emergency manager

Politics
4:40 pm
Wed November 9, 2011

Inkster is the latest Michigan city in "financial stress"

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Another Michigan city is moving toward a state takeover.   

The state Treasury Department announced today  that a preliminary review of Inkster’s books shows the city is in "probable financial stress".   

Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton says the city is having trouble solving a multi-million dollar deficit. 

"And the review also found city official have proposed unrealistic budgets and failed to make budget revisions in a timely manner," Stanton says. 

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Election 2011
2:19 am
Wed November 9, 2011

Benton Harbor gets a new mayor; denies charter amendments

Mayor-elect James Hightower on election night with his wife, June Hightower.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Super close mayoral race

City Commissioner James Hightower narrowly beat the incumbent Mayor Wilce Cooke. Cooke is likely to challenge the results, which came in 681 to 673, a difference of 8 votes. There were two write-in candidates who got a combined 8 votes. The state appointed an emergency manger to take over the city’s finances during Cooke’s second term as mayor.

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Politics
12:09 am
Wed November 9, 2011

Flint mayor wins reelection (but may end up losing power)

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint mayor Dayne Walling won re-election last night. But it may end up being a temporary victory.

"Tonight…you can see…that the people of the city of Flint…are behind me and my administration," Walling told a cheering crowd at his victory party last night.   

Dayne Walling celebrated his win last night with jubilant supporters. But they all knew that earlier in the day, Governor Snyder accepted a report that said the city of Flint is in a financial emergency.  

The governor is expected to appoint an emergency manager to run the city. Flint officials could appeal the decision. But Walling says he’s prepared to work with a manager appointed by the governor.   

“I’ll do whatever I can to move our city forward," says Walling, "The people have clearly spoken tonight. It’s been two very difficult years.  But now I have a full four year term. I’m proud of what we’ve done over the last two years.”

Walling singled out four city unions that have resisted contract concessions, as part of the reason why Flint is mired in debt.

Election 2011
9:59 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Close mayoral race in Benton Harbor, EM's proposals defeated

Benton Harbor
Google Maps

West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith called in with these unofficial election results from the city of Benton Harbor.

In the race for Benton Harbor mayor, the city is reporting this result:

  • James Hightower has 681 votes
  • Wilce Cooke has 673 votes

It's a close race, so we'll have to watch how this one is "officially" called.

And whether the winner ends up being Hightower or Cooke, neither will have any official power.

The city is still under the power of state-appointed emergency manager Joe Harris.

Smith reports that all seven of Harris' proposed charter amendments in the city were voted down.

Politics
5:02 pm
Fri November 4, 2011

Emergency manager opponents tout petition numbers

Organizers of a campaign to repeal Michigan’s new emergency manager law said they’re in the final stretch of gathering petition signatures.

Herb Sanders is with the group Stand Up For Democracy. He said the organization is getting close to its target of 161,000 voter signatures. That would suspend the law, and possibly the authority of the emergency managers in charge of three cities and one school district.

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Flint
1:44 pm
Fri November 4, 2011

Flint budget deficit lower - Good news or 'politically suspect'?

Downtown Flint, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint mayor Dayne Walling said the city’s budget deficit has been cut in half. Walling’s opponent in next week’s election said he doesn’t believe the mayor.  

Mayor Dayne Walling said a just completed review shows Flint finished its last fiscal year $7.34 million in the red. But that’s about half of what was expected ($14.62 million). Walling said it’s a sign budget reforms he’s put in place over the past two years are working.  

"With any changes it takes time to be able to be calculated and assured," said Walling.  

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Commentary
10:56 am
Fri November 4, 2011

State of Detroit: Will the city need an emergency manager?

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing made headlines and provoked cries of outrage yesterday with his pronouncement that the city might have to seek an emergency manager -- and, furthermore, that he might be willing to accept the job. Which is to say, that he wants it.

That outraged City Council president Charles Pugh, who posted this on Facebook, using many capital letters:

“The city of Detroit DOES NOT need an emergency manager. I don’t care WHAT Dave Bing says.”

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Politics
5:19 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court wants more before taking on emergency manager case

The Michigan Hall of Justice.
Michigan Supreme Court

The state Supreme Court said it wants more information before it responds to Governor Rick Snyder’s request for a speedy ruling on whether Michigan’s new emergency manager law is constitutional.

Governor Rick Snyder took the unusual step of asking the state Supreme Court to take the case without waiting for lower courts to rule first.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of voters from several cities who say the emergency manager law violates separation of powers and their right to self-government.

The law made it easier for the state to appoint emergency managers, and dramatically expanded their authority over the local governments they are supposed to fix.

The Supreme Court gave both sides until mid-December to file arguments on why the justices should circumvent the usual path of a lawsuit through the appeals process, and why they should win in the end.

There is also a petition drive underway to call a referendum challenge to the emergency manager law.

Politics
4:36 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Highland Park schools move a step closer to emergency manager

Highland Park schools could be Michigan’s second school district to get an emergency manager. The state moved a step closer to that scenario today.

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed a 10-member team to comb through the troubled school district’s finances – and maybe help it avoid a state takeover.

A preliminary review of Highland Park Schools’ books wrapped up late this summer. It found “probable financial stress,” with recurring deficits, and a current deficit of more than 15 percent of the district’s general fund revenues. The state schools chief recommended the second review.

The review team has 30 days to report its findings to the governor.

Right now Benton Harbor, Ecorse and Pontiac – along with Detroit Public Schools – are under emergency managers. A secondary review of Flint’s finances just got under way.

Politics
7:37 am
Tue November 1, 2011

Pontiac's emergency manager fires department heads

Pontiac, Michigan
Dave Garvin Flickr

A state-appointed emergency financial manager for the city of Pontiac has fired the city's clerk, attorney and director of public works in what he says is realignment in City Hall.

The Oakland Press of Pontiac reports Lou Schimmel fired the department heads effective Friday. The changes
are part of what Schimmel, who was appointed to the post in September by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, says is an effort to put together his own team.

The clerk's office is being merged with human resources and the law department is being outsourced.

An employee with United Water, which is contracted to manage the city's wastewater treatment facilities, will run the public works department.

Schimmel was appointed to fill the post held for 14 months by Michael Stampfler.

Flint
3:29 pm
Mon October 31, 2011

Review of Flint's city finances gets 30 day extension

Downtown Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

A state team is getting more time to analyze Flint’s city finances.   

The panel’s findings could lead the governor to appoint an emergency manager to run the city.   

The panel’s report was due by the final day of October. But Treasury Department spokesman Terry Stanton says the 8 member team appointed by the governor needed more time to review a few more matters. The governor has granted the review team an additional 30 days. 

Earlier this year, the Treasury Department determined that Flint was in “probable financial stress."  

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Politics
5:30 am
Mon October 31, 2011

Water rates spiking in Benton Harbor

Water bills in Benton Harbor will jump at least 40-percent in November.

Benton Harbor’s water system has served the city and surrounding Benton Charter, St. Joe Charter, Hagar and Sodus Townships. Earlier this month Benton Township put its own system online.

The township decided to separate from Benton Harbor after years of mismanagement by the city.

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Flint
1:01 am
Mon October 31, 2011

Review of Flint's financial health due today

Downtown Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Today is the deadline Governor Snyder set to complete a review of the city of Flint’s finances.   

When he appointed the financial review panel in September, Governor Snyder said he wanted to hear back from them by the end of October. However, what the governor will hear is unclear. 

As of Friday, a governor’s office spokeswoman said the review team was still analyzing its data. And Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said on Friday he had not heard from the panel since earlier this month.  

The city of Flint is expected to end the current fiscal year more than 10 million dollars in debt. Flint leaders have cut the city’s budget by about a third in recent years, trying to balance rising costs and shrinking tax revenues. 

The financial review panel could recommend a variety of options to the governor. They include giving Flint’s elected leaders more power to deal with budget decisions or handing over power to a state appointed emergency manager. 

Flint city officials have said they hope to avoid a state takeover similar to the one in 2002.

Politics
11:21 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

3 reasons things are looking up for the City of Benton Harbor

Joe Harris was appointed by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm in April of 2010. He expects the city's financial 'emergency' will be over in less than 8 months.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

In April 2010 the State of Michigan appointed an emergency financial manager for Benton Harbor to prevent the city from going bankrupt.

The mood has changed and it is not as adversarial as it was a year ago,” Benton Harbor City Commissioner Bryan Joseph said after a town hall meeting Wednesday night.

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Politics
8:10 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

State initiates review of Inkster's books

The city of Inkster is the subject of a financial review by the state that could ultimately lead to the appointment of an emergency manager.

State Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton says the review was ordered after city officials informed the department about its financial difficulties. He says that’s the goal of the state’s revamped emergency manager law: to get information sooner, and work with municipalities to fix their problems:

“And therefore perhaps have an opportunity to work collaboratively with a local unit to address any issues that are there.”

The preliminary review will last up to 30 days. Michigan’s new emergency manager law has spurred much controversy, a lawsuit, and an effort to repeal it at the ballot box. Critics of the law say it violates home rule.

Politics
12:47 pm
Mon October 10, 2011

Vice President Biden to visit Flint on Wednesday

Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Flint, Michigan on Wednesday
Barack Obama Photostream Flickr

Vice President Joe Biden will visit Flint on Wednesday. Biden will use the trip to promote President Obama's jobs plan, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Biden is scheduled to speak midday Wednesday at a fire department building in downtown Flint. The Obama administration says its American Jobs Act would pump $5 billion into supporting jobs for police and firefighters. Flint has laid off over 100 of its first responders over the past three years to deal with budget cuts. The city's seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate in August was 11.4 percent, higher than the state rate of 11.2 percent.

Late last month, Governor Snyder appointed an eight member panel to review the city's finances. "The financial review is the first step in a process created under the state's emergency manager law. Governor Snyder has said he hopes an emergency manager is not needed in Flint," Mark Brush reports. The Governor asked the review team to report their findings within 30 days which means we should find out what they have to say by late October.

Politics
12:23 pm
Sat October 8, 2011

Justice will not remove himself from emergency manager challenge

Justice Stephen Markman
(official court portrait)

A state Supreme Court justice is refusing to remove himself from hearing a challenge to the Michigan’s tough new local emergency manager law. Supreme Court Justice Steve Markman says he has no conflict of interest even though his wife worked on a challenge to the law in federal court.

Kathleen Markman is an assistant state attorney general who did what was described as procedural work to defend the law against the federal court challenge. She has since been removed from the case.

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Politics
2:28 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Governor Snyder calls for review of Flint's finances, emergency manager next?

The Flint Municipal Center. State appointed officials will review the city's finances.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Update 2:28 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett spoke with Mayor Dane Walling this afternoon. She asked Walling to give us a snapshot of where the city's finances are at now.

"The city of Flint has ongoing challenges with long-term operating deficits and also recurring questions about month to month cash availability," he said.

"The fact is, in recent months we've made continued positive progress.

The deficits in the audit will be approximately $12 million all funds combined. That's significantly down from the upwards of $20 million projections that had been done recently.

The cash flow is much stronger than it was prior to receiving the support of the state for the fiscal stabilization bond.

We're healthier than we were, so we're moving in the right direction, but we continue to have audited operating fund deficits, and to address the longer term challenges with post employment benefits  and liabilities there," said Walling.

Hulett asked Walling about his message to voters about the job he's doing in Flint and about the timing of the state review (Walling is up for re-election, and the review will be completed right before voters head to the polls). Walling said he thinks voters understand the complications he faces as the Mayor of Flint, and he looks forward to the results of the state review team.

1:49 p.m.

The city of Flint has been facing financial trouble for some time. Now state officials want an official review of the city's finances.

Governor Synder has appointed an eight member panel to review the city's bottom line. The financial review is the first step in a process created under the state's emergency manager law. Governor Snyder has said he hopes an emergency manager is not needed in Flint.

Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reports that Governor Snyder is calling for a quick review:

Snyder wants the team to report back to him in half the time allowed under the law. Review teams are given 60 days, but Snyder has asked Flint's financial review team to report its findings within 30 days, Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said.

"He does want it sooner," she said. "That was on the recommendation from the state treasurer."

Here are the eight members appointed to review Flint's finances (from the Flint Journal):

  • Laura Argyle, VP of finance and CFO for the Midland Center for the Arts
  • Gene Dennis, former president and CEO of Universal Systems
  • Darnell Earley, Saginaw City Manager
  • Robert L. Emerson, former state budget director
  • Roger Fraser, Deputy State Treasurer
  • Fred Headen, Director of the Michigan Dept. of Treasury’s Local Gov't Services Bureau
  • Doug Ringler, Director of the Office of Internal Audit Services in the Department of Technology, Management and Budget
  • Brom Stibitz, senior policy adviser in the Michigan Department of Treasury
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Politics
5:05 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Opponents of Michigan's emergency manager law hope to collect enough signatures for challenge

The city of Benton Harbor is under the control of an emergency manager.
Flickr

The legislative sponsor of the state’s six-month-old emergency manager law says it has cleared the way for the decisive actions needed to help severely stressed cities.

State Representative Al Psholka’s district includes the city of Benton Harbor.

He says Benton Harbor’s emergency manager did not have the authority he needed to fix the city’s finances before the new law took effect in March.

 “We’ve seen some rapid progress in Benton Harbor. There's challenges there, but if you look at the budget, the budget is balanced. There is a projected surplus next year of $400,000. Yes, they had to make some tough choices, but Benton Harbor is in a much better position: a position to go back to local control with a balanced budget," said Psholka.

Psholka was on the Michigan Public TV show “Off the Record.”

Opponents of the law say it robs citizens in takeover communities of their right to choose their local officials.

Organizers of a petition drive say they are close to collecting enough signatures to put a challenge to the emergency manager law the ballot.

A referendum on the law requires opponents to gather more than 161,000 signatures.

Amy Kerr Hardin is with the “Stand Up for Democracy,” the coalition trying to repeal the law. She says the state-appointed emergency managers are given too much power.

 "It takes away our elected officials. It’s crazy the stuff an emergency manager can do just by fiat," said Hardin. "They don’t have to ask any public opinion, and they don’t have to tell the public until after the fact – when they’ve done whatever it is they’ve done."

 Hardin says the campaign expects to turn in sufficient signatures by the end of October. That would put the question on the February 2012 ballot.

It would also suspend the law until the election.

The cities of Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Pontiac and the Detroit school district are being run by emergency managers.

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Politics
7:33 am
Tue September 20, 2011

Flint getting more in-depth review of finances

Sean Marshell Flickr

Flint's finances are getting a more in-depth review by the state after what's described as probable financial stress was found in its finances.

The Flint Journal reports that the state treasury office told Mayor Dayne Walling last week about the finding. A panel is expected to report to Gov. Rick Snyder within about two months whether there's a financial emergency in Flint.

In August, Michigan officials ordered a preliminary review of Flint's finances, the first involving a Michigan city since the state revised its emergency manager law early this year. The process could lead to the state appointing an emergency manager.

Walling says he believes the appointment of an emergency manager can be avoided.

Michigan has emergency managers in place in the Detroit public school system and three cities.

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