emergency manager

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Part of the new law specifically repealed the older law.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.

Education
10:04 am
Sat July 7, 2012

Teachers face uncertain futures in three Michigan school districts

DETROIT (AP) - Teachers in three school districts run by the state are laid off with many not knowing if they'll have jobs when classes begin.

Charter operators have yet to be selected to run new systems in Muskegon Heights and Highland Park.

State-appointed emergency managers have shopped Muskegon Heights in West Michigan and Highland Park near Detroit to charter operators as part of plans to pull the cash-strapped districts from near-fiscal ruin.

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Education
3:57 pm
Fri July 6, 2012

Muskegon Heights emergency manager signs charter school contract – will reveal Monday

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The emergency manager of Muskegon Heights Public Schools says he’s signed a contract with a charter operator that will practically run the whole school district next school year.

In a press release sent out this afternoon, Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon says he’ll review the signed contract during a public meeting on Monday. The statement doesn’t say which charter school company got the deal. Weatherspoon was not available to discuss the release.

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Education
5:48 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

Plans to have charter operator run Muskegon Heights schools going slower than expected

This sign is for sale at auction next week. It's one of many 'surplus assets' being liquidated at MHPS. Bids start at $5.
biddergy.com

Students in Muskegon Heights Public Schools are still in limbo while the district's state-appointed emergency manager decides what charter school company will manage the system.

MHPS Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon told parents in May he planned to turn the entire system over to a charter operator this fall. He also said he wanted to have a contract signed June 13.

There’s still no contract in place. That means parents don’t know yet if their kids will get bussed to class, if the district will offer athletics, AP classes, or band next school year.

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Education
11:10 am
Wed June 27, 2012

Muskegon Heights charter takeover a 'state bailout,' new report says

Muskegon Heights High School
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights Public Schools voted late last year to request a state emergency manager in an effort to sort out chronically troubled finances. Part of the plan emergency manager Don Weatherspoon eventually came up with involved turning schools in the district over to a charter operator.

But as the Detroit Free Press reports today, a study from a non-profit research group says the turnover amounts to little more than a state bailout.

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Politics
8:28 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

Republican member of the Board of State Canvassers resigns

Republican member of the Board of State Canvassers Jeff Timmer resigned this week without giving a reason. The Board of State Canvassers decides whether petition drives qualify for the state ballot.

Timmer is a partner in Sterling Corporation, a Republican political consulting firm, that represents ballot campaigns that are expected to appear before the board. Timmer also voted to keep the emergency manager challenge off the November ballot - even though his firm represents the campaign against the emergency manager referendum.

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Commentary
10:08 am
Tue June 19, 2012

Commentary: Charter Schools, Going too far?

There something I’d like to ask the Emergency Managers of the school districts in Muskegon Heights and Highland Park. Simply, are you sure you know what you are doing?  Have you thought this through, not only from the point of view of your district, but in regards to the future of education and the state of Michigan?

What I am referring to is the decisions by both superintendents to turn their entire districts over to charter school systems. In other words, to essentially privatize education.

Now, there is no doubt that Muskegon Heights is in bad shape financially.

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Education
6:58 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Highland Park to charter all its schools in the fall--only way to save the district?

Another Michigan school district in deep financial trouble will be turned over to a charter operator for the coming school year.

The emergency manager of the Highland Park Public Schools announced the plan Monday.

Joyce Parker says the district  will likely start the next school year with a roughly $15 million deficit, and only about 800 students.

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Commentary
10:11 am
Mon June 18, 2012

Commentary: Detroit, now what?

A week ago, it seemed possible that Detroit could be only days away from an Emergency Manager and bankruptcy. The city’s top lawyer had defied the mayor’s wishes and filed a lawsuit to stop the carefully crafted consent agreement designed to allow city and state officials to share power.

If her suit had dragged on, the city would quickly have run out of cash. But it was speedily thrown out of court, and with that, the consent agreement saved, just in the nick of time.

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News Roundup
8:10 am
Fri June 15, 2012

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news...
Brother O'Mara Flickr

A new bridge to Canada

Officials have struck a deal to build a new Canadian-financed bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The Associated Press released some details this morning:

A summary of the agreement provided Friday morning to The Associated Press states Michigan wouldn't be obligated to pay any of the costs of the bridge. Both countries would be represented on a bridge board, and a Canadian entity would handle design, construction and operation.

A formal announcement from Gov. Snyder and Prime Minister Harper will be made at a press conference later today. We'll post a live stream of the announcement.

Earlier this week, House Republicans took action preventing Michigan tax dollars from being spent on an international bridge project. Advocates for the bridge have been saying no Michigan tax dollars were needed for quite some time.

A referendum on Michigan's emergency manager law headed for November ballot

Michigan's Court of Appeals announced yesterday they will not convene a special panel to review last Friday's decision to allow the emergency manager referendum to go forward.

Challengers of the petition drive said the petitions should not be accepted because the font size was too small. The case could, however, go before the Michigan Supreme Court, as we reported:

The conservative group is challenging the ballot initiative on a technicality that the font size on the petition is too small. They say they will appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

“This is a controversy of their own choosing. They chose not to go to the State Board of Canvassers in the beginning," Bob LaBrant said. He's with The Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, the coalition of business groups opposed to the referendum.

Vagina... there, we said it

Yesterday, two Democratic members of the Michigan House of Representatives were barred from speaking in the chamber. One was barred for mentioning her vagina during a floor debate on a package of anti-abortion bills.

Another for an outburst for not being recognized to speak.

MPRN's Rick Pluta reported "this is the first time in memory that lawmakers have been formally barred from participating in floor debates."

State Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum are both Democrats. Brown made a reference to her vagina in a floor statement.

“I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina,” she said, “but 'no' means 'no.'”

Byrum shouted at the presiding officer after she was not recognized to speak. 

Ari Adler is the spokesman for the House Republican leadership.

“It is the responsibility of every member who serves in the House of Representatives to maintain decorum on the House floor and when they do not do that, there can be actions because of that. And the action today is to not recognize either representative to speak on the House floor," he said.

The Representatives were barred from floor debate for one day.

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