Category: Top News Written by Bill Johnson
Massive cutbacks and layoffs contained in Mayor Dave Bing’s proposed 2012-13 Detroit general fund budget, confirms the beleaguered city’s financial state of emergency. It may not be enough, and likely only the first wave of budget-cutting mandates that will extend well beyond next year.
As budget deliberations get underway, two things should receive the utmost priority: the decimation of the City Council budget and no reductions in the ranks of public safety personnel.
This year will be a watershed for the city mired in its worst economic predicament ever. A declining population and disappearing tax base does not bode well for the city’s future. Nor does its national reputation for uncontrolled violent crime.
Because there isn’t enough revenue coming in to feed the voracious appetite of government, the proposed $160 million budget cut may come up short. Mayor Bing may have to choose between even more draconian cuts -- or a tax hike, bitter pills that will make the city even more unattractive to investors and residents.
The bulk of anticipated savings next fiscal year seems to be based on assumptions not likely to materialize. City officials, for example, estimate a $15-million increase in dubious income tax revenue.
Failure of the city to realistically cut spending down to size means a rendezvous with more political and fiscal pain at some inescapable date. Overseers of the consent agreement are being readied to take control of financial decisions.
Outsourcing, the sale or transfer of some assets is one appealing option. City officials, intimidated by employee unions and other activist groups, have been cool to that idea.
A number of departments and programs -- from transportation to funding for the arts --could be served up. Personnel cuts are unavoidable. None, though, are more critical than police officers.
Mayor Bing’s recommended public safety staff reductions are a cause for alarm. On tap is a 10 percent pay cut for police officers, firefighters and/or EMS employees. No layoffs are anticipated. However, police ranks would shrink by 150 officers through attrition and early retirements.
By necessity the city must close the gap between budget expenditures and revenues. But police protection should be the last thing to fall to the budget ax. The very first responsibility of any government is to provide for the safety of its people.
Detroit’s survival, as bleak as that may be, depends on its ability to restore safety and security. That’s impossible in a lawless environment when there are not enough cops to deter and arrest. The prevailing violence more than justifies staffing police and fire personnel based, not on the ability to pay, but on public safety needs.
The legislative branch has never been known for its efficient monitoring of police or other essential services to determine their real value to the city. The council only has two major responsibilities — budget and contract approval. With enormous clout in these critical areas, safety needs have gone unfulfilled and resources frittered away.
The pragmatic use of taxpayer dollars has been a major council deficiency even with a sizeable research staff, an underused auditor general and an army of aides. Because the council’s bloated staff is out of sync with deteriorating services and the empty till, the first cuts should come from this budget.
It goes without saying that if the council spent as much time dealing with crime problems as it does playing the “blame game” with Gov. Rick Snyder, the whole of government would be more accountable to taxpayer interests.
Expect the City Council to look almost anywhere else —including police — rather than its own budget for ways to save. While contemptible, it would be par for the course.
Any government that cannot keep its citizens safe probably is incapable of setting good budget priorities. Put to a vote, however, there’s little doubt Detroiters would opt for more cops over a feckless council.
Last Updated on Monday, 16 April 2012 11:38
Category: Top News Written by Carol Cain: Special to the Chronicle
President Barack Obama is scheduled to make two stops in Metro Detroit April 18 for fundraisers hoping to raise over $1 million for his campaign as the contest moves into high gear with Michigan native son Mitt Romney looking like the GOP candidate to take him on in the fall election.
Obama will attend two invite-only events at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn Wednesday afternoon and a dinner at the Metro Detroit home of businesswoman Denise llitch.
“I’m honored to have been asked,” by the Obama campaign to host the event, she said of the dinner she and husband, Jim Scalici, are hosting at their Oakland County home.
The money chase is on now that former Penn. Senator Rick Santorum has dropped out of the GOP race, setting a clear path for Romney to become the Republican nominee once he secures 1,144 delegates, which is likely in the next few weeks.
It will then be a money chase to raise the over $1 billion political insiders say will jointly be needed by the two candidates. There will be a flurry of dinners, receptions and meets and greets by both men in coming months.
You can count Roy Roberts, who left a comfortable retirement to take over as emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools when asked by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, and appeared on “Michigan Matters” with Ilitch and Charlie Beckham, chairman of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, among those who would not miss tonight’s dinner party.
‘“I’ve known Obama for years,” said Roberts, one of the most successful African American executives in the nation who worked at General Motors and other firms. “He even introduced me to Valerie Jarrett (his senior advisor) when I was involved with a private equity company (she has background in it).”
“Obama’s done a great job and I want to see him re-elected,” said Roberts, who added it is a critical time in our country and Obama needs to continue his work in a second term.
“Do you know how much it means to be able to go into a classroom and see thousands of kids (of color) and tell them they can be anything they want to be – including president of the United States!” Roberts added with pride.
Conversation turned to Obama and his being treated differently as our first president of color.
“There’s no question about that,” said Roberts. “What the Republicans have done, or not done the past few years, is try to get him out of office. That’s tragic and doesn’t speak well for our country.”
Ilitch added, “when have you ever heard anyone question where someone was born?” referring to some who still raise doubts about Obama’s nationality despite the fact he has provided his birth certificate for public consumption.
Everyone agreed Michigan would get more attention this fall with the auto industry housed here and Romney being raised in the Motor City.
“It will be a great contest,” said Beckham. “The president will win as the GOP won’t put out a strong enough platform to beat him.”
“It won’t be a runaway but it will bring out some good issues -- like the economy and gas prices,” Beckham added.
Last Updated on Monday, 16 April 2012 20:07
Category: Top News Written by Leland Stein III
Having traversed much of the country, I can see why Opening Day in the Motor City is a euphoric experience. First of all, it signals the change from winter to spring which is always a time to celebrate in this cold weather state.But most importantly, the Detroit Tigers have a team that many expect to compete at a very high level, and maybe even win the American League Pennant.
Every spring hope runs eternal for all teams as the new Major League Baseball season commences. This is especially true for the Detroit Tigers as they lost in six games to the Texas Rangers in the AL pennant series.
As I walked around Comerica Park and conversed with the diverse population that was making its way into the game, it became very apparent that this 2012 version of the Tigers was a team that had many giddy. It didn’t hurt that the opening game featured Justin Verlander fresh off a dominant season that saw him take home both the Cy Young and MVP honors. He was absolutely fantastic last year, as he won 24 games with a 2.40 ERA and 250 total strikeouts. His stuff was absolutely electric on a good day, and it makes him a threat to spin a no-hitter every time out.
Boston tossed out Jon Lester, one of the top left-handed hurlers in baseball. He has also thrown a no-hitter and had won at least 15 games in four straight seasons.
They did not disappoint as both were magnificent in the Tigers season opening 3-2 win. Both squads are considered World Series contenders, so the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox series was a prequel to what might be.
Woodward Avenue, Grand Circus Park and Brush Street were abuzz with tailgaters and revelers. The smells of hot dogs, hamburgers and whatever permeated the Detroit Woodward corridor.
The Detroit Tigers’ Opening Day 2012 was almost perfect — and a record season-opener crowd of 45,027 at Comerica Park in Detroit would agree.
Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander was simply dominant Opening Day against the visiting Boston Red Sox.
AL batting champion Miguel Cabrera showed all that the move to third base is a work in progress, but it appears he will do the darn thing as the season progress. The “Big Fella” is an intense competitor and that will go a long way in him getting the handle on a position change.
Also, the Tigers’ newly-acquired power-hitting first baseman Prince Fielder drew a standing ovation the first time he came to bat.
“I looked around and could not believe I was in Detroit,” he said in the post game interview. “I am very excited about being, in a sense, back home. I really like the possibilities of what this team can accomplish.”
Fielder, son of former Tigers star Cecil Fielder, kicked many naysayers to the curb, showing all that he has a glove and can field his position. He made a couple short hop scoops that preserved an out.
“To Prince’s credit,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, “he has worked hard all spring training and I’m sure it will pay huge dividends for us.”
Fielder said the work was the least he could do for Cabrera, who was willing to make the move from first to third to accommodate him.
“With Miguel doing all the hard work he was doing, I felt I owed it not only to the team but to him,” Fielder said, “because I couldn’t be here without him being willing to move to third base. I thought I owed it to him to work just as hard as he is at third.”
Opening Day is over and the long grind that is baseball is under way. The 2012 version of the Detroit Tigers has the entire state lightheaded about the possibilities. If all goes right this could be a special season for Detroit’s Boys of Summer.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 17:31
Category: Top News Written by G. Strand
A statewide initiative to amend the Michigan Constitution to permit adding eight casinos in the state, including one in the city of Detroit, is raising eyebrows and interest among Michigan residents desperate for the type of economic infusion casinos have proven capable of delivering.
Work is already under way to gather the required signatures to place the proposal on the November 2012 General Election ballot, according to Citizens for More Michigan Jobs (CMMJ), the statewide developer group proposing the eight casinos.
The group needs to collect 322,609 signatures by July 9 to place its proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot. For any of the individual casinos to go forward, the proposal would need to have a majority of “yes” votes in that community in addition to statewide approval.
If successful, these casino operators will join the three privately owned casinos in Detroit and the 22 Indian-run operations throughout the state.
The proposed casino locations include Detroit, Pontiac, Romulus, Macomb County’s Clinton Township, Grand Rapids, DeWitt Township (near Lansing), Birch Run Township (in southern Saginaw County) and Clam Lake Township (near Cadillac).
Detractors of the initiative are already arguing that Michigan’s casino market is saturated and that new entries would jeopardize the sizeable tax revenue generated by the existing casino operations.
Given Michigan’s languishing economic recovery, many CMMJ supporters are asking: is this the right time to hang out the “closed to new business” sign in the state?
Ballot proposal supporters hope that Michigan residents will not drive investment dollars away.
What’s at stake?
An estimated 16,000 permanent jobs will be created in the state, including approximately 4,200 high paying union jobs in Detroit comprised of 3,000 permanent full-time and 1,200 construction jobs, according to a CMMJ release.
“Detroit residents will have the first opportunity for the Detroit casino jobs and Wayne County residents outside of Detroit will have the second opportunity to be hired,” according to a CMMJ spokesperson.
New jobs and increased state and local tax revenues are the primary reasons that CMMJ submitted the Constitutional amendment petition to the Michigan Board of Canvassers. The petition was approved to allow the collection of 322,000 required signatures to place the casino initiative on the November ballot.
It is projected that the state and local tax benefits of adding the proposed eight casinos are significant. For example, in 2010 the 22 tribal casinos contributed $61 million in state and local taxes, the three Detroit casinos paid $100 million in state taxes and $164 million in taxes to the city of Detroit.
The eight new casinos estimate contributing an additional $300 million annually to state and local governments to benefit schools, police and fire protection and road repairs. Tax revenue generated in Detroit is conservatively estimated as gross taxable receipts of $226 million according to the 2010 Innovation Group’s study.
The Citizens for More Michigan Jobs proposal increases the Gaming Tax rate from 19 to 23 percent with a formula that increases Detroit’s distribution to 60% and decreases the State’s to 40%. This would mean an estimated $56 million annually for Detroit from this Fourth Casino, and as much as $50 million in additional tax revenue from the three existing casinos, all dedicated for Detroit’s police and fire. Additionally, the State taxes are now dedicated to K-12 education and road repair.
The seven casinos outside of Detroit have a different gaming tax formula for the 23 percent that includes the host city, host county, additional state wide funding for K-12 education, police and fire, and gaming addiction. With 20% of the tax going to cities like Pontiac and Romulus, these casinos would have a significant impact on their local residents.
BATTLE LINES FORM
But opponents, who say the state is already at full capacity for gaming, aren’t buying the projections math.
“We’re talking about doubling the number of casinos in this state, and we know that we’re simply beyond the ability to open another casino and see any meaningful economic growth or any real jobs that would be created,” says James Nye with Protect MI Vote, a group representing several casinos and tribes across the state.
Protect MI Vote has raised $50 million to fight the expansion effort.
With more than one-hundred local investors, Citizens for More Michigan Jobs includes the local development team for the new Detroit casino, Detroit Casino Partnership (DCP). DCP key investors are Detroit funeral director O’Neil Swanson, Four Tops singer Duke Fakir, boxing promoter Emanuel Stewart, radio personality and cable veteran Wade “Butterball Jr.” Briggs and president and CEO of the DCP, Andrew McLemore, Jr. DCP ownership is local and revenue generated stays in Detroit.
Detroit Casino Partnership’s plan will “raise the bar, creating a much broader entertainment experience for the customer,” say its members. “Tourism is Michigan’s second largest industry yet Detroit has not realized its full potential as an urban entertainment destination.
Assets like sports teams and events, our international boarder, and a long music history can be leveraged to make Detroit more of a destination. We see the job growth for Detroit extending far beyond the walls of our facility.”
The statewide signature drive is the first hurdle that organizers must clear in order to deliver the 4,200 promised jobs.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 17:10
Category: News Briefs Written by Michigan Chronicle
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that extremely low-income residents in Michigan living with HIV/AIDS will continue to receive permanent housing as a result of $1.3 million in grants HUD is awarding. Annually, this HUD funding will provide permanent supportive housing so they can manage their health and access needed supportive services such as case management and employment training. The funding is offered through HUD’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program (HOPWA) and will renew HUD’s support of Cass Community Social Services.
“These grants offer housing, vital healthcare and hope to hundreds of households that combine to literally save lives,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Having stable housing can make all the difference to the health of someone living with HIV/AIDS who might otherwise be struggling to live on our streets.”
Cass Community Social Services Inc., in Detroit will receive a HOPWA permanent supportive housing renewal grant of $1,348,970 to continue providing 11 units of facility-based housing for chronically homeless individuals at their Cass House facility. The program includes the provision of wrap-around supportive services to promote and maintain client housing stability. The program also promotes self sufficiency by providing educational and substance abuse counseling opportunities. The project was formerly administered by the city of Detroit Department of ---Health.
Earlier this year, HUD awarded these jurisdictions nearly $300 million in formula grants. This year, HUD had made available a total of $332 million in HOPWA funds to help communities provide housing for this special needs population. Overall, these resources assist over 60,000 households annually to provide stable housing and reduced risks of homelessness for those living with HIV and other challenges.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 16:59
Category: Top News Written by Michigan Chronicle
In this exclusive interview, Dr. Antoine M. Garibaldi, the 25th president of the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), and the first African American to sit at the helm of affairs at the university, talks to Michigan Chronicle editor Bankole Thompson about why he chose to come to Detroit, his vision for the region, and the need to build a generation of critical thinkers. The former provost and chief academic officer of Howard University and president of Ganon University, also focuses on the future of young Black males and the role universities should play in our current economy.
MICHIGAN CHRONICLE: How has it been so far since you became president of the University of Detroit Mercy?
ANTOINE GARIBALDI: It’s been very productive. Though it’s ten months into the year right now, I’ll say there are a lot of things which I’ve been able to do thus far that were on my list, which includes getting out to the community and getting to know all the city and county leaders, as well as all of the education leaders. Also got around to Oak Park School District, parochial and public schools.
MC: What’s been your sense of this area?
AG: First, people have a high degree of regard and respect for the university. They are pretty knowledgeable about the quality of education we provide. They also know what we do out in the community. One of the platforms is community engagement that the university is so well known for. I’d like to start with our School of Architecture, because right now in the Detroit Collaborative Design Center much of the work those individuals are doing…working along with Detroit Works, and doing some of the focus groups that would be necessary in what the next footprint of this city would look like.
MC: What role do you see your university playing in Detroit’s transformation?
AG: Well, we’re involved in it. We’ve got all of this talent in terms of education, the school of law downtown, the school of dentistry playing important roles. I’d like to think more than anything that we have three campuses in the city of Detroit, more than 90 acres and we’re going to be here to stay. We consider ourselves a part of this community and also we want to strengthen every aspect of it. There are also some conversations I’ve been having with some neighborhood groups about how we can strengthen and expand some neighborhoods. We’re certainly looking at Livernois. The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation has Six Mile-Eight Mile as a target. We really want to cover Six M Roadile to the Lodge freeway as well. We’d like to expand retail, we’d like to expand the opportunities for our students and our faculty and staff to live. There are so many things that we can do and its going to require some partnerships.
MC: You are the first lay person — non-priest — to be the president of this university. That means a departure from how past administrations operated. Do you agree?
AG: Somewhat. The individuals who preceded me from Father Jerry Stackhouse to Sister Maureen Fay also had the same kinds of visions for the university. Our leadership styles might vary but we all have the same basic interests that been urban, Jesuit and Catholic, and focusing on services of social justice are all important dimensions of our mission. I might do it in a little different way but I think that any kind of way in which we can expand our involvements and opportunities we should take full advantage of. There are some other opportunities we want to build on too. We are going to host a White House town hall meeting for young people in May.
MC: Is there an expectation with you being the first African-American president of the University of Detroit?
AG: Some people may see it that way (laughs). I like to think of it more from my standpoint of being engaged, really involved in the city and I really think that the faculty and staff as well as the students have that same kind of feeling. That’s why they come here because this is the place that’s known for its active involvement in the city and in the community. We want to make a commitment here in the same way our predecessors did. The fact that I’m Black probably has something to do with it, but more so is the fact that I’ve been in urban communities for most of my life and most of my career.
MC: Given the depth of your background, what specifically motivated you to come to Detroit?
AG: Well, I really saw it as an opportunity to be a part of a renaissance, part of a city that really has a future in spite of all the economic problems and the political issues that, and the educational situation. The opportunity to make a difference is much more important than the opportunity to just have an educational institution in the city, but that educational institution has to be engaged. It’s actually been exceeded because so many people have reached out to me, and also to my wife.
MC: In this tough economy, what role should universities play?
AG: I think educational institutions should be a part of the community. We are part of this immediate area, we are a part of the city. All of the intellectual power that a university can bring as well as the interest of young people in most instances, who are very interested in staying in the community can be extremely helpful. If someone is looking for assistance in the development of leadership programs, we’ve got that here.
All of our pro bono clinics we have downtown is such a wide range. One of the items we’ve been working on this year is developing a comprehensive fundraising campaign, that we can develop the plans to raise millions of dollars so that we can build our endowment and have resources we can draw from on an annual basis to support student scholarships and special initiatives. We need to be able to support the research and the scholarship of our faculty and staff and many students are beneficiaries of that.
MC: What do you see as the biggest crisis in education today?
AG: I see the biggest crisis as the under-preparation of many of our young people. Many who are in high schools today don’t have the same level of education as some of us may have had. And this is not a criticism of teachers. I think that teachers do a great job, and I’m saying it as someone who started out as an elementary school teacher.
Also, I’ve trained teachers for seven years at Xavier in New Orleans. Teachers need financial support, support from the local community, from the state. They know how to do their job, but it’s hard to do that job if you are in a classroom or in a building that doesn’t have the same kinds of high quality and technological information that may be another more well-of school has.
The other distraction is a lot of technology for our young people today. They spend a lot more time on those smart phones than they do reading books. So we have to make sure we can help young people be good spellers, readers, writers and they can count, that they can think very well.
One of the challenges I give to students is you have to have high expectations and set goals for yourself. We’ve already reached the point where so many of those young people coming from high schools are students of color. And students of color in particular are the ones who are at many of the schools that really need that kind of assistance. It’s not just crisis in education, it’s a crisis in our future because these are the future leaders.
MC: What do you make of the debate about school choices today?
AG: It’s not about the type of school that you go into, its whether or not the school can deliver high quality education, that the students when they leave are critical thinkers, that they know how to read and write, and are also well prepared for secondary education or post-secondary education. Most communities today and in a lot of urban areas, you find yourselves in situations where you have so many public schools, so many schools that are independent and charter and the jury is still out on that.
The U.S. Department of Education I know has done some studies in the last ten years to determine what makes a good school and whether or not charter schools are better than public schools. Well, you have to start looking at the different kinds of schools on a case-by-case basis.
MC: You’ve written books and done a lot of research about the underachievement of young Black males. Will you continue that at UDM?
AG: Absolutely. There are a number of groups here in town that have spoken to me about some of the different things that they have under way. I’d like to talk with them and find what whatever it is that they are doing. The study which I did has been replicated by a number of schools around the country.
We can teach students how to act, read and write, but we really want to make sure that the students set very high goals for themselves. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. used to say that quite often. His mentor was Dr. Benjamin Mays, and Dr. Mays was always very good in communicating that to those Morehouse men and to other students.
But we have to let particularly young African- American males know that you are not going to succeed by just doing the average. You have to be twice as good. That was the message my parents and teachers gave me.
MC: Do you think there is a disconnect between today’s generation and the generation that preceded it?
AG: I’m not sure that there is a disconnect. I think that there were probably some messages that we didn’t get across nearly as strong because so many other revolutionary things occurred. I’m talking about technology as an example. I believe that there are many young people who don’t know what it was like to not use a cell phone, a smart phone. They expect that today. In my view those were things that were not in the cards. You did things manually, went to the library and took books out. That’s what enhanced your reading abilities and other skills.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 02:14
Category: Top News Written by Michigan Chronicle
A license plate tab-dispensing Self-Service Station in the city of Wayne will soon be relocated in order to better serve area residents, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced today.
The machine at Wayne City Hall, 3355 S. Wayne Road, will be moved to the Wayne Community Center, 4635 Howe Road, on April 11. The new location will provide longer hours of availability and a more centralized location for customers in the community.
“Self-Service Stations, along with our online services at ExpressSOS.com, give customers the ability to skip any lines and save a lot of time” Johnson said. “I encourage area residents to take advantage of these options whenever they need to do business with us.”
Customers simply follow the touch-screen directions and scan the bar code on their renewal notice. Upon verifying the information and accepting the credit card, the Self-Service Station prints a vehicle tab and receipt for the customer. Single transactions usually can be accomplished in less than two minutes.
City of Wayne officials suggested that the station would be available for more hours at the Community Center, which is open from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and
8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The City Hall facility is now open only four days a week.
“The Secretary of State self-service machine has been a great convenience to the residents of Wayne,” said Wayne City Clerk Matthew Miller. “It is easy to use and the new location at the Community Center will provide many more hours of access for the public.”
The Self-Service Station was installed at City Hall in 2007 and has recorded nearly 4,000 transactions since then. Visit the Branch Office Locator at www.Michigan.gov/sos to find all Self-Service Station locations in Michigan, as well as information on other programs and services.
People renewing license plates, driver’s licenses and ID cards can do business by mail or online at www.ExpressSOS.com. Easy to follow instructions can be found with the renewal notice. Additional services can be done online as well.
Customers also may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 16:23
Category: Top News Written by Phil Power
Oddly, the first question the politicians asked after the Detroit
City Council finally voted to approve the consent agreement with the
State of Michigan was not “will it work,” but … “who won?”
Short Answer No. 1: Too early to tell.
Short Answer No. 2: Wrong question.
Third Answer, a little longer: Sadly, in most cases, political
culture trumps common sense and any willingness to collaborate.
One Lansing insider told me he was calling the deal between Detroit
and the state “consent agreement lite.” (Others said that an consent
agreement would be “Emergency Manager lite.“) Indeed, both Gov. Rick
Snyder and State Treasurer Andy Dillon talked about their aim to work
out “the lightest possible touch” on the city and their joint interest
in avoiding the much-dreaded emergency manager.
Nobody doubts for a moment that this is so. But under the consent
agreement as written, there is an awful lot of diffusion of power. The
Governor, the Mayor, the City Council and the State Treasurer are all
entitled to have their hands in the pot.
So are three powerful positions yet to be created -- the Chief
Financial Officer, the Program Manager and a nine-member Financial
Advisory Board. But while the governor may have a slightly stronger
hand than anyone else, no one person is in charge of the controls.
Which brings us to Detroit’s political culture. To be sure, a lot of
the fierce rhetoric leading up to the agreement was political
grandstanding. But apart from that, the long record of bad blood
between Mayor Dave Bing and the Council doesn’t encourage optimism
that reaching agreement on anything will be easy.
When you add the racial politics that have pervaded the relationships
between Detroit, the suburbs and the state for decades, you have to
worry this whole thing could come apart at the seams.
That’s not being alarmist. Consider these potential flashpoints of
friction yet to be worked out as part of the Consent Agreement:
Appointments: Detroit has a week to create Chief Financial Officer and
Program Manager positions. Within 30 days, the Mayor must make
appointments from two lists of three names, each selected jointly by
the Mayor and State Treasurer.
Public Act 4: The Act allows the Governor to impose an Emergency
Manager on the city. Nobody wanted that. So for everybody, a Consent
Agreement was better than an EM. But without the threat of an EM, no
Consent Agreement. Yet in a new wrinkle, it now looks very likely that
enough signatures will be certified to put repeal of the act on the
November ballot. The second that happens, the law is suspended till
after the vote. No hammer, no agreement?
Unions: The consent agreement calls for city employee unions to agree
by July 16 to concessions on pay, benefits, bumping rights and work
rules that go beyond those they negotiated last month with the city.
The unions are furious, to put it mildly.
Revenue projections: Detroit’s future budgets must dovetail with
independent revenue projections. Forecasting revenue is a tricky
business, and for everybody to agree on such forecasts seems unlikely.
What is clear is that everybody – including Detroit officials
willing to be quoted – agrees that restructuring the city is going to
take a very long time. Pervasive illiteracy and poor skills mean that
only half of Detroit’s adults are even in the labor market at all --
the lowest rate of any major city in the nation. Curing those problems
won’t happen overnight, especially with the Detroit Public Schools in
such a mess.
When you combine a combative political culture, racial politics and
terrible economic problems, you get a highly combustible mix. Frankly,
I fear the most optimistic prospect is for years of quarrelling. Any
progress will be herky-jerky at best.
Critics and protesters against the Consent Agreement decried the loss
of “democracy.” Fair enough. But, as anybody who looks at the hostile
gridlock in Washington can see, democracy alone all too often isn’t a
good way to get things done.
So, back to the questions at the top of this column:
1) Nobody won, which is probably the best outcome possible.
2) Asking who won is the wrong question; the right one is how a
structure with very diffuse decision-making can be made to work.
3) And finally and sadly, political culture tends to trump almost
everything, including everybody’s very good intentions.
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 Monday, 09 April 2012 10:18
Category: Top News Written by Leland Stein III
I was not surprised that Magic Johnson was part of a group that purchased the iconic baseball franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers. What I was surprised about was that it was the Dodgers instead of an NFL franchise for Los Angeles.
While in Los Angeles covering the NBA All-Star Weekend in 2011, the talk was Johnson and his group was all but assured of building a new football stadium and bring an NFL team back to the City of Angels. Yet, the big sports news of the week is Johnson and the Dodgers.
No matter. By all accounts the Johnson group, largely funded by Guggenheim Capital chief executive officer Mark Walter, agreed to purchase the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium and a 50 percent stake in the parking lots surrounding the ballpark from Frank McCourt for $2.15 billion.
Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt announced an agreement to sell the team to a group that includes former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson and former baseball executive Stan Kasten for $2 billion, the most money paid for a team in the history of professional sports.
The purchase price dwarfs the $1.1 billion Steve Ross paid for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 2008, the record for a North American sports franchise, as well as the $1.47 billion Malcolm Glazer paid for Manchester United, the iconic English soccer team, in 2005.
It was the largest sell in the history of sports franchises. In fact, many prognosticators claim foul, that the Johnson group has paid too much for a franchise that is in a prolonged downturn. Baseball needs a strong and stable franchise in Chavez Ravine. Twenty-two teams have been to the World Series since the Dodgers last made it in 1988.
Dodger fans just wanting to get out from under the scandal of McCourt and his public divorce appear to simply want to move forward at any cost, to forget the past few years and start in a new direction.
Indeed, Johnson, who won five NBA titles as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and orchestrated Showtime, buying a baseball team took me by surprise. What this shows is the resilience of Johnson, who retired from the NBA after contracting HIV in 1991, but went on to become a beloved civic leader and businessman.
I guess the opportunity, especially as an African-American, to become an owner of a Dodgers franchise that broke baseball’s color barrier signing the legendary Jackie Robinson, was too enticing to pass up. Having Johnson in a position of leadership may upgrade the percentage of African-Americans playing and attending games — well, at least in L.A.
“I love baseball,” Johnson told reporters. “I’ve been to many, not just Dodger games, but baseball games around the country. I grew up a Detroit Tigers fan, of course, being from Michigan, and then became a Dodgers fan when I moved to L.A. over 30 years ago.
“But the reason I joined was because of these two guys (Stan Kasten and Walter). It was an easy decision. When I met Mark Walter he reminded me so much of (Lakers owner) Dr. Jerry Buss in terms of how he approached things, how he wants to win, family man, that whole thing.
“I still can’t believe that we’re buying the Dodgers. I can’t believe the Dodgers were on the market.”
After the sale was announced, Johnson said he received phone calls from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.
“If they invested that much money,” said Lasorda, the Dodgers’ retired Hall of Fame manager, “I’m sure they’ll invest to get us a winner. I wish them all the luck and I admire them. I know both of them. I know Magic from the day he came into Los Angeles as a basketball player for the Lakers, and there is no doubt he is a winner.”
In a statement Lakers owner Buss said, “In addition to being a phenomenal success on the court in leading the Lakers to five NBA championships, he has been a success in everything else he’s become involved with, most notably his spectacular business career and also his educational campaign on behalf of HIV awareness. I’d like to congratulate Magic and his partners on their acquisition of the Dodgers and wish them the best of luck.”
Last Updated on Monday, 09 April 2012 02:11
Category: News Briefs Written by Michigan Chronicle
Detroit Public Schools should be congratulated for the district’s first-ever All-Schools Open Enrollment Open House event which drew thousands of parents and hundreds of staff volunteers to schools across the city and allowed individual schools to showcase their unique and varied offerings. The open enrollment period runs through April 16.
The event delivered on Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts’ promise that DPS would offer more educational choices, earlier than ever, to area parents this year.
The district event drew positive response from parents who had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with principals, staff and parent leaders, take tours, experience instructional technology and lab demonstrations, see teacher presentations, student performances, and learn about business and community partnerships, in addition to sampling the district’s healthy nutrition offerings during the open house.
All told, the event was a major success story not only for DPS but for the city of Detroit. We encourage DPS to make the Open Enrollment All-Schools Open House an annual event so parents can continue to have every opportunity to see the various programs and schools available throughout the city and make the best selection for their children.
Last Updated on Monday, 09 April 2012 01:21
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