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: News Briefs Written by Michigan Chronicle
College and Health Careers is the topic of a 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, March 17, expo held on Wayne County Community College District’s Northwest Campus, located at 8200 W. Outer Dr.
The Expo will provide participants with information on available educational opportunities and careers in the growing health care industry. Recruiters from Michigan colleges, universities and other schools will be on hand for one-on-one discussion. Information about scholarships, financial aid and other assistance programs also will be available.
Attending institutions include University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Oakland University, Eastern Michigan University, WCCCD and many more.
Pre-registration is required. Please visit www.miahec.edu to reserve your seat and receive a free gift.
The Detroit Medical Center will generously provide a complementary lunch to the first 300 participants. There will also be a free raffle drawing. Prizes include a Kindle and Pistons basketball game tickets. Participants must be present at the time of the drawing to win.
For more information visit, www.wcccd.edu.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 14:16
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
Category: Top News Written by Michigan Chronicle
The Michigan Chronicle kicked off the seventh season of its annual Pancakes & Politics speakers’ series with Gov. Rick Snyder before a sold-out crowd at the Detroit Athletic Club.
Snyder, who is no stranger to the series having been a keynote speaker at last year’s opening forum, spoke candidly about a variety of topics impacting the state, but focused his opening remarks on the state’s economic recovery, saying Michigan is on “a path of reinvention.”
“You can feel the things that are going on in the state,” he said. Further outlining his vision for the state he emphasized two “ruling principals”: the need for more and better jobs and a bright future for our children.
However, during the event’s question and answer session the looming March 27 deadline for the state-appointed financial review team’s report on what should happen with the city of Detroit and its multimillion-dollar budget deficit was tackled head-on. Appointed in December, the 10-member team’s job was to review the city’s finances ahead of a possible intervention. The team is expected to recommend either the appointment of an emergency manager or a consent agreement.
While the governor said he didn’t want to see the option of an emergency manager exercised, he did not rule out the possibility of an emergency manager taking over control. He did, however, reemphasize his preference for a consent agreement for the city.
“Let’s have it so the city can keep running the city,” he told the crowd. “I’m going to keep loudly proposing a consent agreement and what that consent agreement should say.”
“We need to have the city place more focus on financial responsibility,” continued Snyder. “Let’s put together an agreement. The thing about an agreement, you need someone on the other side to agree. We’re running out of time.”
Since its inception, Pancakes & Politics has grown to become the preeminent speakers’ forum where substantive topics are explored in-depth by those who contribute to the region’s business community and those seeking solutions to inspire its growth.
The next session of the four-part series will be April 26 at the Detroit Athletic Club and is titled “Urban Revitalization: Strengthening our Core Cities.” This panel will look at case studies from across the state for a robust discussion on what is necessary to strengthen the state’s largest cities.
The third session again moves to Birmingham’s Townsend Hotel on May 18 for the annual ‘Big Four’ event where the four regional leaders, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel come together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the Southeast Michigan region.
The series concludes by returning to the DAC on June 15 for its season- ending session.
Now in its seventh season, Pancakes & Politics is presented in association with Buick, Comcast Business Class, Strategic Staffing Solutions and Real Times Media. Additional event sponsors include medallion sponsors HAP and Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP and corporate contributors including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, PNC, Quicken Loans and UHY LLP.
Tickets for upcoming events can be purchased online by visiting www.michronicle.com or calling (313) 963-5522.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 13:49
Category: Top News Written by Bankole Thompson
As city’s financial woes grow, so does tension between Detroit and Lansing
In two separate exclusive interviews, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing sat down with Michigan Chronicle editor Bankole Thompson to talk about Detroit’s financial crisis and how both men view the proposal to avert a cataclysmic financial problem.
Snyder talked about the creation of a Financial Advisory Board to manage the finances of Detroit. He said if Detroit can’t agree on the Consent Agreement as the city runs out of cash soon, an emergency manager is a very likely option. Bing said a consent agreement must be structured so that Detroiters can keep running their city, and that the restructuring should be a collaborative effort between the city and the state with Detroit maintaining its “core authority.”
Don’t take Detroit’s governing power
MICHIGAN CHRONICLE: Where is the plan to address the financial crisis?
DAVE BING: There is a plan that was delivered to Lansing in October. It’s been sitting there. I haven’t gotten feedback whether or not the plan is going to be accepted or rejected, or whether there needs to be some changes in the plan. We can’t move forward until Lansing comes to the table and say we accept or reject the plan. Or say here are the changes we recommend. Our plan is kind of predicated on the savings we would get from labor. We’ve done all the heavy lifting. And every month we go without action costs us $10 million. So I want the state to move one way or another because we are kind of handcuffed. What I’d like to do we can’t do because the unions are not ready to ratify until they
know what the state is going to do.
MC: Do you support the consent agreement that Gov Snyder said would create a Financial Review Board for Detroit?
DB: We’re not opposed to a consent agreement and will support the process. We’ve been in ongoing discussions with the governor regarding the consent agreement.
MC: The governor said he’s been trying to work for months with your administration but couldn’t get the cooperation he needed. True?
DB: That is not true. We have been trying to get definitive answers and tangible support since the financial review process began.
MC: Is making joint appointments with the governor, as well as City Council, under this proposal balanced?
DB: We don’t agree, because under the proposal we received from Gov. Snyder the governor and the state have more votes on the board than representatives from the mayor or the City Council, giving the state ultimate control.
MC: The governor said not ratifying this agreement could trigger an emergency manager. What is your reaction?
DB: The governor has always had the power to appoint an emergency manager. However, we would like to think the terms of a consent agreement can be negotiated to avoid the appointment of an emergency manager.
MC: Some of the council members have criticized you as not going far enough in your agreement to reduce the city’s deficit. What do you have to say?
DB: Then I would like for them to come to the table with recommendations. I think they like to manage from 30,000 feet. I think they have very little detail, they don’t come up with any other recommendations. They wait for us to put all of this stuff together and then try to see how to punch holes in it as opposed to trying to work together. We’ve got a couple of council members, in my opinion, who are just media whores.
MC: Are you suggesting that some members of the council are exploiting this climate for political gain?
MB: Absolutely. I’m very appreciative of those council members who don’t run to the press with everything. You can’t negotiate in the media. So when you try to build trust, that’s been a problem here because as we share information with council members, the next thing we know it’s in the press. Sometimes that hurts us in negotiations.
MC: What about these federal grants that are flying in the face of all these financial issues the city is facing? How can we be sending more back to Washington?
MB: Once again, in one case that has happened, and that was in the weatherization money, about 9.2 million dollars. There are reasons for that. Some of it was prior administration from a timing standpoint. We didn’t have enough time, information to be knowledgeable of what needs to be done. When you look at Human Services they are under investigation and we’ve made some changes from a leadership standpoint.
MC: What in concrete terms would a restructuring of city government mean alongside a financial reform?
MB: The first thing is the lighting department. We will still own and control the lighting department but we don’t have the money to do the necessary investment. So we talked to the state, DTE and we are going to work together, raise the money to fix the lighting department.
MC: Is there targeted deadline for that?
MB: I’m hoping that in 30 days we’ll have an agreement. The time frame in fixing the system is going to be two to three years because you have to do it citywide. The bus system is another big problem. We’ve addressed it, first step, by bringing in a national management team. As you look at different departments I don’t think we do well and shouldn’t be doing. For example the Human Services Department. It’s a service that’s needed but it is mandated and controlled by the state.
MC: Some of your critics have said the city is approaching a payless payday. What do you say to that?
DB: My critics said that when I first came into office, in the first 90 days. Has it happened? It could happen, but I’m doing everything I can to try to fix it. This city is fundamentally broken. So coming in here trying to fix everything at one time is an impossibility. So you put a foundation in place.
MC: What do you make of the Detroit Financial Review Team appointed by the governor?
DB: They can’t come in here in 30 days or 60 days and understand government. It’s impossible. I’m almost three years into this office and there are things that I’m learning. There’s no way in hell that they can come in that short period of time and do a really good assessment. So once again, some people say its just sugarcoating, trying to satisfy some people, keep fears down from a takeover.
MC: Do you feel your legacy is now being defined by the state of the financial crisis in the city?
DB: I’ve never worried about legacy. That doesn’t bother me at all. From a political standpoint I came into this office saying I’m not a politician and I’m not one today. I think I understand the process better. I’m here to do one thing: I want to try to fix as much as I can. My legacy to me is what I’ve already accomplished. I think we’ve some strides in the right direction.
MC: The city is broke. Others have concluded that you are captaining a sinking ship. What is the personal challenge there for you?
DB: The personal challenge is that I’m a competitor.
Take consent agreement or else
MICHIGAN CHRONICLE: What would the consent agreement do?
RICK SNYDER: What it would do is allow the mayor and City Council to continue their traditional role of running the city. Then the state would want to reinforce and make sure we are succeeding in a couple of areas — financial management and implementation. I believe there’s been a challenge in making sure we implement things as they get agreed to, both the enhancement of customer service and the cost improvements. The agreement we talked about — the Financial Review Board — is working with the governor and the mayor to select the key operating people that will implanting things — the chief operating officer, chief financial office and the human resource director who will be responsible
to both the mayor and the advisory board.
MC: Are the City Council and the mayor on agreement with this proposal?
RS: No, actually we are going to the mayor first and then the City Council. I believe this is common sense, common ground partnership. I don’t understand why we don’t have more agreement.
MC: Why do you think that is?
RS: I’ve been trying to partner now for months and we are running out of time. March 28 is the date for the Review Team to wrap up their work. We’ve tried to work diligently in a very positive proactive way.
I can’t explain why it hasn’t worked to be open. And we are now to the point where the best answer is to make sure the Review Team, City Council and general public all can see what we are talking about in a very transparent and open way. And hopefully have the opportunity to chime in.
MC: What do labor agreements stand in this Consent Agreement proposal?
RS: Well, it’s an important thing and I would say that’s really something that this Financial Review Board would have to sign off on. I can tell you that I think people worked hard on those agreements.
But I’m not sure they fundamentally address the issues that need to be addressed. So I think there needs to be more work done on those agreements. And our treasury shared that with the mayor’s office some time ago. Labor has been good. They are in a difficult environment.
Let’s get an agreement that can last. This isn’t about Mayor Bing. This is about establishing a format for success. We want something that as time passes we’ve got an environment to make sure we don’t slide back into this.
This has been a problem for 50 years or longer. This has happened in other places. New York City actually had a board very similar to this for decades and it wasn’t a big deal.
MC: Why do you think it’s a big deal here?
RS: I think there’s enough cultural issues and challenges. I don’t necessarily understand it. I can appreciate there’s enough history there and we’ve had problems in the past. But we’ve got a lot of good people working on this.
MC: Given what happened to the Detroit Public Schools when the state took it over in 1999, there is a strong sentiment that the city is headed down that path. Do you agree with that sentiment?
RS: Well, I think there is an opportunity with this consent agreement to keep it on a better path. That’s why I’ve argued for a consent agreement the whole time. I don’t want an emergency manager. So I view the consent agreement as a way to avoid that outcome, and to have it so the mayor and the City Council are still managing and running the city. And then get help on the implementation of the financial management. (DPS) is a different context but it’s very important. That’s why I want to be absolutely open about what we’ve been proposing.
MC: What would be the trigger for an emergency manager?
RS: Well, if we can’t get an agreement, if they are unwilling to move ahead.
MC: It’s been said the state wants to takeover Belle Isle. Is that true?
RS: I wouldn’t describe it as a takeover. Again, it’s a partnership because we want the city to continue to own Belle Isle, but it’s a financial burden. And if you look at it, are the services everyone would want on Belle Isle up to the standard people like? No.
So here’s an opportunity where we could do a long-term lease and it will still be owned by the city. But if we had a lease we might be able to make it a state park.
MC: What would this Financial Review Board do differently that doesn’t reflect what the Detroit Public Schools went through initially when the state came in with an appointed board?
RS: Again, this board would be focused on the financial management piece. It would be appointed by myself and people representing the city, so it would be elected officials doing all these appointments. The other part is that there is a criteria that these people all ought to have strong financial experience. We are actually looking at asking MACPA- Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants if they would help vet the criteria to have them make an impartial review. I think that sets the standard that this isn’t about politics.
MC: How do you protect city assets like the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department under this structure of a Financial Review Board?
RS: Actually, this doesn’t necessarily say we are going to dispose of any of those assets. The City Charter has provisions for doing that. So it really doesn’t modify that.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 13:44
Category: Top News Written by Michigan Chronicle
Chronicle Kicks Off Seventh Season of Pancakes & Politics with Gov. Rick Snyder
The Michigan Chronicle kicked off the seventh season of its annual Pancakes & Politics speakers’ series with Gov. Rick Snyder before a sold-out crowd at the Detroit Athletic Club.
Snyder, who is no stranger to the series having also headline last year’s opening forum, spoke candidly about a variety of topics impacting the state but focused his opening remarks on the state's economic recovery, saying that Michigan is on a "path of reinvention."
"You can feel the things that are going on in the state," he said during the event. Further outlining his vision for the state he emphasized two “ruling principals”; the need for more and better jobs and a bright future for our children."
Since its inception, Pancakes & Politics has grown to become the preeminent speakers’ forum where substantive topics are explored in depth by those who contribute to the region’s business community and those seeking solutions to inspire its growth.
The next session of the four-part series will be April 26, 2012 at the Detroit Athletic Club and is entitled “Urban Revitalization: Strengthening our Core Cities”. This panel will look at case studies from across the state for a robust discussion on what is necessary to strengthen the state’s largest cities.
The third session again moves to Birmingham’s Townsend Hotel on May 18, 2012 for the annual ‘Big Four’ event where the four regional leaders, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson; Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel come together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the southeast Michigan region.
The Pancakes and Politics series concludes by returning to the DAC on June 15, 2012, for its season ending session.
Now in its seventh season, Pancakes & Politics is presented by Buick, Comcast Business Class, Strategic Staffing Solutions and Real Times Media. Additional event sponsors include medallion sponsors HAP and Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP and corporate contributors including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, PNC, Quicken Loans and UHY LLP.
Tickets for upcoming events can be purchased online by clicking here or calling (313) 963-5522.
Last Updated on Thursday, 22 March 2012 14:36
Category: Top News Written by Bankole Thompson
Some Detroit neighborhoods rapidly becoming killing fields
Is human life worth arguing over a seat at a baby shower?
Is it worth fighting over a cell phone or girlfriend?
That is where Detroit currently is as violent crime continues to steal the lives of innocent children, making them victims of conflicts — some so trivial that it is impossible to fathom — they had no role in.
The children were in the wrong place at the wrong time, some in a presumed safe place — their own homes.
The rate at which these atrocities are happening begs for a swift and lasting resolution. It is everyone’s problem in that we are all affected.
We cannot concede our neighborhoods to those who have decided to make them their killing fields. Something has to give. Our children cannot keep dying, our seniors cannot continue be prisoners in their own homes, fearing to step out because of the likelihood of their becoming the next crime statistic. Our schools must not be battlefields. Our businesses should not have to operate in an atmosphere of fear.
This is where the wisdom and the capability of the Detroit Police Department (DPD) is being put to the test. As these crimes are taking place almost every day, many are looking for answers from the police before taking the law into their own hands.
DPD should show us that under its leader, Chief Ralph Godbee Jr., it can stem the tide of violence.
We are always asked to have faith in the men and women in blue for putting their lives on the line to protect us.
At the same time we must ask of these men and women to give us a reason to have faith in them. Citizens have every right to expect quality work from its police force — and to feel safe on the streets and in their homes.
It is beyond a tragedy that children’s lives are being brought to an abrupt and violent end before they have even had a chance to really live. The shame is ours.
In the case of nine-month-old Delric Miller, we perhaps have lost a boy who could have grown up to be among this city’s leaders.
I’ve been listening to some of the analyses that have been given in the wake of the shootings, and I must confess some of it is just plain twisted. Most of them conclude that poverty is the root cause, so let’s just give up.
It should not matter what one’s background is. We have not declared in this city that protection should be based on the economic scale, and that is not what the men and women in blue are sworn to do. They are expected to serve residents and businesses in this city regardless of who they are or where they live.
That is why the intervention of U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and the various federal law enforcement agencies is welcome news. Criminals, and those contemplating crimal activity, are cognizant of the fact that federal sentencing is stricter than local sentencing.
If it takes federal intervention to arrest the madness of violence in our communities, it should serve as an impetus on how to collaborate on other issues that may stretch out the resources of our local government. Or put simply, when the money isn’t there given the economic mess the city of Detroit is in.
But beyond what the Detroit police and the federal government can do, lies the most important partner — the community whose responsibility it is to take back their streets and neighborhoods from people who are hell-bent on transforming them into war zones.
Forget about the politics of whether you like Detroit Mayor Dave Bing or Chief Godbee.
What we need is community policing and that can only happen if Detroit police and other agencies seeking to put a break on the cycle of violent crime, can find meaningful partners. The need is crucial.
Finding such partners will require more than press conferences. It would mean really becoming part of the community by attending block club meetings and other community events that allow law enforcement to interact with the community in a non-threatening atmosphere.
When people are scared or afraid they will not give information.
Arriving at an incident scene hours after to get information from people will yield little result if officers in a particular district have not built a relationship of trust with that community before an incident. In simple terms, people talk to who they know. They don’t talk to strangers.
The ball is in our court. Looking the other way only serves to make a bad situation worse, as does playing the blame game. All of us can do something to stop the killing fields. Getting involved in some way is essential.
Your child or you could be the next victim.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 March 2012 16:08
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