emergency manager

Politics & Government
3:50 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Group opposed to emergency managers files lawsuit

A lawsuit claims no state-appointed managers should be running Michigan cities or school districts until after voters determine the fate of the emergency manager law in November.

The action was filed today in Lansing by lawyers opposed to emergency managers.

The lawsuit says Governor Rick Snyder lost the authority to name managers to run struggling cities or school districts once the referendum on Public Act Four was put on the November ballot.

That suspended the law enacted last year, but the governor claims authority to name emergency financial managers – with less-sweeping powers – under the law that preceded it.

That makes no sense, said attorney John Philo.

“Something strikes me as very wrong about that. The presumption should be that until the people decide, we go back to our standard form of government, which is elected officials.”

Philo said there’s nothing in law that says we then revive old law to fill the gap.

“We don’t. We go back to our standard form of government, which is elected officials,” said Philo. “We’re almost treating elected officials as an aberrant form of government when we do this. That’s our standard – it’s elected officials. We go back to that until voters have their say in November.”

There are seven Michigan cities and school districts being run by state-appointed financial managers.

The lawsuit says those managers should be ordered to step down and turn their operations over to mayors, city councils, and school boards.

*This post was updated from an earlier version

Newsmaker Interviews
11:00 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

A conversation with Allen Park Mayor William Matakas

Allen Park Mayor William Matakas.

After a review of Allen Park's finances by a state-appointed team, Governor Snyder declared that the city is in a financial emergency. That finding could lead to the appointment of an emergency financial manager to try to get the city on stable financial ground. 

While the Allen Park city council was in favor a state review of the city's finances, the Mayor and the Mayor Pro Tem opposed the request. Mayor William Matakas says he will advise the council to challenge the state's findings.

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Politics & Government
11:08 am
Tue August 28, 2012

Flint leaders intend to challenge current emergency financial manager in court

Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Michigan's emergency manager law has been put on hold.

Its fate will be decided by voters this November.

In the meantime, cities and school districts once ruled by emergency managers now have emergency financial managers overseeing their budgets.

Public Act 72 was revived when Public Act 4 went up on the shelf.

Flint's City Council voted last night to challenge this rollback in court. Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reports:

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morning news roundup
7:55 am
Tue August 28, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Ballot campaigns going to court

Three ballot campaigns are heading to court to try to get on the November ballot. They are the campaign to allow eight new non-tribal casinos in Michigan, to require public votes on any new international bridges, and to make the Legislature come up with super-majorities to raise any taxes. All three campaigns were blocked by the state elections panel because of wording used in the ballot language.

Canadian Auto Workers approve a strike

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Government
4:16 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

Using emergency loans to pay off other loans; some Michigan school districts are doing it

The recession has made it harder for local governments and school districts to balance their budgets. This summer the governor signed a new law creating a board that will help those hardest hit cope with short term cash flow problems.

Earlier this month the emergency financial managers of both Muskegon Heights Public Schools and Highland Park schools got emergency loans to pay off other state loans. MHPS borrowed $7.65 million while Highland Park schools borrowed $4.4 million.

“It’s not a handout; it’s a loan in order to help get people on their feet, in order to make the changes that are necessary going forward,” said Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for Michigan’s Department of Treasury. The school districts have 30 years to pay the state back.

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3:06 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

Ballot proposals aplenty coming this Nov., where Michigan voters stand now

Lead in text: 
This November, voters in Michigan will be asked to decided on around a half-dozen controversial issues. If the election were held today, the The Detroit News has a breakdown on where things would end up. Polls show the emergency manager law would be upheld, as would collective bargaining rights, and the effort to stop a new international bridge would fail.
Lansing - If the election were held today, Michigan's emergency manager law would survive a referendum and voters would narrowly reject the Ambassador Bridge owner's bid to require statewide votes for new bridges and tunnels to Canada, a Detroit News/WDIV-Channel 4 poll shows.
11:40 am
Fri August 17, 2012

Michigan lawmakers hold off on changes to emergency manager law

Lead in text: 
Emergency managers once had significant power in the school districts and cities they were appointed in. They could break union contracts and strip elected leaders of their power. But that changed once the Supreme Court ruled the voter referendum challenging the law could go on the November ballot. The emergency manager law was suspended, so they no longer have their broad powers. MLive reports that it appears the Michigan legislature will wait until November to decided what to do next.
LANSING, MI - Michigan lawmakers appear content to leave the state's suspended emergency manager law alone, at least for now, as voters prepare to decide the fate of the measure in November. The Legislature met this week without addressing Public Act 4 of 2011, or its predecessor law from the 1990 known as Public Act 72.
Politics & Government
10:07 am
Sun August 12, 2012

Review team says Allen Park needs emergency manager

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) - A team responsible for reviewing Allen Park's finances says Gov. Snyder should appoint an emergency manager to run the city southwest of Detroit.

The review team cited the city's deficit, $1 million in delinquent vendor payments, delayed pension payments and significant cash flow shortages. The city also had not filed an approved deficit-elimination plan for the 2011 fiscal year.

The review team also determined City Council is "manifestly dysfunctional."

Snyder appointed the review team last month and a report was due within 60 days.

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Commentary
9:26 am
Fri August 10, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For

Sometimes I think Detroit should adopt a new motto, something like: “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it."

This time, the focus is on the Detroit Public Schools, which for years have been famous for incompetence, corruption, and the squandering of money. There were almost two hundred thousand kids in the schools at the turn of the century, a dozen years ago.

This fall, there may be fewer than fifty thousand left. In recent years, the schools have been under state control much of the time. Most recently, they’ve been run by an Emergency Financial Manager with sweeping powers over the system’s finances and academics. But this week, the Emergency Manager law was suspended until after a referendum in November that may repeal it.

In the meantime, the state believes that means that the old Emergency Financial Manager law is back in place.  According to a judge’s ruling, when Emergency Financial Managers were named to run school districts, they had power over finances - but not  academics. The stronger Emergency Manager law gave them both.

But with that gone, at least temporarily, the Detroit School Board moved to reassert itself. You might think they would move slowly and sensibly, reviewing Emergency Manager Roy Roberts’ academic plan and keeping it, as far as possible.

But instead, the board is acting as if they were terribly afraid someone might accuse them of common sense.

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morning news roundup
7:34 am
Thu August 9, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

Emergency financial manager law update

The referendum to challenge Michigan’s emergency manager law is officially on the November ballot. Until then, the Snyder administration and Attorney General Bill Schuette say the state's old emergency financial manager law is in place. The old law does not give emergency financial managers as much authority. State officials have already appointed or re-appointed the emergency managers running seven cities and school districts in Michigan.

McCotter investigation

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morning news roundup
7:33 am
Tue August 7, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

The story about the emergency managers have been modified to clarify that the opinion is that of the Attorney General.

Emergency managers

If Michigan’s emergency manager law is rejected by voters in November, then Attorney General Bill Schuette believes the old law should take over. That law still allows the governor to name an emergency financial manager to run a city or school district.

Public Act Four of 2011 is a souped-up version of Michigan’s old local government takeover law, and the attorney general says that old law is back in effect once the referendum is officially put on the ballot.

Bill Schuette says the referendum challenges the entire law and not just the concept of emergency managers.

Part of the new law specifically repealed the older law. That clears the way for the state to appoint or re-appoint managers running seven cities and school districts. They will be operating with diminished authority. Governor Snyder will also ask the Legislature to make some adjustments to the old law.

The referendum campaign disagrees with Schuette's ruling and says the governor and the attorney general are writing their own rules to get what they want. They say the governor can expect a legal fight each time he tries to re-appoint a local government manager.

Grand Rapids may ease marijuana charges

Grand Rapids residents may only get a civil infraction instead of a criminal charge for the possession of marijuana. Enough signatures were gathered to put the measure on the November ballot. "The proposed charter change is modeled after Ann Arbor’s city charter. In Ann Arbor, fines for marijuana possession start at just $25 and are not more than $100. The proposed changes would not allow marijuana sales or overrule state or federal laws. It would only change how local police officers deal with marijuana possession within city limits. The city clerk has until mid-September to certify the signatures before the decision goes before voters," Lindsay Smith reports.

The new bio-based economy

Soybeans have been called the new "bio-based economy." "The U-S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow Monday at Ford headquarters in Dearborn to push for more bio-based products. Stabenow chairs the Senate Agriculture committee. Vilsack and Stabenow say strategic partnerships between farmers and industry are full of economic and environmental promise. Vilsak says there’s “unlimited capacity and opportunity” in the bio-based economy," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Law
12:20 pm
Mon August 6, 2012

Flint's City Council President will oppose a new emergency manager

Scott Kincaid, Flint City Council President
City of Flint CityOfFlint.com

Flint's City Council President opposes the appointment of a new emergency manager for his city.

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Newsmaker Interviews
10:19 am
Wed August 1, 2012

Highland Park Schools EM explains move to charter schools

Joyce Parker
Joyce Parker

The Highland Park School District in Wayne County faces major financial problems. Emergency Manager Joyce Parker has selected a charter school provider, The Leona Group LLC, to operate the district’s schools starting this fall.

The decision to turn the district over to a charter operator is not without controversy. Parker says she considered several options, such as consolidating the school district with other districts and even bankruptcy.

Parker says the district is no longer eligible for state funding and adds she needed to make sure students were able to start classes in September.

“The charter district system is one that would allow financial resources in the form of state aid to come into the new system to support educating the students.”

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Education
4:55 pm
Fri July 27, 2012

Highland Park Public Schools selects Leona Group to manage charter system

Bill Coats, founder and CEO of the Leona Group
The Leona Group, L.L.C.

Highland Park Public Schools contracted the Leona Group to run its charter system next year.

A press release issued by the school system's Emergency Manager, Joyce Parker, said that she met with the newly appointed board of education today who approved the Leona Group, LLC contract as charter operator unanimously.

From the release:

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Education
5:15 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Ypsilanti schools could be headed for state takeover

Superintendent Dedric Martin say an emergency manager may be needed.
http://www.ypsd.org/district/superintendentsmessage/

Superintendent Dedric Martin says the school system could need an emergency manager, unless staff agree to deeper cuts. 

Martin acknowledges staff already took a 10 percent salary cut. 

“That comes on the heels of additional concessions that they've made. And we've had reductions at all levels. Unfortunately it's not enough to carry a balanced budget and pay back money that has already been borrowed and spent," he said.

Martin says he knows the "emergency manager" card could be perceived as a ploy to get further concessions from unions.

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Politics & Government
10:45 am
Mon July 16, 2012

Benton Harbor emergency manager sells parkland he shouldn’t have

A sign on the land reads "City of Benton Harbor open public space”. The emergency manager sold the land and construction of a dialysis center is underway.
Julie Weiss

Updated 12:30p.m. - Scott Geerlings with Zeeland, Michigan based Geerlings Development Company says the company bought the parcel for around $102,000.

Benton Harbor’s emergency manager has sold a piece of land that was supposed to be open for public recreation. lot Now a dialysis center is being built on the undeveloped parkland instead.

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Education
4:28 pm
Sun July 15, 2012

Muskegon Heights charter school budget assumes more students and state money

Officials will host a "unity meeting" at Muskegon Heights High School Monday at 5:30p.m.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The school board for the new charter school system in Muskegon Heights will likely adopt a preliminary budget Monday.  

Muskegon Heights schools’ emergency manager hired a for-profit charter school company to run the public school system for the next five years.

An attorney for the school board says Mosaica Education drafted the budget the school board will consider approving Monday. It's likely the budget will be amended throughout the school year if needed.

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Politics & Government
6:07 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

State Treasury officials brace for suspension of EM law

Deputy State Treasurer Roger Fraser says Wayne was able to fix its own financial problems following the loss of 40% of its property taxes when a Ford plant closed.
Wayne, MI

The state Supreme Court could decide soon whether a challenge to Michigan's new emergency manager law will go before voters in November.

State treasury officials are assuming that it will, and they are preparing for the worst.

Roger Fraser is Deputy State Treasurer. He oversees the work of the state's eight emergency managers.

Fraser says if a challenge to the law goes on the ballot, the state's old emergency manager law will go into effect until November.

Current emergency managers will keep their jobs, but they will no longer have the authority to suspend union contracts, which Fraser says is only done if absolutely necessary.

Fraser says a suspension of the emergency manager law puts into question the budgets that the emergency managers completed with the help of the new law. 

He also thinks things will go from bad to worse if voters repeal the law.

"Well, I think then you're gonna see more of what's happening in California," says Fraser.  "Local units will have no choice but to go to bankruptcy."

Fraser says if Michigan cities go bankrupt, it could raise interest rates for all cities' debt, as ratings agencies increase the risk associated with cities' municipal bonds.

And a city bankruptcy would put the state on the hook for paying the city's bills.

Opponents of the emergency manager law say it is undemocratic.  

There are five Michigan cities that have emergency managers right now - Highland Park, Pontiac, Ecorse, Benton Harbor, and Flint.

Three school districts are also currently run by emergency managers: Detroit Public Schools, Highland Park Schools, and Muskegon Heights Schools.

The state has entered into a consent agreements with the cities of River Rouge, Inkster, and Detroit.

The state also has a watch list for schools, counties and cities that are on the brink of requiring a financial review.

State officials are working closely with Wayne County to determine the state of its finances.

Allen Park, Hamtramck, Muskegon Heights, Royal Oak Township, Dearborn Heights, and Harper Woods are in shaky financial shape, too.  Two additional school districts are also on the list: Benton Harbor, and East Detroit.

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Education
8:24 am
Wed July 11, 2012

Muskegon Heights schools handed over to charter school company

"The facilities are amazing," Mosaica Education President Gene Eidelman said of Muskegon Heights High School. He says techonology will be integrated into the curriculum.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The leader of a small, urban school district in western Michigan is completely privatizing the public school system there. The case may become an example for other school districts facing major financial problems.

The problems are academic and financial

The situation at Muskegon Heights Public Schools was dire. It ran $18,000 in the red each day school was open last year.

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Politics & Government
7:06 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

Allen Park one step closer to emergency manager

City of Allen Park

The state is moving ahead with the process that could result in an emergency manager for Allen Park.

Allen Park is a Detroit suburb with about 28,000 people. City officials there actually requested a preliminary review under the state's emergency manager law.

In addition to suffering declining property tax revenue, the city was also on the hook for millions due to a botched movie studio deal made by the city's former mayor.

Unsurprisingly, the preliminary state review found “probable fiscal stress” there. So Lt. Gov. Brian Calley took the next step, appointing a review board to take a deeper dive into the city’s finances.

The preliminary review found chronic cash flow problems, and says city officials haven’t come up with an effective deficit-elimination plan.

If the review team confirms those findings as expected, then Allen Park will almost certainly face some type of state intervention. It would be the eighth Michigan city where the state has intervened.

Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, and Ecorse all have emergency managers. Three more cities, including Detroit, are under consent agreements.

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