emergency manager

this one

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.  

The group “Michigan Forward,” says a campaign to repeal the state’s emergency manager law is on track to get on the November ballot.

That’s even though the group decided to wait another six to seven weeks before submitting its petition signatures.

Initially, Michigan Forward had planned to turn in signatures on the same day as the Governor's 2012 State of the State address.

CEO Brandon Jessup says he hopes to have 250,000 signatures in favor of a repeal measure, far more than required by law.   He says people have collected about 180,000 signatures so far.

"We’re on the buses, we’re at at the bus stops, that’s just one component of the campaign that’s picking up now," says Jessup.  "We have a very strong church component, we’ve visited, I believe, 75 churches over the last two Sundays, just here in Detroit by itself."

Jessup says the emergency manager law takes away people’s constitutional right to elect their leaders.

Governor Rick Snyder says the law encourages the state to help cities and schools without resorting to the appointment of an emergency manager.   But he says sometimes an emergency manager is necessary for cities facing insolvency.

Laura Weber / Michigan Public Radio Network

About a thousand protesters marched on Governor Rick Snyder’s residential neighborhood in Ann Arbor yesterday evening. They marched to ask Governor Snyder to repeal the state’s controversial emergency manager law.

The rally started at on the eastern edge of Ann Arbor, and about a mile-and-a-half from Governor Snyder’s house. Protesters marched, chanted and sang, hoisted signs and lit candles. They wound in a long line through the tree-lined neighborhood of gently rolling hills spotted with the occasional large house. They were greeted outside of Snyder’s gated community by the governor’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore.

Reverend Charles Williams II of Detroit’s King Solomon Baptist Church told Muchmore to tell the governor that the law negates the will of voters in struggling communities.

“And we need democracy here, in Detroit, Benton Harbor, Inkster, Ecorse and Flint.”

“Will do.”

“Thank you.”

“We’ll do that. Thank you very much.”

Muchmore says the governor wants to work with people living in financially strained communities, but that the cities must also be protected from insolvency.

Laura Weber / Michigan Radio

The Rev. Al Sharpton and U.S. Representative John Conyers will be among those who plan to march to Governor Rick Snyder's gated community this afternoon.

They're protesting Michigan's emergency manager law. They say the law is racially biased.

From Associated Press:

The Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Rep. John Conyers and others say they plan a demonstration outside Gov. Rick Snyder's gated community against what they say is a racially biased law making easier for Michigan to take over financially struggling communities and school districts.

A rally is scheduled for 4-7 p.m. on Martin Luther King Monday at Parker Mill County Park, followed by a march to the community's gatehouse in Washtenaw County's Superior Township near Ann Arbor.

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel says the Republican governor supports citizens' right to protest, calling it "part of democracy in action."

Snyder denies the law is racially motivated.

Emergency managers are in place in Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Flint and Detroit's schools. Detroit's finances are under a review that could bring it under state control.

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber will be covering the event.

We'll post her updates later today.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Governor Snyder says he’s "fair game" for today’s planned protest outside his Ann Arbor area home. He says it's part of democracy for people to protest.   

“It’s fine to demonstrate to show those things," says Snyder, though he adds, "The main thing is…hopefully we can spend as much or more time finding common ground about how we can work together to solve problems.”    

Many of the protesters are demonstrating against Michigan’s emergency manager law.     

Flickr/theqspeaks

The Reverend Al Sharpton and others say they plan a demonstration Monday outside the home of Governor Rick
Snyder to protest a law that makes it easier for Michigan to take over financially struggling communities and school districts.

Organizers say the protest will happen on Martin Luther King Day at Snyder's home in Washtenaw County's Superior Township, near Ann Arbor.

Sharpton and other ministers and civil rights activists will participate. Organizers say the law seems to target black communities. Snyder has said the law isn't racially motivated.

Emergency managers are in place in Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Flint and Detroit schools. Detroit's finances are under a review that could bring the city under state financial control as well.

Muskegon Heights School Board

Michigan’s Department of Education is recommending the governor conduct a formal review of Muskegon Heights Public Schools’ finances. That’s the next step in a process that could lead to the appointment of an emergency manager – which the school board has asked the state to do.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Update 4:58 pm:

State Treasurer Andy Dillon says the district’s money problems are deep and troubling. He says the state will advance the school district $188,000 so it can meet payroll tomorrow. 

"I have no comfort that the district has a handle on their finances," said Dillon. "The numbers move hourly. We have three people down there today trying to get a handle on how much they actually need for payroll. And I’m very uneasy about it, because I can’t tell you in the middle of February that they’re going to make payroll."

But school board member Robert Davis says the state has contributed to the district’s financial woes by requiring that it close a career academy that enrolled 1,500 students.

"Their plan and intent is to fold the Highland park School system into the Detroit Public School system," Davis said. "That’s what this is all about."

Highland Park Schools' student population has declined 58% percent since 2006. 

State officials say their objective is to keep the district’s doors open through the end of the year. But they say that will be difficult. The district needs a cash infusion of at least $3 million to get through the school year. But the maximum the state is allowed to advance under hardship cases is $2 million.

The district's cumulative deficit is $11.3 million. That’s about $10,000 for every student enrolled.

12:56 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder has declared a financial emergency in the Highland Park school district, Rick Pluta reports. The district will have a chance to challenge the finding at a January 17th hearing before the governor names an emergency manager.

In a statement released today, the Governor says:

“It is critical that students in the Highland Park School District get the education they need and deserve. For that to continue, the Highland Park School District must have stable finances. Through the comprehensive reviews that have been conducted, it is clear the district faces monumental financial challenges.”

On January 4th a state review  panel recommended the governor appoint an emergency manager to fix the school district’s "financial emergency." The financial review team had been looking at the Highland Park School District’s books since November. Earlier this month, Steve Carmody reported:

The panel’s report to the governor finds the school district is $11 million in the red. That works out to about $10 thousand for every student enrolled.  The school district’s deficit has grown by $3 million in just the last year. The school district’s debt has grown, as its student population has fallen. Nearly 3,200 students attended Highland Park schools in 2006. This year, fewer than a thousand students are enrolled.

Emergency managers are already running the Detroit public schools,  as well as the cities of Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor. Financial review teams are also looking at Detroit and Inkster's books.

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