emergency manager

this one

A new plan to eliminate a running deficit at Muskegon Heights Public Schools would close schools and cut teacher pay by 40-percent. That means a teacher with a PhD and 20 years of experience would make around $40,000 a year. New teachers would make around $20,000.

But school leaders admit the plan is still unlikely to work.

Unions haven’t even voted on the concessions. But interim superintendent Dave Sipka had to submit the plan anyway to get the money the district needed from the state in order to make payroll.

Governor Rick Snyder and leaders in the Legislature hope to begin voting tomorrow on a plan to keep Highland Park students in school when the district runs out of money this week.

Control of the district reverted to the school board after Snyder removed the emergency manager to comply with a court ruling.

House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) said the district won’t get any more money while the school board is in charge.

He said the district is guilty of mismanaging its funds.

user brother_o'mara / Flickr

Highland Park school district could close by Monday

Yesterday afternoon Governor Rick Snyder "de-activated" a state-appointed emergency manager for the Highland Park school district after a judge ruled the state did not comply with the Open Meetings Act when appointing the emergency manager.

Snyder says the district will run out of money by Friday, and is asking the legislature to take emergency measures to allow students to transfer to other schools. He's also asking that state aid be allowed to transfer to other schools as well. MPRN's Rick Pluta reports the governor called what's happening a "terrible situation."

“But, I think, given the circumstances, this is a good, strong solution to deal with a tough situation that, unfortunately got complicated by litigation, politics, and everything else. And the kids shouldn’t be the victims,” said Snyder.

Forum organized in opposition to Michigan emergency manager law

Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit) held a public forum last night calling Michigan's emergency manager law (Public Act 4) "illegal, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic," according to Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek.

Conyers is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Cwiek reports "that committee’s staff issued a report finding that Public Act 4 violates the contracts clause of the U.S. Constitution, because it allows emergency managers to breach collective bargaining contracts."

Emergency manager of Benton Harbor, Joe Harris, spoke out in favor of Public Act 4, saying it keeps cities and school districts from declaring bankruptcy - an outcome he said would be catastrophic for everyone.

Republican primary campaign heats up, robocalls flood into Michigan homes

A new poll shows Mitt Romney in a dead heat with Rick Santorum ahead of the February 28 Republican presidential primary in Michigan (Romney 32 percent, Santorum 30 percent - margin of error +/- 4 percentage points).

The campaign is heating up, and the robocalls are piling up on answering machines all around Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press reports some people must be listening.

"They tick off a lot of people, but (campaigns) wouldn't use them if they didn't work," said Lansing-based consultant Craig Ruff.

Campaign calls are exempt from the National Do Not Call Registry.

Laura Weber / Michigan Public Radio Network

Opponents of Michigan’s emergency manager law called it illegal, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic at a public forum Tuesday night.

Detroit Congressman John Conyers hosted the often-passionate forum on the legality of Public Act 4 in Highland Park.

Conyers is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary committee. That committee’s staff issued a report finding that Public Act 4 violates the contracts clause of the US Constitution, because it allows emergency managers to breach collective bargaining contracts.

Update 3:59 p.m.

The governor will ask the Legislature to pass emergency measures by the end of the week to allow Highland Park students and state aid payments to switch to another district or a charter school.

The governor challenged the Highland Park school board to offer its own solution or ask for a hearing this week that could wind up with the governor re-appointing an emergency manager.

3:44 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder says Highland Park schools emergency manager is being "de-activated" to comply with a court ruling.

A judge ruled last week that a state review team that recommended a takeover violated Michigan's open meetings law.

Snyder says the review will start over with an open meeting and a chance for the public to comment. The governor will announce an interim plan for the district this afternoon.

The governor says the Highland Park school board is now back in charge, but out of money. He says schools could close as soon as Monday without an emergency solution.

US Dept. Ed

Update 4:44 p.m.

From Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta

A judge has ruled that state-appointed review teams looking into the finances of the city if Detroit and the Highland Park school district broke Michigan’s open meetings law. The judge says review teams that can recommend state takeovers of local governments and school districts are public bodies that must operate in the public eye.

The ruling by Judge William Collette says the state needs to re-launch its review of the Highland Park school district, and do so in public. But there are no immediate plans to remove the state-appointed emergency manager who was placed in charge of the district two and a half weeks ago. The ruling also says future meetings of the Detroit review team – which has yet to make a recommendation -- must take place in public.

The lawsuit was filed by Highland Park school board member Robert Davis.

“This is a monumental victory for democracy,” Davis said.

It’s not clear what affect the ruling might have on the emergency managers already running four cities and the Detroit Public Schools. The state could appeal the ruling.

The emergency manager law is also facing a separate court challenge as well as a petition drive that seeks to put a referendum on the November ballot.

12:10 p.m.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - An Ingham County judge has voided decisions made by a review team whose recommendations led to the appointment of an emergency manager in the Highland Park public
school system.

The decision Wednesday by Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette says the review team violated the state's Open Meetings Act.

The suit was filed by Robert Davis, a Highland Park school board member. Davis said the ruling means that Gov. Rick Snyder's appointment of an emergency manager for the district last month is wiped out.

Messages were left with the Snyder administration seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office said the ruling would be reviewed.

Collette has ruled that the state-appointed review teams should be subject to the state's Open Meetings Act.

Snyder's administration disagrees.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Flint city council tonight will do something it hasn’t done in a while.  Actually meet.   

One of the first things Flint’s emergency manager did after he took over city hall last December was to suspend the pay for city council members.  He also canceled council meetings.

He later reinstated some of their pay and he directed the city council members to meet with their constituents.

Several elected officials and about a hundred others packed into a small conference room on the University of Michigan campus Monday night to talk about the state’s controversial Emergency Manager Law.

The Emergency Manager panel consisted of three elected Democratic officials: Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, Ann Arbor Representative Jeff Irwin and Washtenaw County Commissioner Conan Smith.

Associated Press

An Ingham County Court Judge has ruled that the state review team looking at Detroit’s finances must meet in public. The ruling is a victory for opponents of Public Act 4, the state law that strengthens the powers of emergency managers in fiscally-distressed cities. The review team, led by State Treasurer Andy Dillon, is going through the review process that could lead to Governor Snyder appoint an emergency manager in Detroit.

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette ruled this afternoon that state-appointed local financial review teams are public bodies that must comply with the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

State-appointed financial review teams are part of a process in determining whether a city or a school district is in a state of financial emergency.

If a financial review team declares a "financial emergency," then the state can appoint an emergency manager to run the school district or municipality.

State officials have maintained that these review teams do not have to comply with the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

Judge Collette agreed with the plaintiff in the case - Robert Davis, the board secretary of the Highland Park School District.

Davis said the state's financial review team violated Michigan's Open Meetings Act by holding private meetings, failing to post public notices for the meetings, and for failing to keep minutes of the meetings.

The Associated Press reports that Judge Collette said he was issuing a preliminary injunction saying any future state-appointed financial review team meetings must comply with the act.

Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network is following this story and will have an update later.

Michigan State University

The city of Detroit continues to try to find a way out of its fiscal crisis.

A new report led by Michigan State University economist, Eric Scorsone, examines the impact of a bankruptcy on the city – something Governor Snyder, the legislature and the city leaders want to avoid.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A capacity crowd filled a community center auditorium in Flint last night to hear from the city’s emergency manager.    

Michael Brown has been running Flint city hall for two months, since Gov. Snyder appointed him to address the city's 'financial crisis'.   

Last night's meeting teetered between calls for action to questions about the legality of Michigan’s emergency manager law.   Several speakers complained about why and how the emergency manager is running the city of Flint.

screen from City of Detroit video

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and a coalition of  "non-uniform" unions in the city have announced an agreement that could help stave off a takeover by a state-appointed emergency manager.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will have more on this story later today.

The coalition of unions and Mayor Bing released this joint statement this afternoon:

JOINT STATEMENT FROM MAYOR DAVE BING AND COALITION CO-CHAIRS ON TENTATIVE AGREEMENT

Members of the City’s non-uniform coalition of unions reached a tentative agreement with Mayor Bing and his negotiating team last night.

This tentative agreement is the first meaningful step in achieving the necessary concessions and structural changes to resolve the city’s financial crisis.

“The tentative agreement we’ve reached is not just about concessions. It’s about how labor and management can work together in a fair and constructive way,” said Mayor Dave Bing. “The agreement provides checks and balances that hold both unions and my administration accountable.”

Update 1:32 p.m.

Another update from MPRN's Rick Pluta. In this morning's status conference, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette told the attorney for State Treasurer Andy Dillon that he would rather the state not hold any financial review meetings until he rules whether these meetings have to adhere to the state's Open Meetings Act.

The judge said he's inclined to rule that closed door state financial review meetings violate the Open Meetings Act, but he's waiting to hear the state's argument. State attorneys have not filed their paperwork yet.

The state agreed to the judge's wishes saying they weren't planning to hold any financial review meetings prior to next week's hearing anyway.

11:49 a.m.

MPRN's Rick Pluta followed up on this story for more clarification.

He spoke with Judge William Collette's assistant this morning, and with Andrew Patterson, the lawyer representing the plaintiff.

There was no official ruling from Judge Collette, as WXYZ in Detroit had reported.

Judge Collette only held an informal meeting with the two sides arguing the case this morning (Andrew Patterson and a lawyer representing State Treasurer Andy Dillon).

The plaintiff is Robert Davis, the board secretary of the Highland Park School District.

Davis said the state's financial review team violated Michigan's Open Meetings Act by holding private meetings, failing to post public notices for the meetings, and for failing to keep minutes of the meetings.

Davis wants the judge to void the recommendations of the state's financial review team that led to the appointment of an emergency manager for Highland Park schools.

The state maintains that closed door meetings are allowable for the financial review teams and for emergency managers.

Judge Colette informed the parties this morning of his inclination in the case.

He said, in his initial judgement, it appears the Michigan Open Meetings Act applies to emergency manager meetings and meetings held by the state's financial review teams.

Judge Colette directed those arguing the case to prepare their arguments for a hearing he is expected to hold next Wednesday morning. It's also possible that the parties will reach an agreement prior to a hearing.

10:10 a.m. 

The Chief Judge of Ingham Circuit Court has ruled indicated that Governor Snyder and State Treasurer Andy Dillon cannot hold closed meetings with regard to emergency mangers and financial review teams, according to WXYZ in Detroit:

Treasurer Dillon had previously announced that the Emergency Manager process was not subject to the state's "Open Meetings Act."

The ruling means that the state financial team can no longer meet in private. The public must be allowed to be a part of these meetings.

We'll have more on this story as it develops.

*Correction - an earlier version of this story stated that Chief Judge Collette issued a ruling. He only held an informal meeting with the parties this morning. We put strike-throughs on the incorrect text above. A ruling, or an agreement is expected sometime next week.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Flint residents will have a chance tonight to hear directly from the man who’s been running their city for the past two months. 

 An emergency manager has been calling the shots at Flint city hall since the beginning of December.

During that time, Michael Brown has limited the power of the city’s elected leaders, fired some city employees and come up with a plan to lift Flint out of its financial crisis.

That 19 page plan talks about restructuring union contracts and combining some city departments.

Governor Snyder has appointed a team to review the Muskegon Heights School District's financial records. That puts the west Michigan school district a step closer to getting an emergency manager.

The Muskegon Heights school district asked for a state review of its finances back in December.

The preliminary review found the school district was in ‘probable financial stress’, due to the district’s $8.5 million deficit.

That set the stage for the governor to appoint a state review team to scour the school district’s books. 

If an emergency manager is eventually appointed in Muskegon Heights schools, it will join school districts in Detroit and Highland Park. Emergency managers are also running things in four Michigan cities.

Detroit’s elected officials had hoped to resolve some big questions about the city’s financial future Tuesday.

But that didn’t happen.

Both Governor Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing say the only way for the city to avoid an emergency manager is to get big union concessions.

Bing had hoped to get those concessions by the end of January. But the self-imposed deadline came and went without a deal.

In the meantime, the Detroit City Council met to discuss drastic actions the city might have to take if no agreement materializes soon.

The team appointed by Governor Snyder to examine the city of Inkster’s financial records is getting a little more time to finish its work.   

A preliminary state review of Inkster’s books found the city was in ‘probably financial stress’.     The review found city officials proposed unrealistic budgets and failed to make budget revisions in a timely manner.    The result:  a multi-million dollar budget deficit.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint Journal reports that Michael Brown, the recently appointed emergency manager in Flint, will hold his first public meeting since taking up the post last December.

The event is part of a series of meetings Brown will host aimed at creating a dialogue with residents.

The Flint Journal writes:

"It's the first public meeting since he took office," said city Council President Scott Kincaid, who represents [Flint's] 9th Ward. "(The 9th Ward residents) care about the community, they care about the neighborhood. They want to know about public safety. They want to know their taxes aren't being raised."

Brown is expected to discuss his plan for turning the city's finances around, as well as the results of the city's recent audit and other financial challenges facing Flint.

"He's going to talk about how we got where we are," Kincaid said. "It didn't just happen overnight."

A press release from the city of Flint says the meeting are intended to " provide an opportunity for residents to meet the emergency manager and members of his team" as well as " give residents an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback

The release also quotes Brown:

“Community engagement is vital in this process. It’s important for residents to have a clear picture of the city’s resources, responsibilities, and those things that are necessary, moving forward, as we get the city’s financial house in order,” said Brown.

A list of all of the meeting times and locations can be found here.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

woodleywonderworks / Flickr

On Friday, Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager to oversee the Highland Park School District. Emergency Managers are also in charge of Detroit Public Schools and the cities of Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor.

Highland Park and Detroit are in Southeast Michigan, but districts across the state are facing dire financial straits mainly because of declining student enrollment and cuts in state aid. Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley speaks with Michelle Herbon, a Senior Consultant at Public Sector Consultants, about the possibility of more emergency managers being appointed to financially struggling school districts across the states.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero painted a generally optimistic picture in his ‘State of the City’ speech last night. But the mayor also raised the specter of an emergency manager as well.   

“Unlike Flint…Pontiac…Benton Harbor and others who ignored the warning signs…we will not falter…we will act," Bernero told a capacity crowd inside the Accident Fund insurance company building last evening.

The mayor veered away from the positive tone that dominated his ‘State of the City’ address when he referenced Michigan cities that have fallen under the power of emergency managers.

No one’s talking about an emergency manager for the capitol city. But after the speech, Bernero said planning for next year’s city budget will be 'ugly' and 'painful', when it comes to closing a projected $7,000,000 budget deficit.

"The point is tough decisions must be made," Bernero says, "If we don’t, the state will be there…to swoop in and do it for us.”

Bernero’s ‘State of the City’ address mainly touched upon common themes the mayor has spoken about in the past, including the need for regional cooperation with other local governments and aggressive economic development.

A poll says voters are about evenly divided over whether Michigan should keep or repeal its new law extending the use of state-appointed emergency managers for communities and school districts facing financial problems.

The poll released Sunday shows 45 percent of the Michigan voters questioned say they would vote to repeal the new law, while 42 percent would vote to keep it.

The state is considering whether to name an emergency financial manager for Detroit. Fifty percent of those questioned say Michigan should negotiate with Detroit officials, while 31 percent say it should appoint a manager.

Lansing-based EPIC-MRA polled 600 likely voters by phone Jan. 21-25 for the Detroit Free Press  and WXYZ-TV. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Governor Rick Snyder says he will decide no later than tomorrow whether to place an emergency manager in charge of the Highland Park public schools.

Snyder says he understands that parents are concerned about what could happen to the school district if it is taken over. But he says it’s important the school district is able to stay open to students for the rest of the year.

"Well the main answer on all of this is let’s make sure that kids can finish the school year because Highland Park got themselves in a situation where they couldn’t meet their payroll," Snyder said.

 Snyder’s office has received phone calls from about 100 concerned parents in Highland Park since a financial review panel determined there is a financial emergency in the district.

Detroit Public Schools is the only school district in the state currently run by an emergency manager.

The governor says he wants families to be assured that Highland Park students will be able to finish the school year.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Highland Park school officials are battling to keep their school district from a state takeover.

But many parents there say they just want to know whether the district will last through the next month.

An audit shows the Highland Park school district is running an $11.2 million deficit—mostly because it’s lost more than two-thirds of its students.

In 2008, the district had 3419 students. Today, they have fewer than 1000.

Detroit’s elected leaders are still struggling to come up with a unified plan to avoid a state takeover—even as a state review team continues work in the city.

The Detroit City Council has been critical of Mayor Dave Bing’s proposal to save more than $100 million this fiscal year to prevent the city from running out of cash.

Members suggest it contains too many optimistic revenue projections and unrealistic assumptions.

The Council has its own list of suggestions. But in the end, they can do little more than offer them to the Mayor.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Highland Park school district officials are trying to convince the state not to appoint an emergency manager to run the district. A hearing today in Lansing may be their last chance.   

A state review panel says the Highland Park School District is in a ‘Financial Crisis’.   The district is $11 million in debt.   It’s student population has plunged from more than 3000 students in 2006 to less than a thousand today.    

A review panel member says the school board’s efforts at reducing their budget deficit have been “going in the wrong direction”.    

Teryy Hall / Flickr

The group “Michigan Forward” is collecting signatures to repeal the state’s Emergency Manager law.

At last check they we’re up to 180,000.

They only really need about 162,000, but they’re hoping to collect somewhere around 250,000 signatures (I think to prove a point).

And they have time.

They don’t need to turn the signatures in until the end of March to be able to put the repeal question to voters.

Questions, and more questions (I could talk about this all day)

Ever since I realized there was a real possibility voters could have a chance to repeal the Emergency Manager law I’ve been trying to figure out: what in the world would happen in cities and school districts with an Emergency Manager already in place?

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager is welcoming the governor’s pledge to help with the city’s violent crime problem.  

Governor Snyder promised in Wednesday’s State of the State address to work with Flint, Detroit, Saginaw and Pontiac to address their nationally ranked crime problems. The governor will lay out his plan in March.  

“I’ve asked my police chief and others in our community who are criminal justice professionals to be thinking about how we can best work with the state," says Mike Brown, Flint’s emergency manager.   

Flint’s crime rate has soared as budget deficits have forced city leaders to lay off police officers in recent years.   

Flint police have investigated five murders in the past week. The city set a record for murders in 2010. After peaking at 66 murders in 2010, Flint recorded 55 homicides in 2011, with a sharp decline in the number of murders in the second half of the year.

The Detroit Economic Club hosts a public forum with Metro Detroit’s so-called “Big Four” at the Detroit Auto Show each year.

And Tuesday’s session with the Detroit Mayor and Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb County executives proved a bit livelier than usual.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Flint now has a plan to fix its ‘financial crisis’. But the plan has several major hurdles to overcome.   

Emergency Manager Mike Brown’s 10-page plan outlines Flint’s deteriorating financial condition: An $11 million  budget deficit this year, long term declines in population, and an eroding tax base. 

The plan also charts a course out of the ‘financial crisis’ the governor declared last year. It calls for restructuring collective bargaining agreements with city unions and merging or eliminating some city departments.   

The plan also calls for improving public safety in the city, which has seen four homicides this year and more than 120 murders during the last two years.   

Emergency Manager Mike Brown calls the plan ”a work in progress”.  He says implementing it will be a “most difficult challenge.”  

Mayor Dayne Walling called on residents to “do their part to address Flint's long-standing challenges."  

Flint is one of four Michigan cities being run by emergency managers.  The city of Detroit may soon be added to that list.  

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