Minni Forman (107)
Detroit’s mayoral candidates were quick to express their opinions on Detroit’s impending emergency financial manager (EFM) after an announcement last week gave Gov. Rick Snyder the green light to appoint an EFM to Detroit.
Mayoral contenders, former DMC CEO Mike Duggan, Wayne Country Sherriff Benny Napoleon, and Lisa Howze, found various ways to sound off on the topic.
While Duggan and Howze are still fighting the idea of an EFM for Detroit, Napoleon has said it’s time for Detroit to accept the fact that an EFM is on the way.
Napoleon posted on his campaign’s Facebook page:
“The winds have changed. Let's partner with the Emergency Financial Manager (likely to be appointed) to swiftly address the city's finances, improve city services and then focus on a strong Detroit future with local elected leadership. As a partner in repairing city government and setting our future, we have a voice.”
So far, Napoleon is the only candidate who has retired his fighting words about the looming EFM.
Howze said in a recorded statement last week:
“I beg to differ with this public perception that only option for the City of Detroit is an emergency financial manager. What we need is strong senior and middle level management in areas of human resources, finance, and legal. Where the State can partner with us is in passing legislation that will allow Detroit to better collect its income tax revenue through withholding.”
Duggan took the fight to an op-ed, published in the Detroit Free Press.
In the piece he blasts Detroit Public Schools emergency management, calling it an example of failure.
“Turnarounds demand exceptional management talent. Without that talent, the greatest strategies in the world are just documents on a shelf."
He then he dissed the future EFM team, whoever that may be:
“What successful executive is going to make a career change to join a city of Detroit emergency manager with an expected tenure of 6-18 months?
While Duggan, Howze and Napoleon all have their opinions, they hold little sway with the state. Even current Mayor Dave Bing has declared any decision on a Detroit EFM on out of his control.
Does that mean that we should all keep quiet and leave the financial fate of the city in the Governor’s hands?
Not necessarily. But the real battle against an EFM was, in a way, already fought. Last year when voters rejected the emergency manager law, Public Act 4, it was thought to have been won. But a month later, the state passed a new, very similar law, PA436.
The silver lining to PA436 is that the governor can’t just snap his fingers and appoint an EM. The city would have a chance to opt out—they could offer up a restructuring plan of their own, ask for another consent agreement, file for chapter 9 bankrupty, or get a mediator involved. Another notable difference is that PA436 is referendum-proof, meaning it's protected from ever going to public vote.
Here’s the catch: PA436 doesn’t kick in until late March. Currently, the state is operating under Public Act 72, the earliest EFM legislation passed in 1990. If Snyder acts before March 27, the city would be grandfathered into PA72, where the city cannot, in a sense, pick their poison.
So, should Detroit opponents of EFMs accept their fate, or keep on fighting what seems like the inevitable?
After five months of sitting in court while federal prosecutors aired their case against him, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is waiting for a jury to decide his fate.
But in the meantime, Kilpatrick has been active on both social media sites Facebook and Twitter using the outlets as a form of inexpensive PR to restore his image as a God-fearing family man. Posting multiple pictures of his family along with praise of his loved ones and self-help quips, Kilpatrick is focusing on the positive—his family and God—and decrying the haters.
He posts regular inspirational nuggets for his Twitter followers:
“No Doubt! Sometimes through pain, darkness, tight spaces, u are pushed to rebirth. Just like the womb Bro! Blessings to u!” And: Guy just asked if "I was mad at everybody." No Sir! When I finally forgave myself, I knew I couldn't harbor unforgiveness of others. #newlife."
Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, and longtime contractor friend Bobby Ferguson face dozens of federal charges including extortion, bribery, conspiracy and tax fraud. The defendants pleaded not guilty and defense attorneys worked throughout the trial to argue that Kilpatrick and his co-defendants did nothing illegal, often hammering out the difference between law and ethics. During the trial, Kilpatrick was forced to sit through some of his closest confidants testifying against him in exchange for a plea deal.
Kilpatrick has made his facebook fan page a way to share his methods of getting through touch times:
“The thing that usually devours, now feeds u. The thing that tried to kill u, is now your stepping stone for new life. #digthat.”
Kilpatrick seeks to reclaim an image he had has a family man before the years he's spent in the spotlight amid scandal.
“My Family is Awesome! Through hell & high water, by grace, we have survived & even spiritually prospered. #footstool.” “Hello Family! Just wanted to thank you for your support, words of encouragement and prayers. I also want you to know that Joy is not a feeling, its a fruit of the Spirit. And by God's grace, I still have mine. Much Love Family!"
“Jonas just informed me that he'd earned an all "A" report card. He also told me that Cornell Univ was "back on the table." #mydude #blessed
Kilpatrick also has taken some chances to lash out at negative postings about him. He Tweets in response to his critics:
“What stealing money? Maybe, just maybe u are ignorant & misinformed. Forget supremacy 4 a moment. What makes u right?”
And: “Ppl hve been told 2 hate me for yrs. "It would be better when I left.' Hell followed my exit. Hate reigned."
Ultimately, Kilpatrick's advice to the world, and himself, is: “Don't pray and doubt. Its all in God's hands. Thankfully not the Media’s.”
DETROIT—After nearly three months of examining Detroit’s finances, a six-member state review team declared Tuesday that Michigan’s largest city is in a state of financial emergency.
“Certainly I am not surprised by the findings of the State’s financial review team” Bing said Tuesday in a statement. “My Administration has been saying for the past four years that the City is under financial stress.”
Now that the review has been completed, the findings leave whether or not to appoint an emergency manager to Detroit up to Governor Rick Snyder. Snyder has said he would act quickly once he got the results. Detroit could have an emergency manager by early March.
“If the Governor decides to appoint an Emergency Financial Manager, he or she, like my Administration, is going to need resources -- particularly in the form of cash and additional staff,” Bing said.
Under the new emergency manager law, Public Act 436, passed in December, the state is responsible for paying some of the costs of hiring an emergency manager and state-appointed staff. PA436 is similar to its predecessor, Public Act 4, which was voted down by a ballot initiative in November. Namely, allows the powerful emergency manager to break collective bargaining contracts.
Bing said he plans to keep working to address problems in the city.
“As I have said before, my Administration will stay focused on the initiatives that most directly impact the citizens of Detroit: public safety, public lighting, transportation, recreation and neighborhood blight removal,” Bing said.
Detroit faces a $327 million budget deficit in the current fiscal year, ongoing cash flow problems and a long term projected budget debt of more than $12 billion.
"The cash condition has been a strain on the city," said state Treasurer Andy Dillon, a member of the review team. "The city has been running deficits since 2005, masking over those with long-term borrowing."
All six members of the review team members agreed that their findings showed a case of financial emergency.
If Snyder decides to appoint an emergency manager, it still wouldn’t be an immediate appointment. A lot depends on timing.
The new emergency manager law taking effect in March gives local governments the choice between an emergency manager, a mediator, filing for bankruptcy or to offer their own financial restructuring plan to the state.
Am emergency manager would be responsible for all of the city’s finances. Once a manager is in place, only the EM can decide whether or not to file for bankruptcy.
Detroit would be largest city in Michigan to go under the supervision of a state receiver, but not the first. The cities of Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Ecorse, and Allen Park are in state receivership.
Today’s the day. Today, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is expected to receive a comprehensive report on Detroit’s finances to determine whether he should appoint an emergency manager to take over the city’s finances or not.
Snyder has said it won’t take him long after reviewing the report to make a decision about Detroit’s future. Earlier this month Snyder told reporters he wasn’t indecisive:
“It will probably take a week or two for me to make a full analysis of the report, and then decisions will be made. My reputation is not one to be sitting on things rather than making decisions.”
But the hard part may be finding someone willing to take on the tall order of reigning in Detroit’s finances—a $300 million-plus short-term deficit and a long terms debt of more than $12 Billion. On top of everything, this is a city that takes great issue with state-based initiatives in city government.
If Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is right about having the second hardest job in that nation, then one can only imagine the post of Detroit’s emergency manager is right up there with the hardest of them. Talk about being hated.
Many people rumored to be on Rick Snyder’s short list have declined any interest in the post.
But one of those rumored EM possibilities is George Jackson, head of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. According to The Detroit News: "Jackson is the only named person who hasn't denied he is in consideration. A spokesman for Jackson declined to comment and referred the issue to Snyder's office".
A state-appointed review team has been combing through Detroit’s snarled finances since December. While Detroit, as the state’s largest city, would be the biggest municipality to fall under state receivership, it would not be the first.
The cities of Pontiac, Highland Park, Benton Harbor and Flint have all undergone the controversial state measure of involving locally elected officials being stripped of many or their powers so a state-selected leader can take over.
The issue has been so controversial that it has inspired Flint playwrights to create an entire production on the topic.
State of Emergency, a play opening this Friday in Flint, uses verbatim theatre, that is a technique that uses real quotes from interviews and found materials, to make up a theatrical production outlining what life under state management is like for cities like Flint.
The play could also soon apply to Detroit. One of the play’s creators, Andrew Morton of Shop Floor Theatre Company, says the struggle for power between local officials and state appointed receivers is one that makes for a great drama.
Morton told Mlive-Flint:
"A very specific example is the announcement of (the emergency manager) on the night of the election of 2011. To me, that's a dramatic event," Morton said. Shakespearean plots, it's all about who's in power, or power shifting from one group to another, or one groups trying to wrangle power back."
For Detroiters who don’t want to drive all the way to Flint will be able to watch it online streaming live HERE on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7 pm.
Local political annalists have agreed in their predictions that Detroit will go the way of Flint, Pontiac, and other cash strapped Michigan cities.
In his fourth (and possibly last) State of the City Address, Detroit mayor Dave Bing avoided the fact that the city is likely about to fall under state receivership.
His only acknowledgement of the issue came when he boasted that his administration has had “no emergency manager to date.”
Local political pundits took to the social media website Twitter to point out the Mayor’s game of dodge ball on the topic.
Detroit Free Press columnist Stephen Henderson tweeted:
“Bing should also take credit: No swarms of locusts since he has been mayor. To date, that is. #BingSOTC2013”
Detroit News columnist Nolan Finley also took a crack at the mayor via Twitter:
“Elephant? What elephant? Bing barely mentions consent agreement and says nothing of pending financial manager. Reality avoidance.”
Free Press Columnist Rochelle Riley tweeted her two-cents as well:
“Bing speech sounds like its being delivered by a guy who knows it soon won't matter.”
The tweeting pundits noted that much of the Mayor’s claimed progress in the city has come from handouts rather than internal changes.
City Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown posted:
“Mayor Bing lists accomplishments; he can be proud. But most came by way of federal funds. He better hope that keeps coming. #BingSOTC2013.”
Riley took the chance to note something else: Recently Bing closed 50 city parks due to a $6 million budget shortfall but…
“Mayor Bing announces plan to raise $60 million to keep 17 rec. centers open a week after he announced plans to close 51 parks. #BingSOTC2013”
Interestingly, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, who is planning a run for mayor in 2013, tweeted his agreement with the Bing more than once during the speech, avoiding criticism of his possible opponent in the race.
After Bing refused an interview to prominenet (and often abrasive) Fox 2 news reporter Charlie LeDuff, Fox 2 pulled Bing’s post-speech airtime altogether.
Detroit Mayor Bing refuses me as his interviewer after State of City. Fox2 bosses Refuse him airtime all together. I work for a good org.
Bing also avoided giving any hints as to whether he plans to run for re-election this year.
Did anyone else watch the State of the City? Your thoughts?
As with any year that hasn't been lived yet, a world of possibilities awaits Detroit. For instance, the Detroit Tigers could still win the 2014 World Series and Belle Isle could still become a state park.
That's right. It's not over yet.
Hopes for a State-City lease deal that would have put Detroit’s island park in the charge of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources were seemingly smashed to bits last month when governor Rick Snyder pulled the offer. Snyder says he only dropped the deal after Detroit city council failed to vote on the proposal before deadline.
But it’s not the end of a possible State lease of Belle Isle. If enough council members change their minds, or if the city falls under the reigns of a state-appointed emergency manager, the 30-year lease deal may likely resurface in 2014. At least that’s what Snyder has been hinting at recently.
Reports that the state set aside more than $4 million to spend on Belle Isle's upkeep if the deal went through were true, but now that money will dissolve back into the state’s $50.9 billion annual budget. Snyder says he's willing to nest-egg some funds for Belle Isle again, though.
Last week the Detroit News reported:
“… The governor said he's not ruled out budgeting the money for converting Belle Isle into a state park in 2014 if City Council changes its mind about the lease.
"That deadline's past, so it's not going to happen (this year)," Snyder said.”
Snyder told the Detroit Free Press editorial board the same thing: that the Belle Isle may just come back to the table.
He said he left money in the state budget for Belle Isle to show he was “dead serious” about making a deal with Detroit to maintain the 982-acre park.
The council indirectly voted against the proposal this year by stalling past deadline, something that cancels the offer for this year. But 2014 is a chance for the city to have a change of heart.
“They can say they didn’t vote, but I take it they voted ‘no’,” Snyder told the Free Press. “So we’re going to follow through in what we were going to do for 2014. I said '13 was off the table, but if somebody wants to talk '14 ... [I’m open].”
For all intents and purposes, it sounds like the offer is still an option, just delayed. And from the looks of things, Detroit will likely be in State receivership come 2014. As we all know, a lot can change in a year.
Again, it's a world of possibilities.
For all of the hopefuls running for a seat at the Detroit city council table this year, Charles Pugh has a realistic message: that a spot on the council isn’t all it's cracked up to be.
The current city council president announced last week that he would not seek re-election or run for mayor and that he plans to return to his first passion: broadcast journalism.
“The reality is I ran for council so that I could run for mayor. I was going to do the Barack Obama,” Pugh told WDET 101.9 FM’s Craig Fahle Tuesday. But with three years of politics under his belt, the difference between his perception of the council’s job and the reality was like “night and day”.
“I’m just like most Detroiters in thinking the council has way more power than it really does,” Pugh said in the WDET interview. “I’m thinking that I was goanna be able to get the lights back on and get the grass cut on time … but that’s not their job. That’s not what they do.“
Pugh said the council’s power is more influential than direct and he is discouraged by the inability to make everyday decisions. “We can raise a bunch of noise at the council table but honestly if the Mayor’s not on board that’s, in effect, what it is.”
He called the council’s criticism of city functions “official complaining” adding that the only thing the council has direct power over are approving deals and making a spring budget for the year.
“Most of the impact you have is the budget that you set in the spring and come fall you have no say about the daily management and it’s frustrating because you get blamed,” he said.
This year, council contenders will be running by district, a change from four years ago when Pugh was on the ballot.
The push for council by districts was fueled by the idea that by assigning a council member to various sections of the city there would be more accountability for service delivery and overall positive action. But Pugh disputes that idea.
“People will have an even greater expectation that their district council person will have the ability to do more than we can do as all at large and they don’t. They won’t be able to do one more doggone thing than we can do right now. I think that’s unfortunate.”
He noted that the addition of an elected citizen advisory council in each district could help a councilperson and residents fight together for change. But as neither an executive nor an administrator, council members are not who you turn to with an everyday issue. For future council people debuting on the political scene, Push says you need to be tough.
“I learned that it requires a rhinoceros skin to do this job and I have the skin of a wet tissue paper—I have been sensitive all my life that is one of my negatives and one of my positives,” Pugh told Fahle. “This politically elected position is definitely for someone who can take darts and arrows and hot shots from all over the place and keep it moving.”
Pugh said a council member’s experience depends on what kind of mayor is in office.
His relationship with mayor Bing has not always been a smooth one.
“We expected more from a Republican businessman who was a suburbanite,” Pugh said of Bing. “We were expecting a great deal in terms of coming in with a game plan to fix things and we just were hugely disappointed that we didn’t get that.”
When Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and city recreation officials announced last week that 50 parks are on the chopping block due to budget shortfalls, the image of abandoned property that Detroiters have grown accustomed to spread.
“They will look pretty awful come about June, July,” Dick said of the city’s parks slated to close. “They will have high grass probably about waist high and it’s not just grass … it’s going to become weeds with lots of trash in it. They’re goanna look like vacant lots do.”
Just about every resident can name a park near their home that is going to flare up in weeds and trash this summer.
Unless communities organize and take ownership of the parks around them, more trash-strewn weeds will be the end result. But there is a resource here and an opportunity for residents to step up in their communities.
What if a group of neighbors got together and mowed a playground every week or two in a park that would otherwise be a tall thicket? What if that group or individual planted flowers and put up signs, anything to brighten a depressing scene? These areas can be turned into extensions of people’s yards, flower gardens and play areas if the resolve is there.
Alicia Minter, Director of Detroit’s Recreation Department, is encouraging residents to do just that.
“This is the time we can look to the community to be engaged and to assist the city,” Minter said. “Because of our limited resources [we hope] residents would adopt those parks … and have some stewardship in making sure those locations are cut and maintained because the city will not be able to do it.”
Is there a park in your neighborhood you’d like to adopt? At this point the power for change sits in resident's laps. Especially in neighborhoods that are not considered “stable” enough to be assisted through the Detroit Works Project framework.
Bing said like the idea of asking residents to help maintain public parks.
“We can’t constantly go and think that our citizens that are good, taxpaying citizens also have to take care of parks in their communities," Bing said. "We can’t think that the business community is constantly going to take care of the problem. We had a chance to take care of this ourselves and we didn’t do it."
He noted that a shortage of open parks and restricted recreation center hours would only worsen crime in the city. “We need a safe place for our young people in particular. They need a place to go. We don’t know the impact in terms of crime but we know it will be negative,” he said.
But with no other options it seems that a dedicated citizen or nonprofit interest in these closed parks is the last possibility left for a chance at keeping the city from further disrepair. Sure, it shouldn’t be up to residents who pay taxes to also do the work they are paying to have done, but there are a lot of things that shouldn't be happening in the city that are happening because this is a financial crisis. Maybe that term has lost some sting due to its overuse in recent years but that doesn't take from the fact that the city is flat out of cash.
Take a minute to step outside the emotional and passionate debate over what to do---or what not to do---with Belle Isle and imagine this:
Just imagine, you’re a foreigner who lives across a river, let’s call it Swan River, and in the middle of the river there’s an island, say, Swan Island.
To you, Swan Island is just a place on a map, a place across the river to feel good about knowing what it is if a visitor asks—it’s a public park that’s part of a neighboring country, you would say. That’s it. And they never ask.
You don’t think about Swan Island as anything more than a green spot across the rippling river water. In fact, you don’t think of Swan Island much at all.
But one day, you’re bored so you cross the river for a change of scenery. It’s a foggy day in a mid-winter thaw and you, on a whim, decide to visit Swan Island to clear your head and get some fresh air.
When you get there, you see it’s a beautiful place. Swans bob peacefully on the river's rippling waters. The island road gives an up-close stunning view of the City’s downtown area, and there’s nature everywhere, a spec of heaven in the Detroit River.
You decide to go for a jog in the bike lane to see more of the island. But the further you run the more you start to realize something: this island isn’t being taken care of like other parks you’ve been to. It seems like not many people care about the island because the trashcans are overflowing and the storm drains are so decrepit that amid the snow thaw has transformed a soccer field into a duck pond.
The flooding expands all the way into the bike lane, three inches deep. You running shoes are soaked through hand through. You have to go to the bathroom so you wade through the storm puddles in search of a restroom area, like they have in all the large parks you’ve been to.
Instead, you find an abandoned rest area and a row or port-a-potties outside of it.
With cold, soaking feet and a curious mind, you decide to ask people about the park.
You ask a couple who are taking photos of the swans: What’s going on here? Why is this beautiful place so neglected?
You are blasted with a cold response: that this place is not neglected, that it is a jewel; that you are an outsider who needs to mind your own business.
You ask more people, each shouting very different, heated and negatively themed answer.
One person rants that the city that owns the park is led by a bunch of obstructionists who always say “no” and never have a plan to counter an offer with. Another person says a there’s a Fascist ruler in the province who wants to steal Swan Island from the people and that any problems on the island can be fixed by the city, not the province. They say the city, although it is in financial trouble, has to find away to keep up the 982-acre jewel on the river without giving it up.
Another person says the leader of the province is not a tyrant at all but rather a concerned citizen who really wants to see Swan Island cleaned up and maintained properly-- something that the city cannot afford. But after all the name calling and bickering from the city, this levelheaded ruler recently abounded his effort to try to help restore the island.
Another person says they are getting a group of billionaires together to buy the island and turn it into an exclusive tax autonomous commonwealth for wealthy investors and secede it from the city, the province and possibly the country.
You feel like you just stepped into some bizarre dream where passion leads and there is no logic.
It quickly becomes obvious that it’s not that people don’t care about Swan Island but that perhaps people care too much. I mean, these people really love this place, so much so that's it paralyzing. They all seem blinded by emotion and heated debate, firing off at one group or another for being “the problem”.
Not one person you talk to has a calm, comprehensive outlook on the issue. Grown adults are pointing fingers like kids on a playground. When will that fire be squelched?
Will people ever calm down and work together?
If there is so much passion, why are there not volunteer groups picking up trash? If the province cares so much about the island, why don’t they offer a grant to help fix its drainage problem?
And if city leaders are so determined not to go through with any plans that are on the table, why don’t they create a plan of their own?
It starts to rain so you get in your car, all soggy and cold, and drive home.
One passionate bombardment of arguments is enough for one day.
Back home, across the water, Swan Island is still that green stretch in the fog.
Maybe the people in that province need to see it from your angle, you think. Just take a step back and cool off, put themselves in your soggy wet shoes for a second.
Then maybe when the fog lifts and the anger subsides, they’ll be able to roll up their sleeves and use their passion for the place (which is remarkable and in many ways admirable) to sculpt a real solution and not an elementary name calling fight.
As early as last fall when former DMC head Mike Duggan became more open about his intended run for Detroit Mayor, he started on a major task: to distance himself from current Mayor Dave Bing and Governor Rick Snyder, both of whom are widely unpopular among Detroit voters, polls and pundits and plain old word on the street have shown.
Everything Bing has supported, Duggan has pinned as a bad idea, from the Belle Isle Lease to the proposed lighting authority and the privatization of city services. the consent agreement to claiming in November that Bing and Governor Snyder were going down “the wrong road.” Duggan’s big job over the next few months will be to find ways to be relatable to Detroiters and to unravel the rumors that he is a union buster.
In an interview Monday with Angelo Henderson on WCHB-AM 1200, Duggan continued to distance himself from Bing and disputed the idea that privatization is the answer, something Bing has often turned to in his role as mayor. Over the past three years, Bing has pushed to privatize the DDOT bus system, the city lighting department, the health department and even trash collection. He has also hired a number of outside firms to perform services that the city offers. Bing has said the city’s last resort is to privatize services and that hiring outside firms is necessary to fix problems within the city.
But Duggan, when asked how he felt about privatization, said it was a result of leadership failure. He told Henderson on Monday:
“Privatization is an admission of management failure. A private company has to make a profit. The government does not. So if government can turn over to the private sector for running it cheaper, the government has to be pretty messed up in the way it was running.”
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