Rick Snyder

Native Detroiter Harry Morgan died yesterday. What makes me feel old is that while the rest of the world remembers him fondly for his role in MASH, I think of him as Officer Bill Gannon from Dragnet.

That was the show made famous by the iconic line “Just the facts, ma’am.‘ Which, by the way, nobody ever actually said on the show, any more than Humphrey Bogart said “Play it Again, Sam,” in Casablanca. Those are enduring cultural myths.

There’s another, more dangerous myth out there in Detroit today, a myth apparently shared by the mayor and city council.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

When a city or a school district in Michigan runs out of money, the state can appoint an emergency manager to take over the responsibilities of locally elected officials. An emergency manger’s powers are broad—made even more so this year – and are designed to help EMs balance the books and return governance to locally elected officials as quickly as possible.

Today, there are four cities and one school district under the control of an emergency manager:

  • Benton Harbor
  • Ecorse
  • Flint
  • Pontiac
  • Detroit Public Schools

This is the second time around for Flint, which had an “emergency financial manager” from 2002-2006. The cities of Detroit and Inkster and Benton Harbor Public Schools could soon be added to this list.

user sfgamchick / Flickr

A board that’s advising Governor Rick Snyder on the state’s liquor laws is close to making recommendations on how Michigan’s alcohol rules should be altered.

Meanwhile, advocates that want to keep Michigan’s current regulations say they’re concerned about the potential changes. Among them is the possibility that the state will boost the number of liquor licenses it issues.

Harriett Dean is with the Clinton Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.

“The worry is that they will allow for increased density of liquor licenses in a community, they’ll remove the 500 feet from a church or from a school current existing law, and that will increase exposure to young people to alcohol, as well as for adults too,” said Dean.

But Andy Deloney, who chairs the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, says the advisory board does not choose which recommendations become laws.

“That’s up to the governor to decide, that’s not up to this committee to decide,” Deloney said. “The governor wanted these committees to be created and to do this work, and it’s up to him to decide when and how and which recommendations he wants to go along with.”

MSU Institute for Public Policy and Social Research

Governor Rick Snyder's approval continues to flag among Michigan residents. This according to survey results released today from Michigan State University.

Michigan State University’s ‘State of the State’ poll shows only about one in five residents give the governor an ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ rating.  Snyder’s approval rating was about double that when he took office.

Mlive.com reports:

The Fall 2011 State of the State survey conducted by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University found that only 19.3 percent of Michigan residents surveyed rated the governor's performance as excellent or good, continuing a decline in popularity from 44.5 percent just after his election to 31.5 percent in the Spring, 2011 survey.

Charles Ballard is the director of the State of the State survey.   He said Snyder’s support among his Republican base is eroding.

“The percentage of the Republicans who gave either an ‘excellent’ or ‘good’  to Governor Snyder was cut in half.  From the mid-60’s to the low 30’s…that’s a really big drop,” said Ballard. 

Ballard said part of the reason for the decline may be tied to the bitter fight over building a new international bridge in Detroit. 

"Many of those ads specifically said not very nice things about Governor Snyder himself," explained Ballard. "That's very unusual because usually you don’t expect ‘attack ads’ until you are fully within a reelection campaign."

The survey also shows that Michiganders are not pleased with the president or Congress.

A press release from MSU says:

President Obama’s positive reviews dropped as well. The president’s “excellent” or “good” grades fell from 44.5 percent this past spring to 40.5 percent in the latest phone interviews with 807 Michigan residents from Sept. 15 to Nov. 8.

The survey carried a margin of error of 3.45 percent.

The U.S. Congress, too, suffered from low marks among survey respondents. “Congress received
very poor ratings,” [Survey Director Charles] Ballard said. Less than 1 percent of the survey’s respondents awarded Congress an “excellent” or “good” mark. A striking 57.4 percent gave Congress “poor” grades.

City of Inkster

The state took a big step today towards making Inkster the next Michigan city to fall under the oversight of an emergency manager.   

Governor Snyder has appointed a seven-member review team to delve deep into Inkster’s city finances. A preliminary review has already found the city is in ‘probable financial stress’.      

The city has struggled to deal with a multi-million dollar deficit. This week, the city laid off 20 percent of its police officers and the police chief announced he’s leaving too.  

Today, Governor Rick Snyder unveiled his plan for talent development.

The goal is to more closely align workers with available jobs.

In this week's political roundup we take a closer look at the plan with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Section Consultants.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Several dozen Catholic parishes in Detroit might close

After a "year-long, parish-based pastoral and strategic planning process," the Archdiocese of Detroit revealed a plan for a smaller footprint in Detroit.

From an Archdiocese of Detroit statement:

  • Within five years, nine parishes are proposed to close.
  • In addition to the above, 60 parishes are proposed to merge down to 21, resulting in 39 fewer parishes.

The Detroit Free Press reports Detroit was one of the first archdioceses to close churches back in 1989. From the Freep:

In the last 10 years alone, about 40 parishes have closed or merged because of the priest shortage and changing demographics in Detroit and its inner-ring suburbs, reducing the number of parishes diocese-wide from 310 to 270.

Detroit unions to offer up their cost-saving ideas

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has been calling for concessions from Detroit's unions along with layoffs to fix the city's budget problems.

Today, unions in the city are expected to go before city council with their ideas.

From the Detroit News:

The city's 48 employee unions thus far have resisted Mayor Dave Bing's call for givebacks to help the city stave off a possible state takeover. Several deadlines imposed by Bing have come and gone...

A coalition of union leaders met Wednesday morning to hammer out ideas for the council to consider. Leaders will present options for cheaper health care and suggest alternatives to Bing's proposed 10 percent wage cut, according to a union leader familiar with the plan.

Governor Snyder heads to Delta College to deliver special message

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to help workers get the skills employers need in today's job market. Rick Pluta reports Snyder is looking for ways to bring down Michigan’s persistently high unemployment rate. Pluta says the Governor "will deliver his fifth special message of the year today where he is expected to outline a strategy to better match the skills workers have to positions that are available right now."

Tiberius Images / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his fifth special message of the year tomorrow at Delta College near Saginaw, where he is expected to outline a strategy to better match the skills workers have to positions that are available right now.

The governor is looking for ways to bring down Michigan’s persistently high unemployment rate.

More than one in 10 working-age people in Michigan are out of work and actively seeking jobs. Governor Snyder says one big problem is too few people with skills that match positions that are available in fields like welding and software design.

Sara Wurfel is the governor’s press secretary, and she says the governor believes employers will respond if workers pick up new, in-demand skills. 

“(The governor) believes the number one most-important recourse Michigan has is its talent, its people, and the skills and the background that they bring.”

The governor is expected to say the state and educators need to do a better job of identifying employment trends and the skills businesses will be looking for. Snyder’s predecessor, Governor Jennifer Granholm, also made job training a high priority.

A proposal to require all Michigan school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.  

The state Legislature gave final approval to a House Republican anti-bullying proposal following a month of heated debate.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said he is happy with the final product.

“At this point and time, yeah. It went through both chambers, got a fair amount of public scrutiny and feedback, and I’m proud of the work the House Republicans did,” said Richardville.

According to a report from the Flint Journal, the governor has given the nod to Michael Brown, a former acting mayor of Flint, to act as that city's new emergency manager.

From the Journal:

The appointment was announced this afternoon and is effective Thursday, according to Gov. Rick Snyder's office.

As emergency manager, Brown will have wide-ranging authority to make cuts, impose fees or make other changes to overhaul city government after a state review panel found the city in a financial emergency.

Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody adds more, reporting:

Michael Brown served as Flint’s acting mayor for six months in 2009, between the abrupt resignation of former mayor Don Williamson and the election of his successorDayne Walling.

In naming Brown as Flint’s emergency manager, Governor Snyder praised his “strong track record of serving the Flint-area community” and expressed confidence in Brown’s public, private, and non-profit experience.

In a written statement, Brown said he plans to work “collaboratively” with Flint’s elected officials and community leaders. Flint mayor Dayne Walling issued a statement saying that he looks “forward to working with Mr. Brown to address the community’s priorities and to secure the City’s financial stability."

Flint is facing a multi-million dollar debt. There are now emergency managers calling the shots in Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse and the Detroit Public Schools.  

The state is also looking into a possible “fiscal” problem in Inkster.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder could veto his first bill this week. He faces a Friday morning deadline to sign or a reject measure sent to him by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The bill would make it difficult for state agencies to enact rules that are stricter than federal standards without first getting permission from the Legislature.

Sara Wurfel is the governor’s press secretary.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Governor Snyder this week may name an Emergency Manager for the city of Flint.   

 It’s been nearly three weeks since the governor agreed with a state review team’s finding that the city of Flint is in a fiscal crisis.    That finding opened the door to the governor appointing an emergency manager to oversee Flint city government.    

The city is struggling with millions of dollars of debt and a declining tax base.   The time for the city to file a court challenge to the finding expired over the weekend. 

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s responsible for his family’s Thanksgiving feast this year. But he says working in the kitchen is a lower priority than another holiday tradition – the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day football game.

“I’m cooking. I’m doing two turkeys. Actually, we’re cooking them on Friday, though, because I’m hoping – the family’s all going to the Lions game. So, go Lions – We’ve got a great chance to beat those Packers,” said Snyder.

That could cost the governor some support in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where many sports fans have regional loyalty to Green Bay.

The governor has predicted the Lions will be in a Super Bowl before he leaves office.

Governor Rick Snyder signed a law today to extend benefits for children who grew up in foster care after they turn 18 years old. The new law will allow foster kids to continue to receive a housing subsidy and health coverage until the age of 21, and to continue to work with foster care caseworkers.

The extended benefits will be available to young adults who are enrolled in college or job training, or working at least 80 hours a month.

The governor says Michigan owes it to children who would otherwise lose their support system when they become legal adults.

Foster kids who used to “age out” of the system at 18 years old will continue to get state financial support under legislation Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign tomorrow.

The measure is designed to help more college bound foster children maintain a support system after they become legal adults.

Jack Kresnak directs the advocacy group Michigan’s Children.

“The state is taking an important step forward to help the young people that we as a society have taken out of their parents’ care and placed in the state’s care succeed – this will help many, many more young people succeed,” Kresnak said.

The new law means young adults who grew up in foster care will continue to qualify for a housing subsidy and Medicaid health coverage. 

Kresnak said he would like to see the law amended in the future to give former foster kids who opt out of going to college a chance to change their minds and reenter the system. He said colleges and universities can also do more to help former foster kids succeed.

When the Legislature returns to the state Capitol next week, there will be another item added to its to-do list. That is: coming up with millions of dollars to fill a budget gap created by the state Supreme Court decision on Michigan’s new pension tax. The court upheld the tax on pensions, but said denying a tax break to some higher-earners effectively created a graduated income tax.

A graduated income tax is not allowed under the state constitution. That part of the decision also blew a $60 million hole in the state budget. Sixty million dollars is a small part of a general fund budget that exceeds $8 billion.

But it is an amount the governor and the Legislature will need to make up to meet their obligation under the state constitution to have a balanced budget. One possibility would be to use a projected surplus from last year’s budget to fill the gap. That number becomes official in January. But it appears the surplus will be somewhere near $400 million.

Lawmakers are already fighting over what to do with that money. Democrats say it should be used to restore some budget cuts to schools. Republicans say it should go into the state’s “rainy day” savings fund, or to pay down debt.

Critics and allies alike say Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's proposal to get the state to pay the city more than $200 million faces an uphill battle.

It’s one of the ideas the Mayor has outlined to keep the city from going broke.

In 1998, Detroit lowered its city income tax in exchange for guaranteed levels of state revenue sharing. But city officials say the state reneged, and shorted Detroit about $220 million it was promised.

Bing says that would be enough to erase the city’s structural deficit, and the $45-million shortfall the city expects this year.

Bernt Rostad / Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing addressed his city’s dire financial straits last night in a televised speech in which he said, “simply put, our city is in a financial crisis and city government is broken.”

“To avoid running out of money by spring, Bing says the city needs to do a whole range of things almost at once. They include increased health care and pension contributions for everyone, including retirees; and 10-percent wage cuts rather than furlough days for current employees. Bing says that needs to include the city’s public safety officers. Those departments eat up about 60% of Detroit’s budget. He adds the city needs to privatize some services—including public lighting, and to some extent its dysfunctional bus system,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

Cwiek was at the mayor’s address and says, “many think it’s only a matter of time before Detroit gets an emergency manager—and some, including Detroit City Council members, think the lack of specifics and deadlines in Bing’s speech made that even more likely.”

This morning, The Detroit Free Press had headlines that included an editorial titled, "Not good enough, Mr. Mayor," and a column by Stephen Henderson, "Numbers don't add up anywhere near city's needs."

Ifmuth / Flickr

Detroit will run out of money in the first half of next year unless the city cuts its budget, the Detroit Free Press is reporting. From the Freep:

A closely guarded report on Detroit's finances paints an alarming picture of a city that will run out of cash by April unless officials make immediate, painful reductions that will cut deeply in to public services. The report, obtained by the Free Press, outlines some drastic scenarios that illustrate how steep those cuts must be for the city to stay afloat…

The problems are so severe and immediate, restructuring experts said, that the state may have no choice but to appoint an emergency manager with the authority to gut union contracts, sell assets, restructure the government and end nonessential services.

“The mayor plans to speak Wednesday at 6 p.m.,” about the city’s financial situation, the Associated Press reports. As the AP notes, “It's possible that Detroit's poor health could lead to the appointment of an emergency manager with sweeping authority to make changes.”

Cedar Bend / Flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a challenge to the federal Affordable Care Act has Republicans in Lansing divided on whether to adopt a state mandate in the law. It requires states to create health coverage exchanges for people and business owners to comparison shop online for insurance. It’s become a point of controversy between the governor and the state’s legislative Republicans.

Republican Governor Rick Snyder says the health care exchanges are a good idea that will benefit businesses and consumers regardless of how the Supreme Court rules. The governor says he’s also afraid Michigan would be thrown into a federally designed system if the Legislature does not act quickly. 

“Before the end of the year would be best in terms of being prepared.”

But Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger says he’s in no hurry and would rather wait for the Supreme Court to decide one way or the other.  

“I don’t expect the House to act until or unless we have to act.”

Bolger says he, like many Republicans, believes the federal law is unconstitutional and is likely to be struck down by the nation’s highest court. A decision is not expected before next summer.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint mayor Dayne Walling said at his swearing in ceremony that the city should not wait for the appointment of an emergency manager to tackle its crime and economic problems.   

“Now is the time for us to pull forward together," Walling told the city hall audience that had come to see him sworn in for his first full four year term as mayor. Walling has been Flint's mayor for the past two years after winning a special election. 

Governor Rick Snyder must decide soon whether to sign a bill that would restrict the ability of state regulators to impose stricter standards than those applied by the federal government. The proposal would require the Legislature to approve any stricter regulations. Hugh McDiarmid is with the Michigan Environmental Council. He believes the bill is a bad idea.

“This isn’t solely an issue about regulation or the environment," McDiarmid said. "It’s also a little bit about an issue of a power grab where the Legislature is taking power that now belongs to the governor to act, promulgate rules and various things and taking it for themselves.”

Supporters of the bill say Michigan is less competitive in attracting businesses when it imposes stricter rules. Mike Johnston is with the Michigan Manufacturers Association, which favors the bill. 

“When Michigan imposes regulations in excess of federal standards we by definition make ourselves less competitive than other states that don’t have to operate under those excessive regulations,” said Johnston.

A spokeswoman for Governor Snyder says he is concerned with many aspects of the measure. It could be the first bill sent to Snyder by the Republican Legislature that the governor vetoes. He has vetoed some budget line items.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s mayor takes his oath of office today. What happens next is up to Governor Snyder. Incumbent Dayne Walling won a four year term as Flint’s mayor last week. He’s already been serving as Flint’s mayor for the past two years, since winning a special election.  

The challenge then was to reduce Flint’s massive budget deficit. The challenge now will probably be to work under a state appointed emergency manager.  

On the same day Walling won reelection, Governor Snyder agreed with a state review team that Flint is in a ‘financial emergency’. The governor is expected to name an emergency manager to run the city.  

Walling has indicated he would work with an emergency manager. Though the mayor is not waiting for an emergency manager to be appointed before he makes any changes.

On Friday, Mayor Walling fired or accepted the resignations of Flint’s top city finance and economic development officials.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint mayor Dayne Walling won re-election on Tuesday.   

Friday, he started cleaning house.  

On Friday, Walling issued a statement saying he had accepted the resignation of the director of the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development. He also announced two other DCED employees had been fired. Walling also fired city Finance Director Michael Townsend. 

In a written statement, Walling said “it is time for the city to pursue a new direction with respect to the operations of the Finance Department and the Department of Community and Economic Development”

Walling will be sworn in for his new term as mayor on Monday.   

But also in the coming days, Governor Snyder is expected to formally announce his intention to appoint an emergency manager to run the city of Flint. 

Last week, the governor agreed with a state review team that Flint’s finances require outside management to fix.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Another Michigan city is moving toward a state takeover.   

The state Treasury Department announced today  that a preliminary review of Inkster’s books shows the city is in "probable financial stress".   

Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton says the city is having trouble solving a multi-million dollar deficit. 

"And the review also found city official have proposed unrealistic budgets and failed to make budget revisions in a timely manner," Stanton says. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint mayor Dayne Walling won re-election last night. But it may end up being a temporary victory.

"Tonight…you can see…that the people of the city of Flint…are behind me and my administration," Walling told a cheering crowd at his victory party last night.   

Dayne Walling celebrated his win last night with jubilant supporters. But they all knew that earlier in the day, Governor Snyder accepted a report that said the city of Flint is in a financial emergency.  

The governor is expected to appoint an emergency manager to run the city. Flint officials could appeal the decision. But Walling says he’s prepared to work with a manager appointed by the governor.   

“I’ll do whatever I can to move our city forward," says Walling, "The people have clearly spoken tonight. It’s been two very difficult years.  But now I have a full four year term. I’m proud of what we’ve done over the last two years.”

Walling singled out four city unions that have resisted contract concessions, as part of the reason why Flint is mired in debt.

Lawmakers at the state Capitol are considering options to help raise more than $1 billion in additional revenue to fix and maintain Michigan’s bridges and roads. Governor Rick Snyder called on the Legislature to find the money for the state’s aging infrastructure.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said lawmakers should be able to find the additional funds without raising taxes.

user Want2Know / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder met with lawmakers, federal officials and the railroad industry yesterday to talk about the future of rail transportation in our state.

Rick Pluta is the State Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He was at the Michigan Rail Summit and he joined me to talk more about this.

So Rick, what did the Governor say?

Rick Pluta: Rebecca, the governor is a big fan of rail service. He says it's a big part of the future of the state.

This is what he had to say to this rail summit:

"This isn't about a piece of rail in Michigan. This is about being the centerpiece of a broader logistical connection that goes all the way from St. Louis to Chicago to Detroit and I would like to see it continue on to Toronto and to Montreal."

Dave Garvin / Flickr

A state-appointed emergency financial manager for the city of Pontiac has fired the city's clerk, attorney and director of public works in what he says is realignment in City Hall.

The Oakland Press of Pontiac reports Lou Schimmel fired the department heads effective Friday. The changes
are part of what Schimmel, who was appointed to the post in September by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, says is an effort to put together his own team.

The clerk's office is being merged with human resources and the law department is being outsourced.

An employee with United Water, which is contracted to manage the city's wastewater treatment facilities, will run the public works department.

Schimmel was appointed to fill the post held for 14 months by Michael Stampfler.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A state team is getting more time to analyze Flint’s city finances.   

The panel’s findings could lead the governor to appoint an emergency manager to run the city.   

The panel’s report was due by the final day of October. But Treasury Department spokesman Terry Stanton says the 8 member team appointed by the governor needed more time to review a few more matters. The governor has granted the review team an additional 30 days. 

Earlier this year, the Treasury Department determined that Flint was in “probable financial stress."  

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