Michael Brown

Rowan Renstrom-Richards

More than 200 students and faculty gathered on University of Michigan's campus yesterday for a "die-in protest". 

Those participating lay down on the Diag for 45 minutes, in protest of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York. The 45 minutes was symbolic for the four-and-a-half hours that Michael Brown's body remained on the street after his death.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

People in Michigan are protesting the death of Eric Garner. It's the second time protesters have come out in two weeks. Previous rallies took place after a grand jury decided not to charge a police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Missouri.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Black Friday is attracting shoppers and protesters.

Picketers stood outside more than a dozen Michigan Wal-Mart stores this morning.

Marilyn Coulter is with the Coalition of Labor Union Women.    She says this is “RED Friday” for minimum wage workers in Michigan.

“Because they’re in the red because they’re working and they are not getting paid enough money to be able to live and feed their families,” says Coulter. 

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

READERS - PLEASE NOTE: This story was written in the afternoon of 11/25 - and is about the protests that happened during the day. This story was published before the larger protests occurred in the evening.

Small protests continue around Michigan today after news broke last night that a St. Louis County grand jury won’t indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Missouri.  

By now everyone knows, or at least thinks they know, something about Michael Brown. He was, of course, the unarmed black teenager shot to death by a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson 10 days ago.

His death has reopened our eternal and eternally painful dialogue about equal rights and race. But what makes me sad is that a true civil rights movement giant died in Detroit two days ago, and almost nobody even noticed.

Fifty years ago this summer, a young black woman lawyer from Detroit named Claudia House Morcom arrived in Mississippi on a mission that really meant risking her life.

She was there to fight the system of institutionalized vicious racism that prevented black Americans from voting, and reduced them to subhuman status in virtually every way.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

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

Its fate will be decided by voters this November.

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

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

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

City of Flint

Flint's new emergency financial manager disagrees -- strongly -- with recent assertions by the city council's president that Flint doesn't need an emergency financial manager anymore.  

Ed Kurtz was Flint's Emergency Financial Manager a decade ago. He says the city is in much worse shape than the first time he was in charge.

The city has $19 million  of debt, and nearly $1.5 billion in underfunded pension and retiree health care costs.

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.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint Emergency Manager Mike Brown says the city plans to work more with the state police, as well as local and federal prosecutors, to fight the city’s crime problem.

The plan calls for establishing Flint not only as a ‘safe city’ in reality, but also in people’s perception.

Using outside law enforcement help is a short term part of the plan.   Long term, Brown says the city needs to raise millions of dollars in new revenue to hire more police officers and firefighters.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint’s emergency manager got an earful during a public meeting last night on the budget he imposed on the city last week.

Emergency manager Michael Brown had planned to take the first half hour of a 90 minute public meeting to review his budget plan and then allow an hour for questions.

But the budget presentation had barely started, when several people in the nearly full auditorium jumped to their feet to shout down the emergency manager.

After the outburst, a parade of people took turns at the podium denouncing emergency manager Michael Brown, the law that put him in charge of Flint and the budget he introduced and imposed last week. That budget cuts the city’s workforce by about 20 percent and imposes hundreds of dollars in new fees for city water, street light and other city services.

Flint resident Carolyn Shannon questioned the expertise behind the decision to make deep cuts to the city’s police and fire departments.  

“Even a person off the street…can cut somebody’s throat," scolded Shannon.

One man, identified only as Maurice, glared at Brown as he talked about how he can’t afford to pay any more taxes.

"You want to take more from me and my daughter?" the man asked, "You ain’t no different than these people that are out here murdering our own children."  

Brown insists the budget cuts and fee increases are needed to address Flint’s  projected $25 million gap next year. That's not Flint's only financial problem. The city is also seeking the state's OK to sell more than $18 million in loans to pay off the city debts from the past few budget years.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Protesters gathered in Flint to voice their opposition to the emergency manager in their city.

Since last December, Michael Brown, Flint's emergency manager, has been making decisions normally reserved for city council and the mayor. He's expected to present his budget plan for the city during a public meeting with Flint City Council tonight.

Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reports the protestors gathered outside Flint City Hall before moving inside.

The group of more than 25 Flint residents and community members braved the rain to protest what they consider "taxation without representation" under the emergency manager in Flint.

Brown adopted a budget plan last week that includes fee increases for Flint residents as well as a possible reduction of 19 police officers and 31 firefighters through layoffs and attrition. Overall, city personnel would be reduced by about 150 positions.

Longley reports lifelong Flint resident Ralph Arellano would be willing to pay more taxes for better public safety in Flint - Arello said the emergency manager system "is undemocratic and undermines voters."

"It's all about public safety. There's not one person who lives in Flint who doesn't have some story about public safety," said Arellano, who said his home has been broken into twice. "The decisions they're making are short-term and they're short-sighted."

Protestors put up garage sale signs with the names of some of Flint's assets (ex. Brennan Park and Hurley Hospital) that could be sold off by Michael Brown should he decide to do so.

Sean Marshall / Flickr

Flint's state-appointed emergency financial manager has imposed concessions on two union contracts and pushed through a new city budget for the city.

The Flint Journal reports the changes were among a dozen orders issued Wednesday by Michael Brown.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Next year, the city of Flint will charge residents higher fees in exchange for less service.

The budget plan unveiled last night was greeted with anger from city residents and city council members.

The budget plan calls for trimming 20 percent of city government workers from the payroll.   Flint police officers and firefighters are not being spared.   The emergency manager didn't include public safety officers in the budget whose positions are funded with grant money that hasn't been secured yet.

The Flint City Council will hear this afternoon how the city’s emergency manager plans to spend the city’s money next year.

Emergency Manager Michael Brown has been poring over Flint’s finances since he was appointed by Governor Snyder in December to deal with the city’s “financial crisis.”

Brown’s budget plan for next year is expected to reflect the need for further financial belt tightening for a city that has already felt the pinch of past cuts.

Flint’s finance director has said the budget will probably show the city will have to do “less with less.”      That may include layoffs and furlough days for city employees.

Several city unions agreed to contract concessions this month.

The emergency manager’s budget plan may also include selling bonds to address Flint’s long-term debt problem.

Yesterday, Cyndy Canty spoke with Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and other experts about Michigan's Emergency Manager Law.
michiganradio.org

Flint's emergency manager, Michael Brown, has been working out new contract deals with the city's unions. Public safety unions have been working under expired contracts in Flint for more than two years.

Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reports Brown has reached agreements with three of the city's six employee bargaining units (the police sergeants union, the police captains and lieutenants union, and the firefighters union).

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint emergency manager Michael Brown says two police unions have tentatively approved new contracts with the city.

More from Kristin Longley at the Flint Journal:

The members of the Flint sergeants union and the lieutenants and captains union voted on the proposed contracts Thursday, he said.

Brown said it was a significant accomplishment that the parties were able to reach a consensus. The city's four public safety unions have been operating under expired contracts for more than two years.

Details have yet to be released. Brown said he expects to sign the contracts soon to make them official.

Earlier this week, Flint emergency manager said he worked out a deal with the city's firefighter's union and hoped to work out deals with the city's other unions by Friday.

The Flint Journal reports this morning that Brown will not meet that deadline:

Flint emergency manager Michael Brown has canceled this month's meeting with city council members until further notice.

Brown had planned to present council on Monday with a 2013 budget, but said Thursday that he won't meet today's deadline for addressing union contracts or the budget and wants more time.

Brown says there's no new firm deadline for hammering out new contracts.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint's emergency manager, Michael Brown, and the city's firefighters union have worked out an agreement over concessions, Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reports:

Brown said today that, as of this morning, it's the only signed agreement reached so far. The city has been talking with each of the six employee bargaining units, Brown has said.

He declined to comment on the details of the proposal, saying that the fire union members are expected to review the agreement and vote on it in about 10 days.

Brown hopes to have plan for the city's other unions in place by Friday. He's working to wipe out a budget deficit in Flint of around $11 million.

Steve Chrypinski / Michigan Radio

A full house turned out to hear Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry lead a discussion on the state’s emergency manager law last night.

The event was part of the station’s Issues & Ale series, and was held at Blackstone’s Pub & Grill in downtown Flint.

Panelists included:

  • Fred Leeb, former Emergency Financial Manager for the city of Pontiac,
  • Dr. Eric Scorsone, Co-Director of the State & Local Government Program at Michigan State University,
  • and Brandon A. Jessup, Chairman and CEO of Michigan Forward

The panelists fielded questions from both Lessenberry and the audience on a variety of subjects related to Public Act 4, including the impact of state revenue sharing cuts, the constitutionality of state appointed emergency managers, and alternatives for cities in financial crisis.

We also surveyed the audience to get their opinion on the Emergency Manager law.

Of those responding,

  • 47% opposed the law, 23% were in favor, and 30% were undecided.
  • Of those opposed to the law, 36% felt it was unconstitutional, 26% objected because it gives emergency managers too much power, 18% opposed because emergency managers can modify/terminate contracts, and 13% because it strips local elected officials of their authority.

The event took place only hours after the Michigan Court of Appeals put a stay on a lower court ruling and reinstated Michael Brown as Flint’s emergency manager.  

Issues and Ale is an event series co-sponsored by Michigan Radio and the Center for Michigan designed to engage people in conversations about important issues facing Michigan... in an informal atmosphere.

State of Michigan

Flint’s emergency manager is back in charge of the city.  At least, temporarily. 

The Michigan Court of Appeals today put on hold a lower court ruling that left questions about who was in charge in Flint.

Last week, Ingham County circuit court judge Rosemarie Aquilina ruled that the state financial review team that recommended the appointment of an emergency manager in Flint had violated Michigan’s open meetings law.  The judge decided that the appointment and all the decisions emergency manager Michael Brown had made since December were invalidate.

The governor’s office appealed the judge’s order, describing it as "devastating."

The Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the case.   The court put a stay on the lower court ruling and reinstated Michael Brown as Flint’s emergency manager.

In her order last week,  Judge Aquilina had directed Flint's mayor and city council to resume their roles.   One of the first things Michael Brown did as emergency manager was to limit the power of Flint's elected leaders. 

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling issued a statement after today's ruling of the Court of Appeals:

"As the legal challenges to PA4 move through the courts system, the Flint community needs to work together to address our long-standing challenges with finances, public safety and economic development. While the courts are flip-flopping on the critical issue of the Open Meetings requirement, I will work every day to make our community a better place for families and businesses."

The timing of the Court of Appeals decision today could be critical.   Flint, like other Michigan cities, is drafting its budget for next year.

Flint faces a budget deficit that could be as high as $20 million.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The governor’s office is asking the Michigan Court of Appeals to overrule an order by a lower court judge that invalidated the appointment of an emergency manager to run the city of Flint.

This week, Ingham County circuit court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina ruled that the state panel the governor appointed to review Flint’s finances failed to abide by Michigan’s open meetings law.    

The judge found that violation invalidated the appointment of emergency manager Michael Brown and all his decisions since taking over Flint in December.

In the legal paperwork filed with the Court of Appeals, state officials are asking the court to put the lower court judge’s order on hold and eventually toss it out completely.

The legal brief describes the judge’s ruling as “devastating” since it puts the city “back to square one” even as it teeters on the “brink of insolvency”. 

Flint is an estimated $20 million dollars in the hole and only has $10 million  in hand. 

The governor’s office is expected to file an appeal with the Court of Appeals as early as today concerning a judge’s ruling that ousted Flint’s emergency manager.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina also ordered the reinstatement of Flint’s mayor and city council.

The judge found the financial review panel that recommended the emergency manager’s appointment in Flint violated Michigan’s open meetings law.  

 Flint’s emergency manager is out of the job (for now).    And the city’s mayor and city council are back in charge of the financially troubled city. 

Today's court hearing centered on whether the panel, appointed by the governor, to review the city of Flint's finances violated the state's open meetings law.   An attorney for the state insisted the process followed by the panel was not 'secretive' even though it's meetings were not open to the public.

But Judge Rosemarie Aquilina appeared incredulous.   

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A court hearing this afternoon may decide if Flint’s emergency manager can once again run the city.

Michael Brown has been in limbo since last Thursday.  That’s when a judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing him from acting as Flint’s emergency manager.

Brown’s been on the job since December.  But city unions claim the panel that recommended the appointment of an emergency manager in Flint violated Michigan’s open meetings law.

State officials hope today’s court hearing will lead to the reinstatement of Brown’s emergency manager powers.

 A judge has issued a temporary restraining order preventing Flint’s emergency manager from ‘taking any action’ on behalf of the city.

The city's unions sought the court order claiming the emergency manager has violated Michigan’s open meetings law.  

Emergency manager Michael Brown has been running the city of Flint since December.    He’s fired city employees and taken away much of the power of the city’s elected leaders.    Brown has also been developing a deficit elimination plan that could affect more Flint city employees.    

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager is talking with city unions.  The talks may be critical to coming up with a way to solve the city’s multi-million dollar budget deficit.

Flint Emergency Manager Michael Brown briefed the city council last night on where things stand on correcting the city’s financial troubles.   Flint faces an $11 million budget deficit this year.

(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.

(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.

(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.

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

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