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Pontiac

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The Detroit News asked Pontiac Emergency Manager Lou Schimmel if the city could go bankrupt after he leaves.

Schimmel said that won't happen if they follow his plan:

Pontiac is into its third emergency manager, Louis Schimmel, who is scheduled to leave his job this month but first will present a two-year plan to avoid bankruptcy to citizens at a meeting at 9 a.m. at City Hall.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Leaders of the Detroit branch of the NAACP say they'll file a lawsuit next week challenging Michigan's emergency manager law.

The law has allowed Gov. Rick Snyder to put managers in Detroit and other struggling cities and school districts. Critics plan to talk Monday outside the federal courthouse in Detroit.

Other legal challenges have not been successful. An Ingham County judge in April threw out a lawsuit that claimed lawmakers violated the Open Meetings Act when it approved the bill in December.

Dave Garvin / Flickr

There's no re-open in sight for the Buena Vista school district.

Now, Pontiac schools could be next to close its doors.

The district could be forced to shut down operations before the end of its school year.

A letter sent this week by state Superintendent Mike Flanagan warns Pontiac schools the district won’t be able to make its Friday, May 17, payroll.

It’s been almost a week since the tiny Buena Vista school district in Saginaw County abruptly closed its doors.

There is still no plan to get the roughly 400 displaced students into classrooms for the balance of the school year.

Governor Rick Snyder says a financial bailout by the state is very unlikely.

“Well, I hope there’s solutions that could be short of that, and that’s what we’re having discussions on, the community coming together, other districts working with the state, all of us coming together to say, let’s solve this problem.”  

Buena Vista ran out of cash because the state is withholding payments to make up for a grant the district should not have received.

The district’s finances and academic performance were already in poor shape. Buena Vista and Pontiac are both on the state’s “watch” list.

Will Michigan's next emergency manager operate the Pontiac School District?

More from the Associated Press:

Officials plan to wrap up a review by next month of the Pontiac School District's finances that could lead to the appointment of an emergency manager or other measures.

District officials recently were notified by state Superintendent Mike Flanagan of the preliminary financial review, which is to begin Monday and end by May 24.

In a letter, Flanagan describes the public school district's situation as "critical and alarming."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Ninety new Michigan State troopers will soon be on the road.

The troopers were officially sworn in today in Lansing.

Governor Rick Snyder told the new troopers they are part of reinventing Michigan, in part by helping those communities hit hard by violent crime.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

What is an actual emergency manager's take on Detroit's financial troubles.

Lou Schimmel has been the appointed emergency manager for Pontiac since March of 2009.

We had Schimmel speak with us on Stateside to get his view of what needs to be done to fix the city's broken finances and his suggestions for fixing Detroit.

Listen to the full interview above.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - A judge says Pontiac's state-appointed emergency financial manager violated the Open Meetings Act in making changes to the city's retiree pension board.

The Oakland Press of Pontiac and the Detroit Free Press report Oakland County Circuit Judge Rae Lee Chabot on Wednesday ruled against Lou Schimmel, who last year cut the pension board from 11 members to five amid concerns about spending.

Chabot says the change "looks like a dictatorship."

Schimmel says he disagrees with the judge's order but he'll comply with the directive. He's working to fix the finances of the cash-strapped city.

The preliminary injunction comes in a lawsuit filed by the City of Pontiac Retired Employees Association. The board is scheduled to meet this month.

   Pontiac's finances have been under state supervision since 2009.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Judge says prisoners sentenced as juveniles should get parole hearings 

Judge John Corbett O'Meara says a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory no-parole sentences applies retroactively to Michigan inmates already behind bars.

There are more than 350 inmates in Michigan prisons serving life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles, and there's been a lot of debate about whether these inmate should get a shot at parole.

The Detroit Free Press has the story of one of those prisoners this morning.

...life has never been simple for Jennifer Pruitt. Her 37 years have been punctuated by turmoil -- a tough upbringing, a life sentence for murder, repeated rapes in prison and glimmers of hope that quickly got dashed.

Road funding discussions get underway in Michigan legislature

In his State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder made roads a top priority. He called for new revenue to support road building. Whether that will mean higher taxes or higher fees for Michigan residents remains to be seen. Jonathan Oosting of MLive reports the discussions will get underway soon:

... a joint resolution introduced by Republican Sens. Randy Richardville, Roger Kahn and Bruce Caswell offers a simple starting point for discussions: A constitutional amendment to raise the state sales tax from 6 percent to 8 percent. As a trade-off for the increased sales tax, a related bill would eliminate the state's 19-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax.

Such a tax increase would require voter approval. Other plans, such as increasing gas taxes or registration fees, are being considered as well.

Investment in Pontiac, GM plans expansion

General Motors announced its consolidating some of its research and development operations and expanding its Global Powertrain Engineering Headquarters in Pontiac. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports the company is expected to invest $200 million in the Pontiac facility.

GM estimates the move will move about 400 jobs now in various facilities to Pontiac. The investment is part of a GM commitment to invest $1.5 billion in North American facilities across the state and the country.

GM officials say employees will start transferring to Pontiac as soonas the middle this year, and the expansion will be completed in mid 2014.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The impact of economic problems are often likened to waves. And the waves of Michigan's economic crisis are still rolling up onto the shores in cities around the state.

The Detroit News looked at the numbers of police cuts and how communities react to these cuts.

The data from the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards show that since 2003, the state has lost more than 2,000 police positions in total.

Communities react to the cuts by completely disbanding their departments, as Pontiac did, or by trying to raise more revenue.

But as the events in the struggling city of Benton Harbor show, residents are not always willing to tax themselves more to keep their police departments intact.

From the Detroit News:

City of Pontiac

The mayor of Pontiac tells Bloomberg News he thinks the city is on the "cutting edge" of strategies to help struggling cities survive, by turning to regionalization of essential services. Leon Jukowski says that's why he's cooperating with an emergency financial manager who has been given the authority he used to have.  Watch the video here.

MDOT

Some refurbished commuter rail cars will start test runs in southeast Michigan today.

The stainless steel, bi-level cars will run on tracks between Pontiac and Jackson.

State officials hope the cars will eventually be used for separate commuter rail lines connecting Detroit and Ann Arbor, and Ann Arbor and Livingston County.

Janet Foran is with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Stateside: Continued Proposal 1 clarification

Oct 29, 2012
Ballots
flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Earlier this morning, Michigan Radio Assistant News Director Sarah Hulett posted a piece investigating the multifaceted  Proposal 1.

Cyndy spoke with Hulett about the Proposal's details and how it could affect Michigan.

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

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

Under PA 4, EMs can strip local leaders of their power and do away with union contracts.

The law is being targeted for repeal in a voter referendum.

Michigan voters will either keep it or kill it.

So, what do the people close to the EM law think of it?

Here are three takeaways from yesterday's discussion on Stateside with Cynthia Canty.

1) Today, Michigan's cities have giant infrastructures and tiny budgets

Everybody running a business or a government knows they can make painful spending cuts that may balance the budget.

But you can’t cut your way to prosperity. You have to attract new growth and new investment, and the trillion-dollar question is: How?

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - An FBI sting operation has led to corruption charges against a former Pontiac city council member.

Federal authorities say Everett Seay accepted $25,000 from a man who needed city approval to open a money-handling business in Pontiac. The government says Seay was told the shop would be used to launder drug profits.

Seay also is accused of helping transport 35 pounds of cocaine for $15,000. The cocaine was fake, and the man who wanted to open a money-handling business actually was an undercover agent. The alleged crimes occurred in 2008 and 2009 when Seay was on the Pontiac council.

Seay was due in court Monday and could not immediately be reached for comment. Two other people also were charged.

The Pontiac City Council is trying to reclaim its authority lost to the state-appointed emergency financial manager.

Louis Schimmel became the cash-strapped city's third emergency manager in 2011.

The Detroit Free Press reports that yesterday, all present council members approved a resolution demanding that authority over all city finances and financial decision-making be restored to the mayor and council.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Michigan sued over late absentee ballots

The federal government is suing Michigan over a delay in sending absentee ballots to military serving overseas. The lawsuit says many local clerks missed a deadline to send military voters their ballots 45 days before the primary. But one political analyst says it's a big to-do about almost nothing. Mark Grebner is a Democratic political consultant based in East Lansing. He says Secretary of State records indicate only eight absentee ballots were sent out a day or two late, to overseas military addresses. And Grebner thinks the 45-day rule is outdated. A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State says in the past, the federal government has ordered local clerks who missed the deadline to wait a few extra days before issuing a final count. A judge has ordered an emergency hearing on the issue for this Friday.  The primary is August 7th.

Close to 1-million federal dollars unused by Pontiac Police

Officials in Pontiac have found close to a million dollars in unspent federal money. The money will be used to pay overtime to Oakland County sheriff deputies to patrol high-crime areas, and work on "quality of life" issues like abandoned cars. Pontiac is under a state-appointed emergency manager, and the county has a contract to provide police services to the city.

State officials say they won't recommend a financial review team for the Pontiac School District.

That's after the District implemented a deficit elimination plan.

A financial review team would have put the district one step closer to a state takeover. 

It could also have meant a longer delay in getting April and May payments from the state. Those were withheld as required by law during the preliminary review of the district's finances. 

Michigan.gov

The state is set to take a preliminary look at the financial situation of Pontiac's public schools, a step that could eventually lead to the appointment of an emergency manager.

Dave Garvin / Flickr

Michael Stampfler, the former emergency manager in Pontiac, Michigan gave a speech last night at a Rotary International meeting in Wyandotte.

The Detroit Free Press reports he told the group the state's emergency manager law is "destined to fail."

A Pontiac teacher who says she was fired after helping her students organize a fundraiser for the family of Trayvon Martin is receiving support in the form of over 200,000 petition signatures. According to the Detroit Free Press, the online petition calls for Brooke Harris to be reinstated to her post at Pontiac Academy for Excellence and organizers plan to present the signatures during a meeting of the school's board at 5p.m. today.

From the Free Press:

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit based in Montgomery, Ala., started the petition.

The district has denied Harris was fired because of the fundraiser, but Superintendent Jacqueline Cassell previously told the Free Press she could not discuss a personnel issue.

According to Harris, the Free Press writes, students in her yearbook class planned to raise money and pledged to wear hoodies to school, a violation of the school's dress code meant to show solidarity with Martin who was wearing one when he was shot and killed in Florida earlier this year.

Harris told the Free Press that when school administrators became aware of the plan, they moved to block it:

Harris said Cassell said no, and when she asked whether students could meet with Cassell to make their case, she was suspended for two days for being insubordinate.

Harris said she came to the school while suspended, so her suspension was extended to two weeks, but she was fired after questioning it.

It remains to be seen if the petition will have any effect on Harris' employment status.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

pontiac silverdome
User Alex simple / Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Lou Schimmel, Pontiac's state-appointed Emergency Manager, has denied a tax-break request from the owners of the Pontiac Silverdome.

The former home of the Detroit Lions is owned by Triple Investment Group who were seeking a special break to make improvements to the stadium, but as the Associated Press reports, the work they were planning wasn't what Schimmel had in mind:

mconnors, gracey / morgueFile

Lots of news packed into this week's Artpod!

We learn about Michigan's burgeoning garment industry, and we get an update on how one of the state's biggest movie studios is doing (hint: not too well.) Plus, we talk with the director of the new documentary, After the Factory.

(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.  

Pontiac’s emergency manager says the federal government has agreed to a proposal that lets the city keep some grant money it was expected to lose.

Pontiac has a history mismanaging federal grant money.  So when federal officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development asked the city to hand administration of Community Development Block Grants over to Oakland County, its emergency manager, Lou Schimmel, agreed.

Dave Garvin / Flickr

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - The cash-strapped city of Pontiac is moving forward with plans to sell a number of properties, listing sites such as police and fire stations as possibilities.

The Detroit Free Press reports Wednesday that city hall, a golf course and cemeteries also are on the list for possible sale. State-appointed emergency financial manager Lou Schimmel says he wants the option to sell them if needed.

The city has said that the cemeteries, however, can't be sold without a change in state law. And the newspaper reports that city officials aren't prepared to immediately turn over the keys to city hall or its police or fire facilities.

The Pontiac police department closed this summer.

Other sites on the list include parking lots, community centers, a library and two landfills.

user derekskey / Flickr

First the police department, and now the fire department.

The city of Pontiac, like many cities across the U.S., is facing a future with less money.

The state-appointed emergency manager in Pontiac, Lou Schimmel, wants to close the city's fire department.

From WXYZ News:

Closing the fire department, Schimmel says, is one part of the solution and will save the city $3 million. Schimmel says pay and benefit cuts will come with the deal. "If we do everything the same, we'll be out of business and nobody's going to get paid," Schimmel says. "They'll all lose their jobs." Schimmel has given firefighters until Friday to ratify the deal.

The Detroit Free Press quotes Kenneth Estell, a trustee with Pontiac Firefighters Union Local 376 who says the union will fight the changes "to the end":

“We love our jobs. We love our citizens. There’s a lot of tradition in this department. And we’re saving the citizens money. And when it comes to the safety of the citizens, we provide a good service.”

Estell says they've offered alternatives to the proposed cuts.

Pontiac's emergency manager says their proposals don't come close to the $3 million in cuts needed. From the Detroit Free Press:

“It’s the only option -- we save $3 million,” Schimmel said, adding the changes would take effect in January. “There is no way in the world we can save $3 million by keeping our own fire department. They didn’t even come close to a million dollars, let alone $3 million. And we are running out of cash.”

Pontiac firefighters have until Dec 9 to approve of a plan that would "offer early retirement to 18 firefighters, bonuses to others and the opportunity to be hired by Waterford Township."

As a state-appointed emergency manager, Schimmel has the authority to dissolve existing union contracts.

Several Michigan cities are facing the possible appointment of an emergency manager.

Lou Schimmel has served as an emergency manager in Hamtramck and Ecorse and currently works as the EM in Pontiac.

He spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White about his job as the city's emergency manager and his plan for the city.

Michigan Attorney General's official website

The Michigan Attorney General’s office has filed more than 100 charges related to corruption of state and city officials since January.

Adding to that list is a former fire chief from Pontiac who was charged today by Attorney General Bill Schuette with racketeering and bribery.

John Sellek is a spokesman for the attorney general. He said the fire chief solicited bribes from the owner of a bar.

“Walked into a bar and said ‘I will look the other way on fire code violations if you pay me $1000.’ It’s been going on for a long time in the world, it’s nothing new, but it’s something we’re going to do our best to put a stop to,” Sellek said.

Sellek said Schuette formed a public corruption unit at the beginning of the year to tackle corruption cases.

“We want to put a focus on the entire state, all 83 counties,” said Sellek. “We want people who hold positions of public trust to be very clear what they’re job is, what their ethics are, and what their moral responsibilities are, before they make a decision like this.”

Sellek said the Attorney General’s office hopes focusing on corruption will act as a deterrent for public officials.

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - Some Pontiac elections workers didn't show up to the polls following the recent firing of the city's clerk by a state-appointed emergency financial manager.

The Oakland Press, the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News and WWJ-AM report voting took place as scheduled Tuesday. Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard says other workers have been brought in and precincts consolidated after some workers didn't show up as expected.

Oakland County's elections director and a representative from the secretary of state were on hand to assist. Voters in Pontiac were choosing Democratic and Republican nominees for the state House's 29th District and making school board picks.

Lou Schimmel last month fired Yvette Talley as well as the city's attorney and director of public works in what he called a realignment of City Hall.

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