Category: Top News Written by Patrick Keating
On March 26, thousands of people gathered at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit for a justice rally for Trayvon Martin. According to Kevin Tolbert, international representative for the International UAW, between 1,500 to 2,000 people attended.
“We filled up the walkway at Hart Plaza from the UAW Ford Building down to the labor legacy monument.”
17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an African American, was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer named George Zimmerman on Feb. 26, while Trayvon was walking back to his father’s home from a store. He was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.
To date, Zimmerman, who claimed in a 911 call to police that Trayvon was a “suspicious character” and who pursued the youth against police advice, has not been arrested, owing to a “stand your ground” law extant in Florida.
The case has sparked national outrage and charges of racial bias.
There were many speakers at the rally.
“The speakers spoke to what we can do to connect the tragedies, from being upset and angry about what happened in Florida to being able to move toward action here in Detroit,” he said. “And action in improving the lives of young people around here, because we lost so many young people here as well.”
Several constituency organizations took part in the rally.
“We brought Detroit 300,” he said. “We asked the Detroit NAACP to be a part. We asked for United Communities of America to be a part. And all have different examples.”
He noted that United Communities of America has a city-wide Day of Peace.
“They’re proposing the 22nd of every month, that we have no crime and no violence,” Tolbert said. “So we’re asking people to volunteer and help be a part of spreading that message: go to schools and be active.”
Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit Branch NAACP, said other groups in attendance included LA SED, the Arab Civil Rights League, Rainbow PUSH, National Action Network, Detroit Council of Baptist Pastors and Vicinity, and the Detroit Police Department.
During the rally, people were also encouraged to go to the website TakeactionDetroit.com and sign up. Tolbert said people would then be connected to the constituency groups that would be able to work on those projects.
“We also asked them to sign up for Detroit 300,” Tolbert said. “We gave them lots of opportunities and ways we thought they could be active in their community and in the city.”
Asked what all Americans — regardless of race, political leanings, or views on gun ownership — should take away from this tragedy, Tolbert recalled a message from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“You can’t judge somebody simply by what they’re wearing and the color of their skin,” Tolbert said. “You can’t look at somebody, and on face value be able to tell what their intentions are simply because of the color of their skin. No matter what had happened in the past. You just can’t do that. So, you have to remember that lesson as one that we have been taught in this country over and over, but sometimes it tends to escape people.”
Rev. Anthony also quoted Dr. King: “An injustice to anyone anywhere is an injustice to everyone everywhere.”
“Trayvon Martin is a spark that can burn at the very conscience of all of us,” he said. “That’s why White folks, Black folks, Brown folk, Red and Yellow folk came out to support the cry for justice.”
Anthony added that it also suggests we haven’t arrived at a point in our society where we are judging each other by the content of our character as opposed to the color of our skin.
“A child is dead for no other reason than he wore a hoodie and he was an African American youth,” Anthony said. “The issue is not the hoodie; the issue is those who are really no good when it comes to how they interact and engage people who appear to be different. It means that we must work harder and smarter to end gun violence; to think before we act, and to act like we’ve been doing some thinking.”
Tolbert said young people were very moved by this tragedy.
“This is the first significant tragedy that most young people have seen on this level,” he said. “Though lots of people have died in similar circumstances, this is the first that’s gotten this much national attention. So we have to be able to give them outlet. That’s why we held the rally.”
Secondly, he said, they have to take advantage of that activism and energy and put the young people to work on things that will help improve their lives and our city.
“We can’t just watch the tragedies and say ‘oh, that’s horrible’ and not let people have a place to express themselves,” he said. “And then we have to also connect this generation to being out, being active and doing something, instead of just complaining about what’s going on in the world, and staying home and sitting on couches.”
Tolbert added that advocacy groups are meeting later this week to talk about their next steps, which are to take the people who signed up and to continue to push the messages of the three groups.
“We think one person might want to be in Detroit 300, but their cousin or brother, they don’t want to do Detroit 300. Well, maybe we can get them to volunteer with United Communities of America. Or maybe somebody else could volunteer with a register the vote campaign,” he said. “There’s got to be more activities and there’s something for everybody to be involved in. We just have to, as leaders, keep presenting those opportunities to people.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 14:19
Category: Top News Written by Bankole Thompson
Coleman Alexander Young wasn’t just another mayor who came to office in 1973 in the long- running history of Detroit’s political and social evolution.
Young was not only a skillful and tough negotiator, he also knew how to interact with men and women in business suits when it came to the financial wellbeing of the city of Detroit.
Indisputably, that is largely because Young was a man who understood the era that birthed him into political power and popularity.
He was the first Black mayor in Detroit’s history, joining the ranks of other notable cities in the 1970s that put Black political leaders in charge, an example being when Gary, Indiana, elected Richard Hatcher mayor.
So as Detroit grapples with a ballooning deficit that is over $300 million with a real possibility of either bankruptcy, a financial manager or a consent agreement, an intriguing question is, what would Mayor Young do if he were in office at this point in time?
Like Detroit 2012, the city has been here before. It was in 1981 when it faced a deficit of $133 million, an amount that today translates into $331 million.
Tim Kiska, WWJ editor and a historian in political journalism, writes, “We forget that the early 1980s were a difficult time in Michigan — even more difficult, on some levels, than what we’ve faced since 2008. Unemployment hit the double-digit mark in February 1980, and stayed there until 1985, peaking at 16.8 percent in Dec., 1982. It hasn’t been that high in the current recession.”
Mayor Young formed a diverse civic leadership committee led by retired Ford Motor Company executive Fred Secrest and brought in Felix Rohatyn, the man credited to have saved New York in the 1970s when it teetered on the brink of financial collapse.
Rohatyn, who would later serve as U.S. ambassador to France under President Bill Clinton and a respected investment banker, was recently appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to sit on the board of New York State’s $25 billion infrastructure bank, to help Cuomo get his “New York Works Fund” off the ground.
When Young tapped Rohatyn, the urban financial expert’s initial diagnosis of Detroit’s financial crisis was between extreme pain and agony.
Because the reality was — and is still — that Detroit has more of the really basic, core problems of older cities than any other major city. There is no doubt that we have an ongoing survival crisis caused by the city’s requirement to reduce its services as a result of the general economic decay of its basic industries.
Thus, the Secrest Committee with Rohatyn and his staff leading the effort came up with a three-part proposal to address Detroit’s financial woes at the time. The proposal included employee concessions, the sale of bonds and an income tax increase, raising the tax on residents from 2 percent to 3 percent and on non-residents from .5 percent to 1.5 percent.
However, as has always been the case, any such tax increases require approval by Lansing lawmakers and a vote of the people in Detroit.
Despite Young facing reelection in 1981, he was relentless in battling the financial crisis. So the skillful mayor put together a group of respected civic and corporate leaders to advocate on behalf of the city in Lansing. He picked then General Motors CEO Tom Murphy and UAW President Doug Fraser to head the Lansing delegation and testify on behalf of a tax increase before a rare joint session of the legislature.
Both Murphy and Fraser had distinguished themselves as men who have a mastery of tackling big issues, and their affable and commanding personalities in leading major organizations were an added advantage going before the legislature.
In short they were qualified and respected. The credibility and the personality of individuals who appear before any public body in approving major decisions is key to any negotiations.
But another key ingredient in helping Detroit attack its financial crisis at the time was a special relationship that Mayor Young had with then Republican Gov. William Milliken (Milliken endorsed the current Gov. Rick Snyder who is in negotiations with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing), who has been rated the best Republican governor in the state’s history.
Milliken, who was a moderate and an environmental advocate from the liberal town of Traverse City, stood for Detroit during an era where it was rare to do so because of the racial climate at the time. But Milliken did not walk away from Detroit. His bond with Young was a major factor in guiding and helping the city right the wrongs of its financial issues.
So Detroit under Young, working closely with Milliken, put together a coalition of Democrats from the city and Republicans from the other side of the state to provide the votes needed to get the legislature to approve a tax hike, which succeeded.
Former Michigan Chief Justice Conrad Mallett Jr., chief administrative officer at the Detroit Medical Center who is currently a member of Gov. Snyder’s Detroit Review Team, as a key lieutenant to Mayor Young then led the campaign for the tax increase during a special election. Voters approved the hike by a 68-32 margin.
Detroit was able to get the banks to purchase the bonds and city unions including police and fire took the concessions.
Detroit was saved then.
Former Young spokesman Bob Berg said, “Every situation is different, so it is difficult to speculate on the specific solution that Mayor Young would have fashioned if he were confronted with today’s situation.”
However, he added, “If you look at the crisis he confronted back then, what stands out is the vision, leadership and political courage he showed in developing an overall solution to the problem and then forming a coalition with the community, civic, labor and corporate leadership that made the solution a reality.”
Young was always willing to take risks, Berg noted.
“A lot of his advisors told him it was political suicide for him to propose a tax increase in an election year, but he was determined to come up with a solution and he succeeded,” Berg said. “The fact that the voters approved it by more than two-thirds showed the confidence they had in his leadership.”
At a New Detroit Inc. awards ceremony honoring Milliken a few years ago at the Detroit Opera House, I watched the former governor talk about his special relationship with Young and how they would disagree on a number of issues but in the end arrive at an amicable resolution. The two men understood each other.
There is no doubt that Young had tremendous clout and the political acumen that allowed him to engage in political power play in preserving Detroit’s interest no matter what it was. He was a realist who knew when to demand and raise hell, and when to go into the negotiating room and make things happen.
He understood how to utilize the skills and credibility of others who may not have shared his own background and experience in the Joshua generation of the Civil Rights Movement to his own benefit and that of the city.
So at this point of no return, Detroit needs to show some political muscle, but also skill in negotiating an agreement that averts a financial catastrophe.
We all aspire to do better than those who came before us. Coleman Young set the benchmark and he sure played hardball, which explains the title of his autobiography, “Hard Stuff.”
The challenge is for the current leadership in Detroit to make it work. This is your Coleman Young moment. Show us your mojo.
When asked about what motivates progressive people to push for social change, Young offered his own prescription:
“Nobody does something for nothing. No such thing as a free lunch. People come together in coalition because they think it is to their personal advantage, and to the degree that their personal direction and aspiration merge with that of the others in the coalition, they will move forward.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 03:15
Category: Top News Written by Phil Power
Dear Governor --
You celebrated your 90th birthday Monday. I’m sure you and Helen did
it in your usual low-key manner, enjoying the serene beauty of the Old
Mission Peninsula near Traverse City.
All of your friends know how proud you are of the tradition of public
service that has run through your family for generations. Your father,
James T. Milliken, was mayor of Traverse City and a State Senator from
1941-50. And your grandfather, James W. Milliken, served in the state
senate from 1898-1900.
You were elected to represent the same senate district – the 27th –
in 1960. To the best of my knowledge, that set a Michigan record for
family members holding the same senatorial seat.
You were only in the senate a single term, but made your mark early,
leading a revolt against the Republican “mossbacks” who controlled the
upper house in those days. You led a bunch of “Young Turks,” both
Republican moderates and Democrats, who essentially seized control of
the Senate from a bunch of reactionaries.
Four years later, the Republican Party nominated you to run for
lieutenant governor with George Romney -- the first time our two top
officials were elected as a team. You were reelected two years later,
and when Romney left Michigan to serve in President Nixon’s cabinet,
you became our governor in 1969.
Following that, you were elected to three four-year terms – 1970,
1974 and 1978. Given the eight-year term limits voters enacted later,
your time in office will probably remain a record forever.
Nobody ever wondered about your sincerity. Your political style
meshed perfectly with your personality: civil, decent, modest, yet
stubborn in what you thought right. You enjoyed praise, but were
perfectly willing to withstand criticism for unpopular decisions.
Your constant refrain was, and is, “Good policies make good
politics.” Even a brief look at the politicians who followed you makes
a convincing case that you helped create a sane and moderate Michigan
political culture that has only recently come undone.
You made it clear that Michigan’s future was tied to that of Detroit.
And you made no secret that you respected your old senatorial
colleague, Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young -- and that you believed in
helping his city -- even though that was resented and opposed by made
in your own party.
Your interest in preserving and protecting our unparalleled natural
resources was a hallmark of your Administration, an interest you
followed by helping create in 1982 the Council of Great Lakes
Governors, the first attempt to pull together the states surrounding
the largest body of drinkable fresh water on the earth.
Most long-serving politicians leave office, only to see their
popularity spiral downwards. Did that affect you? A statewide poll
conducted by Market Opinion Research (the best polling firm of its
day) in 1980 after you had served 11 years in office produced these
“favorables”: Republicans: 87%; Democrats: 70%; Union members: 70%;
Blacks: 75%; Catholics: 74%; ticket splitters: 73%.
Politicians these days would drool all over the floor to have such
numbers. Still, like many other moderate Republicans, you have fretted
for decades over the rightward tilt of your party. In 2004 you
declined to support President George W. Bush for President, endorsing
Sen. John Kerry, saying: “The truth is that President George W. Bush
does not speak for me or for many other moderate Republicans on a very
broad cross section of issues.”
Two years ago, you endorsed Republican Rick Snyder for governor, and
some say you may have helped make a difference in that year’s crowded
As you turn 90, two of your former staff members who know you best
sent me their summing up:
Craig Ruff, your special Assistant for Human Services: “Governor
Milliken didn’t just spend the longest time as Michigan’s governor; he
also set the highest standards of conduct and yield of public duties.
He performed in a gentlemanly way. He produced good things likewise.
Mr. Milliken softened the natural gulfs between Democrats and
Republicans; liberals and conservatives; and people living in rural,
suburban and urban areas.”
He typified your style as governing that bridged divisions and
produced the greatest good for all. He led. We followed. Toward no
greater aims has a leader so successfully propelled.”
Bill Rustem, your special Assistant for Natural Resources and
Environment who is today Gov. Snyder’s Chief of Strategy: “The easy
road for any politician is to appeal to people’s hates, their fears,
and their greed; to be an echo chamber for the worst thoughts, deeds
and words of human nature.
“Governor Milliken always rejected that road. Rather, he believes
that public servants had a higher calling – a calling to find the best
in each of us; to challenge convention in order to build a better
tomorrow; and to find the ties that bring people together rather than
wedge them apart.”
So, Bill Milliken, it is an honor and a pleasure, to join so many,
many of your friends and admirers in wishing you the very happiest
returns of the day. Your life’s work has been to make Michigan a far
better place than you found it.
And you did.
Editor’s Note: Former newspaper publisher and University of Michigan
Regent Phil Power is a longtime observer of Michigan politics and
economics. He is also the founder and chairman of The Center for
Michigan, a nonprofit, bipartisan centrist think-and-do tank, designed
to cure Michigan’s dysfunctional political culture. He is also on the
board of the Center’s Business Leaders for Early Education. The
opinions expressed here are Power’s own and do not represent the
official views of The Center. He welcomes your comments at
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 10:59
Category: Top News Written by Leland Stein III
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the third round at the West Region of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships, the No. 1 seeded Michigan State Spartans outlasted the No. 8 seeded St. Louis Billikens 65-61.
The Spartans’ victory gave them a trip to the Elite 8 and set up a matchup of two future Hall of Fame coaches, MSU’s Tom Izzo and Louisville’s Rick Pitino.Both have won NCAA titles. Izzo has now led his Spartans to their 10th Sweet 16 since 1998.
MSU won an ugly slugfest against St. Louis and as a result many prognosticators proclaimed that the Spartans would not be able to beat Louisville, especially with the loss of 6-foot-5 freshman Branden Dawson, who is sidelined with an ACL injury. His inside presence surely will be missed as the Spartans advance in the tournament, but will that stop MSU’s quest?
With senior Draymond Green putting himself in the exclusive company of being only the third person to produce two triple doubles in NCAA tournament history. The other two were Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. There is no doubting that the Spartans following Green’s lead have the juice to keep their run going.
Give Coach Rick Majerus’ Billikens credit for their game plan and scrappy play. Most rational individuals would respect the fact that St Louis just wouldn’t go away, hitting late 3-pointers to keep the game interesting and using timeouts to extend it. Majerus wasn’t going to fade away, and he did an admirable job managing what little time he had left.
“That was one of the tougher games we’ve played in,” Izzo said. “But you’ve got to give our guys credit, too. We didn’t pretend to be God’s gift to basketball. We know we’re a working man’s group. And we had to work today.”
Credit MSU and former Pershing Detroit Public School League (PSL) hoopster Keith Appling, who answered the bell at crunch time. Appling busted a 3-pointer from the right corner that gave the Spartans their margin of victory. With Michigan State’s season in peril, Green turned to Appling during a timeout and told him to be ready. His moment was near. And when it arrived, Appling delivered.
“I don’t need to be a hero trying to make some scoop layup,” Green said of his decision to pass up a shot. “If I see a guy open, I’m going to hit him. He was wide open in the corner and I knew once he caught the ball, it was going in. I didn’t try to get the rebound. I ran down the court. I already knew it was going in.”
Appling scored a team high 19 points for the Spartans in a game where St. Louis dared him to shoot.
“All night they pretty much had me begging to shoot the ball,” Appling said. “We got in the huddle in one of our timeouts and Draymond told me I was a 41 percent 3-point shooter last year, so shoot the ball. We drew up a play for him, and the defense collapsed and I was wide open. He hit me with a pass that was perfect, right in my shooter’s pocket, and I was able to knock it down. As soon as it came off of my hands, it felt good.”
After Michigan State lost its first two games this season to North Carolina and Duke, there were some who wondered if this squad would recover and live up to the school’s high standards, the ones set by players such as Jason Richardson, Magic Johnson, Greg Kelser, Mo Peterson, Steve Smith, Charlie Bell, Scott Skiles, Jay Vincent, Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager and Mateen Cleaves, just to mention a few.
There’s no deliberation anymore. Michigan State is more than legitimate and the Spartans can win with any style. Make them run and they’ll run. Slow them down and they’ll crawl. Start a fight and they’ll finish it. They know what it takes.
“We all stuck together,” Green said. “That’s how we won.”
And what it will take if they continue to win.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 16:53
Category: Top News Written by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr.
Is democracy a luxury good in America, discarded when the going gets rough?
Apparently Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder thinks so.
In Michigan, Detroit and other cities have hit the wall. The Great Recession has devastated city finances. Everyone agrees tough steps are needed.
Snyder’s response is what Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein calls economic “shock doctrine.” Use the crisis to force-feed an unpopular far-right agenda: privatizing basic services; selling off public parks and assets for private gain; breaking labor contracts; laying off teachers, cops and other vital service providers.
Meanwhile, the governor calls for cutting taxes for corporations, and his Republican colleagues in the House slash federal support for states and localities, intensifying the pressure.
Citizens oppose this, so democracy itself must be trashed — particularly in majority minority cities. In Benton Harbor and Pontiac, the governor has invoked Public Act 4 and appointed emergency managers with extraordinary powers. The emergency managers can break all city contracts; abolish all city offices; sell off the public’s assets; pass and revoke laws, all without consultation or approval of the citizens’ elected representatives.
In Detroit, Snyder has said, “Let’s have it so the city can keep running the city.” But his formulation of that doesn’t include the elected City Council members. Rather than invoking the economic martial law of Public Act 4, the governor has offered Detroit a “consent agreement.”
Instead of an emergency manager, the governor’s draft would create a nine-person “Financial Advisory Board” with similarly unlimited budgetary and economic development powers. The mayor and City Council would name three board members; the governor would pick the rest.
Not surprisingly, the document has received a skeptical response from elected officials. U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said he objects because the proposed agreement “essentially asks the city to forfeit its citizens’ rights in exchange for no tangible benefit.”
The governor offers no new assistance from the state. While city workers face another blow, corporate vultures are circling, salivating at the possibilities of gentrifying public parks or profiting from privatized services.
But Detroit didn’t cause the housing bubble or the Great Recession. It is bizarre that Wall Street’s excesses cause the mess and then the bill is sent to the victims.
Moreover, Snyder and other Republican governors are competing to lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy, even as they savage services for working and poor families and sell off public assets. The result will starve vital investments — in infrastructure, in schools and children, in health care and worker training. This is a road to impoverishment.
What’s needed instead is more democracy. Federal aid should be increased to cities and states to avoid layoffs. A regional development plan should be put together by federal, state and local officials.
In the city, community meetings are needed to discuss diffi-cult choices. The mayor and the City Council should insist that the city’s creditors share in the sacrifice. Union workers have made significant concessions; they must not be trampled. It simply isn’t right to claim that contracts with banks and creditors are sacrosanct, while those with workers can be discarded.
The financial elites who caused the mess should not be given dictatorial powers to clean it up.
And democracy isn’t a luxury; it is a fundamental right.
This column ran in the Chicago Sun Times
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 16:41
Category: Top News Written by Hiram Jackson, CEO, Real Times Media
Over the course of the past few months we have all been aware that this day was coming. With the governor’s Consent Agreement looming, we find our city and region in the midst of a political and financial
Even those of us who have confidence in our mayor knew that the city’s problems were just too massive and complicated
to resolve without some outside assistance.
The truth is, Mayor Dave Bing did not create this problem, as Gov. Rick Snyder discussed at the recent Pancakes & Politics forum. Rather, he inherited a painfully broken city and this financial crisis has been looming for decades.
Bing knew when he accepted the job of leading the state’s largest city that it would be a major challenge, and he has accepted that challenge.
Given the resources the mayor has to work with, I believe that he and his staff have fought a good fight. Certainly I, as a city resident, would like to have better city services and a much safer environment in which to live and work. But because the mayor has been upfront regarding the challenge, I, like so many others, remain patient because we believe in Detroit and want to be a part of its renaissance.
But yes, there is the other side. Those of us who interact with Gov. Snyder also know that he truly wants the city of Detroit
to succeed. He wants the mayor and the City Council to develop a viable plan that restores financial confidence and creates a path to solvency. Snyder has told everyone who cares to listen that he does not want to “take over” Detroit.
Quite frankly, I believe him. Who would want to create such a fight in the midst of the state’s economic upswing and in the middle of such a critical election year?
Call me crazy or naïve, but I believe the governor when he says Michigan will not be successful until Detroit is successful. We all know it to be true, but it still feels good to hear others acknowledge that fact.
Under different circumstances, the two successful businessmen we have in Mayor Bing and Gov. Snyder would make a formidable duo to shepherd in the type of change our city needs. However, even with these two good men and all of their good intentions, there is no denying what lies ahead.
Mr. Governor, we know that you have a job to do. We know that you cannot just sit idly by and watch the state’s largest city fall into bankruptcy. We know that as the chief executive officer of the state of Michigan, you have an ethical, legal and fiduciary obligation to protect all of the state. But as you contemplate this historic, monumental challenge to democracy with all of its nationally constitutional implications, allow me to provide you with some food for thought.
1. Keep real Detroiters empowered and at the table.
2. Remember that Detroit just recently elected five new council members; the citizens spoke loudly and wanted new voices. Now that we have them, they should not be stricken silent. If brought to the table properly, they could become great partners in executing your plans.
3. Once you decide to move forward with the Consent Agreement or emergency manager, move swiftly. Get in, fix the problems, and get out fast.
4. Keep your plans transparent and give city residents firsthand, person-to-person face time. Host town hall meetings, community hearings and whatever else is necessary to help residents understand your plan. You will without a doubt have a tough crowd but people will appreciate your doing so and respect the feedback.
5. Get some quick wins. Fix the street lights, fix EMS, fix the bus system.
6. Throughout it all remain mindful that the resistance you will receive is because Detroiters have been bamboozled in the past and many feel they are under siege.
Above all else, we want you to understand that we want the same things as every other Michigander — good schools, safe neighborhoods and first-rate city services. In the spirit of cooperation and collaboration, we will prevail.
Now, let’s get to work.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 10:44
Category: Top News Written by Bankole Thompson
Lack of confidence holds Detroit’s future hostage
The clock is ticking, loudly. So loud, in fact, that at this crucial point, whether you support the Consent Agreement from Lansing that will purportedly right the wrongs of Detroit’s financial woes or not is not of paramount importance. But whether you view the Consent Agreement as a takeover of Detroit government or a panacea to make the city financially sound, it is is your right to make that known clearly, as part of the debate on the governance and the financial wellbeing of the city.
Something is not clear in this whole matter of the Consent Agreement, and it makes you wonder who is telling the truth or has failed to communicate properly both to Detroit and Lansing in the days, weeks or months leading up to the drafting of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Consent Agreement.
Last week I sat down with Mayor Dave Bing at Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD) for a conversation on the future of Detroit hosted by WCCCD’s Global Conversation Speaker Series during which Bing categorically made it clear he won’t sign the current agreement from the governor. But what is surprising was that the mayor said he only received the draft agreement hours before he was required to sign it. At the same time, Bing said he sent a plan to Lansing in October of last year and didn’t hear from the governor or his lieutenants.
On the other hand, when I met with Gov. Snyder last week, he said he has been waiting on a plan that makes sense but hasn’t received one. The governor feels the city is running out of time and he will not preside over the state’s largest metropolis going under financially without some form of rescue.
So when you talk to Bing and his aides you hear one story. When you speak with Snyder and his team members, it is a completely different story. It’s hard to believe which side is correct despite the evidence that both sides are concerned about how Detroit forges ahead.
But the problem that is not being discussed now is the lack of trust between Detroit and Lansing, as well as among Detroit elected officials themselves.
For the governor and the mayor to publicly spar so continuously as if both men were running for the same office shows a lack of trust between them, as the city is quickly running out of money. Added to that conundrum is the lack of trust among some members of the Detroit City Council and the mayor’s administration.
In fact, Bing publicly scorned Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown at the WCCCD mayoral conversation, accusing him of running to the media before negotiations on the city’s finances are even in place. Others have also pointed to Brown, including a popular political blog site Detroituncovered.com as the one who initiated the idea of a Consent Agreement with Lansing.
Brown has yet to publicly deny whether this is fact or fiction.
How Detroit moves forward is more important than a war of words in the public square. The city cannot expect to ride this serious financial storm if the key players in the room don’t trust each other.
We can’t expect to see any lasting progress in this hot button proposal if the various emissaries representing both Snyder and Bing fail to show they understand the magnitude of the crisis, or simply don’t have any faith in each other.
Is it a case of a bad messenger carrying a good message or is it the other way around?
But one thing the Consent Agreement did is it created an unprecedented show of unity of Detroit government despite the fractions that existed within that government. In other words, the agreement woke from slumber those local elected officials who were sleeping, reveling in how much grandstanding and filibustering they can engage in, instead of a real plan to rescue struggling families in this city, rebuild Detroit and give confidence to businesses invested in this city.
The bottom line is that Detroit will have to confront the reality of its economic crisis. Whether that becomes a payless payday — though Bing has vowed it won’t happen — we will soon know.
Snyder and Bing need to call a truce at a joint press conference as soon as the governor returns from Italy and show their resolve to tackle this financial tsunami, and then let their aides come into the room and do the remaining work.
If the aides are not capable or were responsible for the breakdown of communication, replace them immediately because this city’s future cannot afford mediocre representation or inept leadership.
Snyder’s state treasurer, Andy Dillon, the former Democratic House Speaker, is not well liked in some quarters of city government, especially among some members of the Detroit City Council.
If that’s because of Dillon’s cross-carpeting to the Synder Republican administration, that should not matter. He is the state treasurer and his words and his pen carry a lot of weight.
If the dislike for Dillon is part of what is fanning the strong opposition against the Consent Agreement, it certainly doesn’t help address the issues at hand.
What the city and its leaders should do now is draft a constructive plan that makes the city financially sound and also protects the jewels of the city like the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and others.
At the March 12 Michigan Chronicle Pancakes & Politics forum at the Detroit Athletic Club, Cynthia Pasky, CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions and the chairperson of the Detroit Downtown Partnership (the group of major downtown developers), adomonished the governor in a very subtle way about the need for him to make a careful and smart decision that would not lead to any possible unrest in the city in the coming summer.
Pasky, a Detroiter, cited as an example the return of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix this summer, which draws international attention and visitors to Belle Isle, hoping that such events would not be halted or interrupted by decisions that could have adverse impact on the overall wellbeing of Detroit, its residents and businesses.
In the last week I’ve received many calls and spoken with leaders across the spectrum of business and politics as well as residents who still have to wait for hours for emergency runs or police calls.
They want things to change, soon.
The action or inaction of our leaders both in Detroit and Lansing can trigger a situation that would end up costing us more.
To avert that situation, it is time for both Gov. Snyder and Mayor Bing to rebuild trust. Let’s face it, the mark of a leader is his or her ability to inspire trust among those they expect to follow in their footsteps.
Snyder and Bing would do well to ponder the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The people when rightly and fully trusted will return the trust,” and those of John F. Kennedy, “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 02:27
Category: Top News Written by Tom Watkins
I genuinely like and respect both Mayor Bing and Governor Snyder.
It is down right painful to watch two good, decent men, that want what
is best for our city and state, to be tangled up in "us vs them"
issues that have the potential, if it has not already, to spill over
into a "City vs. State or worse yet, a racial divide with no easy way
I am pleased to see Governor Snyder schedule community town hall
meetings in Detroit to show he does not have "a hidden agenda to
subvert democracy." A few days of listening will be time well spent.
Harvey Hollilins lll, the Governor's director of urban and metro
initiatives, said he will work with the NAACP and other community
groups to organize the meetings.
Words have consequences. Mayor Bing calling Gov. Snyder less than
honest and "disingenuous" and the Gov's retort being Detroit has a
"cultural" problem accepting help, are not advancing solutions to the
financial Armageddon facing the city.
It is good, Gov. Snyder is off to Italy and German in search of jobs
and investments for Michigan--- the time gone can be used as a
"cooling off period."
Mayor Bing, with all due respect, you have moved too slowly in
addressing a fiscal mess and structural mismanagement that you
inherited and has been decades in the making. As you so painfully
know, the fiscal gimmicks, one time only funding sources, paying your
Visa card with your Master card borrowing options have run out. The
City of Detroit is heading towards bankruptcy if drastic action is not
The city, needs the state on its side to solve the fiscal crisis that
has amassed for decades.
The choices range from serious injury - to death:
* Consent Agreement
* Emergency Manager
Gov. Snyder is taking the heat for over a half decade of a whole bunch
of politicians, Republicans and Democrats, sitting in Lansing and
Detroit, that have kicked the Detroit problems down the road.
Today, we have reached the point that there is no more can or road.
If you have a hole in your roof, pretending to fix it- does not keep
the rain out. It is time to stop the pretending and spending and fix
both the short-term and long term structural fiscal holes in Detroit
No Fairy Tale
The changes needed are painful because they have been neglected for
too long. Once upon a time, a band-aid or aspirin may have sufficed.
Today, major surgery and amputation is require to save the city. This
is the reality that needs to be faced.
Pointing fingers will not get the job done.
Be clear, the only human that likes change-- is an infant. The changes
required are difficult and will hurt.
When you deny and neglect problems as long as City and State leaders
have, the pain is only magnified.
Governor Snyder repeatedly has said he is open to compromise on the
Consent Agreement, as long as it truly addresses the fiscal and
management problems and holds everyone accountable.
Niccolo Machiavelli, centuries ago in his famous book, “The Prince,”
offered his analysis to the political theater we are witnessing
today, as Governor Snyder attempts to address long standing and
neglected problems in Detroit, when he said:
"It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry
out, nor more doubtful of success, or more dangerous to handle, than
to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all
those who profit by the old order and only lukewarm defenders in all
those who would profit by the new order."
We need a "new order." Stop the games, fix the problem.
Tom Watkins a regular contributor to these pages was a Charter
Commissioner serving Detroit on the Wayne County Charter Commission in
the 80's, and is the 2011 Detroit Chamber's Leadership Detroit
recipient. He is a US/China consultant and can be reached at:
Last Updated on Monday, 19 March 2012 04:00
Category: Top News Written by Michigan Chronicle
A talk with Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz
Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz has established quite a reputation during his tenure as the county’s top “money man.” And, by many reports, it’s a good one.
The treasurer serves as the county’s chief administrator to collect delinquent property taxes. He is the architect of the highly successful delinquent taxpayer assistance programs, which last year collected more than $250 million in delinquent taxes despite Michigan’s lackluster economy.
In 2011, over $200 million dollars was distributed to government units throughout Wayne County thanks to the success of a program called the Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund (DTRF) and auction revenue distributions made from programs administered by Wojtowicz.
In office more than thirty years, Wojtowicz is experienced in all areas of fiduciary management through property tax collection. He has logged a steady stream of accomplishments from successfully brokering a deal to fund essential governmental services during the toughest economic decline since the great depression to initiating an online auction of tax foreclosed properties which generated more than $32 million in sales last year.
Wojtowicz’s department has received favorable reviews for its commitment to treat distressed taxpayers with honesty, dignity and respect.
Although challenges remain, the treasurer manages to address the fight against blighted neighborhoods and property neglect by speculators with the introduction of “reverter” clauses in deeds. His efforts to implement electronic record management of deeds in collaboration with Register of Deeds Bernard J. Youngblood provided welcome improvement to the county’s outdated record management system and efforts to institute the electronic certification of deeds and 43-municipilaties filing of tax rolls are worthy of applause.
Last year, the Treasurer’s Office tax collection and taxpayer assistance efforts assisted more than 10,000 property owners avoid foreclosure, thereby preventing further blight and deterioration of neighborhoods.
The Michigan Chronicle sat down with Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz to learn more about how county residents can avoid tax foreclosure.
MC: What are the duties of the Wayne County Treasurer?
WCT: The Wayne County Treasurer is responsible for collecting delinquent property taxes in the forty-three municipalities. I am also responsible to manage the finances of the county. While I do not approve or prevent expenditures I am responsible to make certain there is money available to cover those expenses.
MC: Are there things the treasurer cannot do about property taxes?
WCT: I cannot change anyone’s property assessment, nor can I forgive penalties and interest that accrue. The assessment is determined by the local community and the interest and penalties are set by state law. If a taxpayer cannot or will not pay taxes I am required to foreclose on the property.
MC: How many real property tax bills does a property owner received each year?
WCT: The local treasurer will send two tax bills each calendar year, a summer tax bill in July and a winter tax bill in December. Taxpayers who do not receive a summer and/or winter tax bill should call the city, township or village treasurer where the property is located and request a tax bill. Property owners should make sure the treasurer has the correct mailing name and address.
MC: When are current property taxes due and when do they become delinquent?
WCT: Each year, current summer taxes are due July 1 and the current winter taxes are due December 1. The taxes are payable to the local treasurer until the last day in February.
According to State law, on March 1st taxes are delinquent and are sent to the County Treasurer for billing and collection with additional penalties and interest computed with a 4% penalty and 1% interest per month for the first year.
MC: What is the deadline for paying current taxes to the local treasurer?
WCT: The local treasurer can accept current real property tax payments through the last day in February.
MC: How are property taxes used?
WCT: Property taxes provide for essential government services for our 43 local communities as well as for the county. This includes police and fire protection, trash collection, and schools for our children.
MC: How many properties are facing foreclosure in Wayne County?
WCT: This year a record setting 42,000 properties in Wayne County face tax foreclosure. These are properties that have taxes from 2009 and earlier that have not been paid. We want to do whatever we can to assist distressed taxpayers in avoiding foreclosure.
MC: What is the state law governing property tax collection?
WCT: There is a three year period that property owners have before they go into foreclosure. The three stages are year one Delinquent, year two Forfeiture and year three Foreclosure.
In 1999, a Michigan Law, Public Act 123 (MCL 211.78) shortened the time property owners have to pay their delinquent taxes before losing their homes. The Public Act 123 timeline for 2009 taxes is as follows:
• July and December 2009: 2009 property taxes are billed by city and township local treasurer.
• March 1, 2010: Unpaid 2009 property taxes become delinquent and are forwarded to the county treasurer for collection. State law requires a 4% administration fee and 1% per month interest.
• October 1, 2010: A $15 collection fee is added for each parcel.
• March 1, 2011: Property is forfeited to the county treasurer. State law requires the addition of a $175 fee and $26 in recording fees. Interest increases from 1% per month to 1.5% per month, back to the date the taxes became delinquent.
• November 2011: Publication of forfeited properties subject to tax foreclosure on March 30th.
• March 1, 2012: Circuit Court enters a judgment of foreclosure. Property owners may redeem their property by paying the taxes, interest, and fees by March 30th.
• April 1, 2012: Property is foreclosed. Property owners lose all rights. Title to the property passes to the county treasurer.
• September and October 2012: Foreclosed property is sold at public auction. Properties not sold at the Wayne County auction are offered to the local communities. The treasurer has no control over properties once they are taken by the local municipalities or are sold at auction. Any property not taken by the local will enter the Wayne County Treasurer’s inventory and determination will be made at a later date as to how to proceed on those properties. The Wayne County Treasurer makes no representation as to what will happen with unsold properties.
MC: What if a property owner has paid the current taxes to the local treasurer and has a paid receipt but they get a delinquent tax notice?
WCT: Unpaid taxes are forwarded to the County Treasurer from the local municipality treasurer for collection on March 1 of each year succeeding the year it was due. Notices of unpaid taxes are sent to the name and address on the delinquent tax roll received from the local treasurer. Any questions or concerns regarding current tax payments must be directed to the local treasurer’s office. Should a taxpayer have a receipt and is unable to work things out with the local, we will work together with all to seek an appropriate resolution.
MC: Is there help for property owners to try to assist them in keeping their homes?
WCT: Yes, I don’t want anyone to lose their property. As county treasurer I established the Taxpayer Assistance Department and staffed it with trained professionals who are helping taxpayers with programs we have developed. It is best if those facing foreclosure contact my office right away to determine what options are available to assist them in paying their taxes.
Last year there were more than 23,000 properties that went into foreclosure and my office was able to help over 10,000 taxpayers arrange to keep their homes through our assistance program.
MC: What are the programs available?
WCT: The following taxpayer assistance programs are available:
The Stipulated Payment Agreement (SPA) allows for partial payments of 2009 and prior property taxes. The SPA agreement must be signed and returned by March 30, 2012. The terms are that the agreement must be completed and returned with a cashier’s check or money order for not less than 20% of the unpaid 2009 and prior years’ taxes. Agreements without a payment will not be accepted or processed. The agreement is not valid until signed by the Treasurer’s Office.
Taxpayers who own and occupy a home a home that they live in as the principal resident and are unable to pay the 2009 taxes by March 30th may be eligible for a Distressed Owner Occupant Extension (DOOE). When approved, property owners can receive up to an additional year to pay 2009 taxes. Interest continues to accrue.
MC: Can the Treasurer’s Office offer legal advice on foreclosure situations?
WCT: The Treasurer’s Office cannot offer legal advice. We have partnered with many non profit community organizations who can assist with legal adviceFor a list of community partner organizations visit our website.
MC: How do people get in touch with your office?
Taxes can be paid by online by credit card at www.treasurer.waynecounty.com. Payments can also be paid in person at the Treasurer’s Office located at 400 Monroe, 5th Floor, Detroit, MI.
MC: Do you have any final words for those facing property foreclosure?
WCT: March 30th is the deadline to pay or arrange payment for 2009 and earlier year taxes. My office is ready to help. Our message is clear; we don’t want anyone to lose their property due to foreclosure, so contact us right away. Let’s work together.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 15:50
Category: Top News Written by Wendell Anthony
Throughout the course of history those who believe in the virtue, the right and the blessings of liberty have been called upon to stand in the gap between those who would deny such rights and liberties.
It is important that we stand in coalition on the issue of voter protection, not because of anything that has been done wrong, but for the cause of everything to be done right. History reminds us from both the states of Florida and Ohio of how individuals confused by hanging chads, dangling chads, dimpled chads or no chads at all can be used subjectively to determine the results not in the election, but the selection of a president by the U.S. Supreme Court.
While we appreciate the efforts of the Michigan Secretary of State and her team, in the words of the so-called “great communicator” and presidential hero, Ronald Wilson Reagan, “trust but verify.” We want the verification from our direct participation that the hard work and efforts of men and women in barbershops, beauty parlors, churches, union halls, college campuses and street corners are respected and protected by our efforts.
Thousands of Americans have gathered in Selma, Alabama, to retrace the footsteps of civil rights workers, students, political and religious leaders.
Forty seven years ago they were led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, demanding the right to vote and to ensure voter dignity. We have gathered here to protect the right to vote and to maintain the dignity of all people.
Many of us believed that this bridge had already been crossed. We thought this battle had already been won by the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices of those who preceded us.
The state of Michigan has historically been a refuge for those often disenfranchised on their path to freedom and liberty from here to Canada. Now we find that Michigan seems to be a bastion for denying such opportunity. Is our state actively destroying its historic legacy of being a place of opportunity for all people?
Public Act 4 goes against the very conscious of America. Public Act 4 has caused over 226,737 Michiganders to sign a petition to declare that it is wrong, immoral, unethical and in our view, unconstitutional. As we Stand Up For Democracy today, we call upon the Bureau of Elections, the Secretary of State, the Board of Canvassers and all those associated with this process to:
1. Protect the petitions that have been turned in.
2. Provide a transparent process for verification.
3. Hold accountable all those who associated with this petition effort.
4. Adhere to the concerns levied by Congressman John Conyers, Hansen Clarke and Gary Peters, and Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow to take care that this process respects the rights of the people to have a just process and that democracy will prevail.
It is difficult to imagine how we as a nation can be fighting for the rights of other people to have full representation and to elect their own public officials in places like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and the Sudan and then at the same time deny the same rights of its own people here in our homeland. Something is very wrong in Michigan.
This is why our coalition has come together to Stand Up For Democracy. We urge every citizen of Michigan to join with us in this noble cause.
Wendell Anthony is president of the Detroit Branch NAACP.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 14:00
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