emergency manager

this one

 LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State-appointed emergency managers soon could at least temporarily lose the enhanced powers granted to them through a 2011 Michigan law.

Those powers include the ability to strip local leaders of authority and toss out union contracts in an effort to fix an entity's finances.

State election officials could take up to two months reviewing petitions submitted by a coalition that wants to give voters a chance to overturn the law in November. Public Act 4 would be suspended while awaiting the election if officials determine enough valid voter signatures were collected.

Supporters of the emergency manager law say that could lead to confusion in places that have emergency managers such as Benton Harbor, Flint, Pontiac and the Detroit public school system.

Opponents of the emergency law say it undermines democracy.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The cash-strapped Highland Park schools will get help so schools in the district can remain open until the end of the school year, the Michigan Department of Treasury announced today. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is covering this story and will have an update later.

From a press release sent by Michigan's Treasury Department:

Highland Park Schools Emergency Manager Jack Martin, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, and State Treasurer Andy Dillon today signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that provides temporary assistance and support to Highland Park Schools from Detroit Public Schools. The MOA, which will be in place for the remainder of the 2011- 2012 school year, allows current Highland Park students to remain in their current classrooms with their current teachers, if they so choose, despite the district’s financial crisis.

Plans to reform the finances at Highland Park schools hit a snag when a judge ruled the state violated the open meetings act when a state financial review team appointed emergency manager Jack Martin to oversee the school system.

Martin was temporarily taken off his post and re-appointed to his post by Governor Snyder this morning.

In the press release, Martin said their goal is to "ensure that students face as little disruption as possible." He thanked DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts:

“I want to thank Mr. Roberts for his willingness to assist Highland Park Schools through such trying times. I would also like to thank the teachers and staff who have been in class and working all week despite not getting paid last Friday. They will be receiving paychecks later today.”

Detroit Public Schools, which has its own financial troubles, will receive "distressed district student transition grants" worth $4,000 per pupil.

State officials say Detroit Public Schools "will support personnel-related functions on behalf of Highland Park Schools."

A group seeking repeal of Michigan’s emergency manager law has submitted 226,000 petition signatures to place a referendum on the issue in November.

If 161,305 signatures are verified by a state elections panel the emergency manager law will be suspended until the vote comes up in November.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke to Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service about the implications.

It's looking like the city of Inkster might be able to avoid a state-appointed emergency manager as it works to improve its struggling finances.

A state review team Wednesday voted to accept a consent agreement with the southeastern Michigan city. It should be reflected in a recommendation the review team is expected to soon forward to Governor Rick Snyder regarding the city's financial situation.

A consent agreement would include conditions that city officials must meet, but local officials would remain in charge as long as the conditions are met.

Michigan officials began reviewing Inkster's finances late last year.

Laura Weber / MPRN

Opponents are a step closer to a public vote on Michigan’s law that gives state-appointed emergency managers sweeping authority over local governments faced with a financial crisis. They filed petitions today that would put a referendum on the law on the November ballot.

State elections officials have 60 days to determine if the ballot drive collected enough valid signatures of registered voters. To succeed, they need more than 161 thousand names.

Brandon Jessup is a leader of the drive. He said now the group is gearing up for a fall campaign.

“It’s all voter outreach, definitely. We are going to now begin an education phase to reach out to our broader base and make sure everyone knows about the dangers of this unconstitutional dictator bill,” said Jessup.

Jessup says the law robs local voters of the right to choose their leaders. If the petitions are certified, the law will be suspended until after the election in November.

But state Representative Al Psholka says a stop-gap plan may be needed to ensure stability in takeover communities. 

“If we needed to do something on a temporary basis, I think that would be a good idea not to leave these communities without any protection,” said Psholka. “Because what we’ve found is the taxpayers have not been protected for a number of years. PA 4 didn’t cause all of these deficits and didn’t cause them to be in the condition they’re in.”

Psholka is the sponsor of the emergency manager law.

There are five Michigan cities or school districts currently under the control of emergency managers.

Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Unions representing about 10,000 Detroit Public Schools employees and the district's state-appointed emergency manager have reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit over pay
cuts and health insurance contributions.

The school district says the settlement was approved Wednesday.

The unions filed the suit last year after Roy Roberts used new powers given emergency managers by state law to impose a 10 percent pay cut and 20 percent contribution to their health insurance.

State Treasury Andy Dillon approved the cuts and also was named in the suit.

Settlement terms include partial payment of accumulated sick days for employees who submit an irrevocable notice of retirement by March 19, a one-time lump sum payment of 2.5 percent of the
employee's 2011/2012 earnings and limited reinstatement of step increases.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A coalition seeking to overturn Michigan's law giving more power to state-appointed emergency managers says it's submitting more than 226,000 voter signatures in hopes of
eventually overturning the law.

The Stand Up for Democracy coalition turned in petitions to state election officials Wednesday.

Roughly 161,300 valid voter signatures are needed to temporarily suspend the law and get it on the November ballot. It could take two months for state officials to verify the signatures.

Critics say the law gives unconstitutional power to state-appointed emergency managers, who have authority to toss out union contracts and strip power from locally elected officials.

Supporters of the law say it's needed to provide the tools to fix financial problems that locally elected leaders have been unable to fix themselves.

Opponents of Michigan’s emergency manager law will descend on Lansing with petitions Wednesday.

The coalition fighting Public Act 4 says they’ve collected more than 218,000 signatures to put the measure up for voter referendum in November.

They need the state to certify about 161,000 of those signatures for that to happen—and for the law to be suspended until the vote.

AP File Photo

The state review team looking into Detroit’s finances met in public for the first time Tuesday.

But the meeting was short—less than 20 minutes--and revealed almost nothing about the process behind the review.

The team, led by State Treasurer Andy Dillon, briefly reviewed Detroit’s bleak financial picture--without major changes, the city will run out of cash before the end of the fiscal year. There was also a brief public comment period.

Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats.

At the beginning of the year Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager, Jack Martin, for Highland Park public schools. Shortly after that Martin was “de-activated” from the position. And now it’s unclear when he might be reinstated.

Democratic Senator Bert Johnson represents Michigan’s 2nd District, which includes Highland Park.

This week people hoping to overturn Michigan's emergency manager law plan to turn in petition signatures to state officials. State appointed emergency managers have broad powers to run cities and school districts with major financial problems. 

Roughly 160,000 valid signatures are needed to put the emergency manager law on the November ballot. The group claims they’ve collected at least 200,000 signatures. If the state certifies them the law would be put on hold until the November election.

The school board in the Muskegon Heights school district requested an emergency manager.

Interim Superintendent Dave Sipka worries what would happen there if the law was suspended.

“If an emergency manager isn’t available to help out then you know there’s a strong possibility this district could go bankrupt," Sipka said. 

Muskegon Heights Public Schools has run a deficit for at least six years in a row.

Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that allows students in Highland Park to transfer to another district or charter school now that the Highland Park district has run out of money. The Legislature approved the measure Thursday.

The Highland Park school district could not meet this week’s payroll, although at least some teachers still showed up for work.

The new law allows several hundred Highland Park students to make a mid-year transfer to another district or a charter school, paid for with a $4,000 state grant.

It’s not known how many students and their families could or would take the opportunity.

Highland Park schools were under the control of a state-appointed manager, but the manager had to step down after a judge ruled the review team that recommended a state takeover violated Michigan’s open meetings law.

It will be next week before the governor can re-appoint the emergency manager.

After that, the new law also allows the emergency manager to use the per-student stipend to pay another district or a charter school operator to hold classes in Highland Park schools.

The Highland Park school board has cleared the way for Governor Snyder to quickly re-appoint an emergency manager.

The board chose not to appeal the state’s finding of a financial emergency in the district.

It was the second time a state review team made that finding. But the emergency manager Governor Snyder had already appointed, Jack Martin, had to step down to comply with a court ruling that voided the appointment process.

Opponents of Michigan’s emergency manager law say they’re ready to tackle the problems underlying the financial distress of many Michigan communities.

Members of the  Financial and Academic Reinvestment Commission (FARC) met in Highland Park Thursday night.

State Senator Bert Johnson, who helped launch FARC last month, says they have a plan to help communities fix fiscal problems without emergency managers.

Johnson says the point is to draw attention to what he calls the “real, human issues” underlying communities in financial crisis.

user alkruse24 / Flickr

Lawmakers at the state Capitol have approved a proposal to make sure students from Highland Park schools are able to attend classes next week.

The school district is on the brink of immediate shutdown after the district’s state-appointed emergency manager was removed.

A circuit court judge ruled the district’s financial review team violated the Open Meetings Act and must begin its work over again.

Ari Adler is the spokesman for state House Speaker Jase Bolger. He said the emergency legislation is necessary to protect students.

“We’re trying to set this up so parents and students will have a choice; they will have some options of where they can continue their education for the school year. Speaker Bolger has drawn a clear line of distinction between the Highland Park district and the Highland Park students. We’re done trying to save the Highland Park school district, we don’t believe it can be saved, but we are trying to save the students,” said Adler.

Adler said a payless payday tomorrow appears to be a foregone conclusion for employees in the destitute district.

Republican leaders say they are not willing to forward more money to the district while the school board remains in control of its finances.

Democratic House Minority Leader Rick Hammel said the Republican plan to provide money for kids to attend other public or charter schools in the area will hurt the students of Highland Park.

Hammel thinks a local intermediate school district should be allowed to take over Highland Park schools until a more permanent solution is found.

"The number one thing is those kids stay in that school – that’s the number one thing for us," said Hammel. "Now, the devil’s in the details. And we have taken an opportunity to just fund Highland Park schools through a responsible source, and created law with lots of stuff that goes in there that doesn’t have anything to do with taking care of Highland Park.”

The Highland Park school board will meet tonight to decide its next move.

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.

Is bankruptcy a good option for Detroit?

Feb 3, 2012
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.

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