chaos" by retooling the state's emergency manager law (Public Act 4). A petition drive could put the question of whether or not to keep the EM law in front of voters next November. If petition drive organizers are successful, the law could be suspended until that vote takes place.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

State Treasurer Andy Dillon told the Free Press he has encouraged legislative leaders to rewrite the law. The alternative, he said, is "a pretty confused situation" if the law is suspended. State Rep. Fred Durhal, D-Detroit, said passing a new law to counter a voter repeal effort would be "a slap in the face to the Legislature and to the people." If the law is suspended, Gov. Rick Snyder said he believes Michigan would revert to a weaker emergency manager law from 1990, but there's no guarantee the courts will see it his way.

Detroit Mayor Bing reports progress with unions

Detroit could be the next city in line for a takeover by a state-appointed emergency manager. Detroit leaders say they're working on the city's financial problems to avoid a takeover. In a radio interview this morning, Mayor Bing said progress is being made with the city's unions.

From the Detroit News:

In an interview with WWJ-AM (950), Bing said he's asking the city's unions for reduced wages and reform to pension, health care and work rules because "that's where we can get the most flexibility and savings." "Yes, we're making progress," Bing told WWJ's Vickie Thomas around 7:30 a.m. "I think the unions understand at this point that they've got to be part of the solution." The expected number of citywide layoffs — about 1,000 — hasn't changed since Bing gave a televised address to the city last month. He doesn't know which departments the city will hit first, but public safety will be last on the chopping block.

Protesters tell Congressman to extend unemployment benefits

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported on about three dozen picketers outside of Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers Lansing office:

They were there to draw attention to a deadline looming at the end of the month. 66,000 Michiganders may lose their unemployment benefits in January if an extension is not passed.   

Protester Ronnie Rosner says this is a bad time to let unemployment benefits to expire.  

“When the price of food…gas   and other necessities are going up …when people can not afford to buy goods and services…our whole economy suffers," says Rosner.   

Congressman Rogers’ office issued a written statement …expressing support for extending unemployment benefits.   But he says… as important…is the need for policies promoting economic growth.

Flint
5:15 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Flint's emergency manager tightens his grip on city finances

Flint emergency manager Michael Brown
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint’s emergency manager is taking further steps to bring the city’s finances under control.

Michael Brown’s been on the job as Flint’s emergency manager for a week. His first steps to lift Flint from its ‘financial emergency’ were to fire a half dozen top city employees and eliminate pay for the city’s elected officials. He says that alone should save the city a million dollars.

Read more
Politics
11:58 am
Thu December 8, 2011

State moving to retool emergency manager law in wake of challenge

A group known as "Michigan Forward" is collecting signatures in an effort to repeal Public Act 4, the state's emergency manager law.

If they collect enough signatures, the question of whether or not to keep the emergency manager law would be put on the November 2012 ballot:

As we reported yesterday,

As of now [Michigan Forward has] over 155,000 signatures. They need 161,304 signatures or more.

If they're able to collect those signatures and the petition is approved, the emergency manager law will be suspended until the 2012 election.

Now there's news that some in state leadership are thinking of retooling Public Act 4 in the face of this challenge.

House Speaker Jase Bolger is quoted in the Detroit Free Press that he is "concerned about the chaos that could ensue if the emergency manager law is suspended and so should every citizen of Michigan."

From the Free Press:

State officials are working on legislation to replace the state’s emergency manager law, which could be suspended early next year as a result of a ballot initiative, Treasurer Andy Dillon said today.

“I think we’ll have a pretty confused situation if the law gets held in suspension,” Dillon said in a telephone interview with the Detroit Free Press.

Dillon said his office has sent a list of improvements he’d like to see to the emergency manager law, Public Act 4, and officials in the Legislature confirmed today they are working with the governor’s office on a possible replacement.

“We will continue to discuss this issue with the governor and our partners in the Senate and take appropriate action if and when necessary,” Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger said in a statement.

Politics
4:32 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Michigan Forward challenges Public Act 4

Michigan Forward Chairman and CEO Brandon Jessup.

Michigan's emergency manager law was strengthened this year with Public Act 4 which gave emergency managers more sweeping powers.

PA 4 is now facing a number of court challenges.

The group Michigan Forward is gathering signature to put the law to a voter referendum on the November 2012 ballot. As of now they have over 155,000 signatures. They need 161,304 signatures or more.

If they're able to collect those signatures and the petition is approved, the emergency manager law will be suspended until the 2012 election.

Commentary
10:30 am
Wed December 7, 2011

Can Detroit avoid an emergency manager?

So, does Detroit really need an Emergency Manager? Can the city’s elected leaders somehow get the job done? This much we know: The governor has ordered a preliminary review of  the city’s finances. There have been major signs of trouble for years.

Now, the city is running a large budget deficit, and the mayor says that as it now stands, the city will run out of cash by April.

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detroit
5:44 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Detroit councilman urges colleagues to set austerity example

Detroit City Council President Pro Tem wants to slash the council's budget by a third, and get rid of perks like free cars.

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.

Politics
4:53 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

7 things to know about Michigan's emergency manager law

Joe Harris, the emergency manager in Benton Harbor, says the only authority local officials have after an EM is appointed by the state, "is the authority that's provided to them or is given to them by the emergency manager."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

When a city or a school district in Michigan runs out of money, the state can appoint an emergency manager to take over the responsibilities of locally elected officials. An emergency manger’s powers are broad—made even more so this year – and are designed to help EMs balance the books and return governance to locally elected officials as quickly as possible.

Today, there are four cities and one school district under the control of an emergency manager:

  • Benton Harbor
  • Ecorse
  • Flint
  • Pontiac
  • Detroit Public Schools

This is the second time around for Flint, which had an “emergency financial manager” from 2002-2006. The cities of Detroit and Inkster and Benton Harbor Public Schools could soon be added to this list.

Read more
Politics
3:20 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Congressman John Conyers seeks review of Michigan’s emergency manager law

Congressman John Conyers represents Michigan's 14th District.

Gov. Rick Snyder's administration has placed the city of Flint under an Emergency Manager. Meanwhile, financial reviews are underway for the cities of Inkster and Detroit.

On December 1, Democratic Congressman John Conyers sent a letter to the Justice Department, requesting an immediate review of Michigan’s emergency manager law, arguing that the law is unconstitutional.

Congressman Conyers spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

Politics
5:02 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Flint city officials react 'positively' to emergency manager actions

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder last week appointed an emergency manager to the City of Flint.

Michael Brown got to work immediately, firing seven city staffers - four of whom were mayoral appointees. He also cut pay for the Mayor and City Council.

Here to talk about how city officials and citizens are reacting to the fast action is Bill Ballenger, Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

 

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