Minni Forman (107)
Get to work. That’s what supporters of the consent agreement have been hoping the nine-member Financial Advisory Board (FAB) would do after the legal storm brought by Detroit's Corporation Council Krystal Crittendon cleared.
Well, it has. The FAB 9 have, in fact, been at work for some time, it seems. One of the products of their labor is a 62-page blanket contract for city unions called City Employment Terms, or CET.
The conditions of the CET have been called “union busting” by union representatives. But union busting or not, the city simply can’t afford to maintain old union agreements while facing financial straights.
Union contracts for most of the city’s unions expired June 30 and the city is set to implement new contracts today, leaving the door open to the FAB (that was appointed under the PA4 consent agreement) to make sweeping changes to unions across the city.
The CET is slated to become the one contract that governs nearly all 40 city unions that previously, each had individual contracts with the city.
And under the CET, no strikes are allowed.
The VoiceofDetroit.net reports:
“The CET bars strikes although at the same time the consent agreement says city workers will no longer be covered under the Public Employee Relations Act, which while providing some protections for workers, has been the chief mechanism to bar strikes.”
That’s a double whammy on strikes, just in case workers get mad and want to, er..., strike.
The CET also proposes that all city workers will be subject to a 10 percent pay cut, no more furlough days or annual longevity payments or merit and step increases in pay.
Sound familiar? Well, these cuts mimic the ones Mayor Dave Bing was trying to impalement three years ago but couldn’t get unions to budge on. Apparently unions wanted to go the hard way. Since the mayor couldn't do it, the state will. The CET cuts are deeper than what Bing was proposing in 2009.
The CET also says workers will still contribute five percent of their annual pay to a retirement plan, but the workers’ contributions will be considered the city’s contributions, eliminating the city’s obligation to pay separately into the fund, according to VoiceofDetroit.net.
Under the CET there is no guaranteed lunch hour, just two 15-minute breaks.
That’s not all, folks.
“In addition to the pay cut, the new contract calls for about $52 million in savings by changing the city's health care plan. The plan will eliminate dental and vision coverage for retirees, and increases co-pays on insurance. The contribution from employees on prescription drugs also increases.”
How will union workers react? They can’t strike, but there is bound to be some sort of outrage. The City Council will be meeting at 1:30pm today to discuss the CET. Stay tuned as the coverage around this unfolds.
Some call them election reform bills, others call them voter suppression bills. Governor Snyder called them an unsatisfactory two weeks back when he vetoed three bills that were created to curb voter fraud. Or, as critics would say, to suppress the vote.
The three bills Snyder turned down, MLive reports:
1. A bill that would have required a voter to reaffirm U.S. citizenship before receiving a ballot
2. A bill that would mandate a valid photo ID when picking up an absentee ballot from a city office
3. A bill that would have required training for people, companies and organizations participating in voter registration drives
Snyder said he vetoed the bills because he was concerned about some logistics, not because of voter suppression. He said he was concerned about how and where people would be trained for voter registration drives and he was concerned that people would be confused about verifying their citizenship before getting a ballot.
But these kinks may be worked out and Snyder is expected to take a second look at the bills when they come across his desk, and review them again. He may this time sign them into law if he feels the issues of concern were addressed.
But I can't help but wonder: How many people wouldn’t participate in a voter registration drive if they had to take a class beforehand? How many people wouldn’t vote because they had to reaffirm their citizenship, one more step to the voting process? How many wouldn’t vote because they were out of town and did not have a valid photo ID to present before picking up an absentee ballot?
Let’s hope Snyder doesn’t change his decision after the bills are tweaked. Some call it voter suppression. I call it voter discouragement.
Is EMU President Martin A Drunk?
The Eastern Michigan Board of Regents seems to think so. The Board sent a letter to University President Sue Martin asking her to control her drinking or face losing her job.
In the letter they suggested that she seek help:
“We are supportive of you seeking help from professionals ...” the letter stated, adding, adding:
“We are concerned that your misuse of alcohol could result in liability to the university.”
But the incident in question that prompted the letter—a dispute between Martin and EMU alumnus Michael Ferens over a former univeristy mascot was described as “minor” and “brief” by Ferens, Martin and witnesses of the incident according to a report on AnnArbor.com.
Is one dispute over drinks enough for a warning from the Board of Regents?
It seems like there’s more to the story than this one incident. Outside of the brief argument with Ferens, Martin has not had any drinking related problems since she got a DWI in 2005. Could Martin be the victim of political jousting? Possibly, although that is purely speculation.
Martin has publically admitted to acting out of line and apologized for making a mistake. Suggesting her hectic lifestyle led to the inappropriate her behavior. But have there been other unpublicized incidents or does the EMU Board of Regents just want Martin out?
How it relates to Detroit:
In June, Martin attended the Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes and Politics forum with DPS emergency financial manager Roy Roberts and the chancellor of Michigan’s new Education Achievement Authority (EAA) John Covington.
EMU is a major partner in the creation of the EAA, which is being piloted in Detroit and there’s a lot at stake both for EMU and students entering the new system. Any instability with EMU could reflect poorly not only on the University but on the EAA as in launches in Detroit.
Hopefuly this controversy will be resolved and Martin will continue to serve as president and do so without alcohol related squabbles.
CLICK HERE to read the letter the Board sent to Martin.
CLICK HERE to read the letter Martin sent to the Board.
Who needs a consent agreement? Detroit and the State of Michigan can sue the way to financial stability one lawsuit at a time. That's the level of ridiculousness we're headed towards, anyway.
Amid the confusion and controversy of legal tangles around the consent agreement, Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown wants to add another ring to the legal dispute circus.
Brown says he’s going to urge the council to vote on a resolution to have the city charter reviewed by state Attorney General Bill Schuette.
The Detroit News reports:
“Brown wants Schuette to initiate a lawsuit asking a judge to clarify Crittendon's powers as the head of the city's law department while she continues her crusade against Detroit's consent agreement with the state.”
Is that’s what this city needs? Another lawsuit? The city just spent two years and thousands of dollars revising the city charter. The people who know the charter best are the ones who just re-wrote it, the former revision commission members.
But all that is beside the point. Why can’t we just let this lawsuit play out? Chances are, the Ingham County judge who dismissed Crittendon’s case with unwavering conviction the first time will not have had a change of heart. In the meantime, there is a lot work to be done.
Instead of fretting over a lawsuit that is supposedly “meritless” according to state officials, get to work on fixing the city’s finances, not pulverizing them further into oblivion.
Because, at the end of the day, financial stability is the goal, right? Is seems leadership at the city and state level has lost sight on the big picture and has been sucked into the whirlpool of drama that is city/ state politics.
Times like these call for collaboration and compromise. Like Mayor Dave Bing has said over and over: lawsuits are not going to fix the city’s financial crisis.
Just when there was some hope that the legal drama over the consent agreement was over, a new round of lawsuits stirred up the political pot late last week.
Crittendon is at it again, asking the Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette, who dismissed her challenge to the consent agreement, to reconsider his decision. It’s unlikely that the case will go far with the same judge who was very clear that he did not believe Crittendon had a legitimate case last time.
Meanwhile, the state also filed a lawsuit in Wayne County last week to stop a city hearing over water bills the state allegedly owes the city. The threats to withhold millions in revenue sharing are back on the table, just like they were last month.
When will leaders be able to compromise? Leadership in Detroit definitely leaves something to be desired, but state officials are not exactly the best diplomats, either. All of the “danger” Bing warns that the city is in stems from threats from the state’s threat to withhold finances due to Crittendon’s the lawsuit, not the lawsuit itself.
City Council member Kenneth Cockrel Jr. has the right idea. He told The Detroit News:
"I do think continued legal filings not only on her part but on the part of the state — they are now suing us — are ultimately destructive to the process," Cockrel said. "They are certainly not in the city's short term or long term interests, for that matter."
Yeah, what he said.
If anyone should be concerned about the consent agreement between the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan, it’s AFSCME local workers. The agreement that is geared to restore financial stability to the floundering Motor City, has cleared a path to bust unions in the name of cutting corners.
After a lawsuit filed by the city’s Corporation Counsel aiming to halt the consent agreement was tossed by a judge last month, a new, similar, lawsuit has emerged.
This time, it’s not coming from Krystal Crittendon or any city official. It’s coming from three AFSCME local union leaders who have been working and living in the city for decades.
The three plaintiffs, Rose Roots, Yolanda King and Yvonne Ross, are all representatives of AFSCME local divisions. Although they say their decision to sue the Mayor and City Council for violating the city charter has not been influenced by anything but the community need to oppose the agreement.
"Ross, 60, is a legal secretary for the city of Detroit and is president of Local 2799. Yolanda King, 52, is president of Local 2394 and is a civilian employee with the Detroit Police Department. Roots, who is in her 70s, is president of Chapter 98, which represents city of Detroit Retirees."
This can’t be a coincidence. Outside of union affiliates and a few heated activists, the general population of Detroiters seem apathetic to the consent agreement: A few sparsely attended protests do not a revolution make.
But on a state level this may not be the case. Two weeks ago another group of residents sued the state to challenge the legality of the Emergency Manager Law, or PA4.
“We could have had a thousand plaintiffs, or we could have had more than tens of thousands,” John Philo, legal director of the Maurice & Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice (which will provide legal representation in the lawsuit) told Democracy Now last month.
“There’s a tremendous amount of concern throughout every community in this state,” he said, adding:
“The concern is not localized to just the communities that have an emergency manager now, and it’s not just urban areas. We’re getting support from the UP and from the northern Michigan, which isn’t known for progressive politics.”
The lawsuit King, Ross and Roots filed this week will be heard on July 13 by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Amy Hathaway.
Looking at the stats, it seems like Detroit desperately needs more emergency medical service technicians (EMS) than firefighters. The proposed layoff of 164 firefighters this month, will undoubtedly have a negative impact on public safety until the Federal grant slated to fund the replacement most of the laid off firefighters comes through.
But according to the numbers provided in a statement from Detroit mayor Dave Bing, it looks like EMS is responding to more than five times the calls with only a quarter of the workforce.
Here are the statistics provided in the statement:
- Total Sworn Fire Fighters = 881
- Fire Suppression = Estimated 30,000 calls for service annually; with an estimated 9,500 false alarms
• Total EMS Technicians = 248
• EMS = Estimated 135,000 calls for service annually.
Since the city is in a pinch and has to make tough cuts to the scope of services, it seems many of the firefighting posts should be replaced with EMS technicians.
It’s never too early to slip on your fighting gloves when seriously considering an election bid.
Currently, Detroit’s mayoral seat is being discussed, and while it’s very likely that incumbent Dave Bing will run again, the first-term mayor has not committed to a second year yet.
Meanwhile, potential candidates are lining up. With City Council President Charles Pugh and the DMC’s front-man Mike Duggan getting their political stars aligned for a run, Bing may have some serious contenders. Even though the primary for Detroit’s mayoral election is more than a year away, there already seems to be signs of political tension brewing; at least between Pugh and Bing.
This became more noticeable with the council’s recent spat with the mayor over the removal of the city’s top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon. Pugh shared what sounded like negative political ad verbiage after Bing asked the council to remove Crittendon two weeks ago.
That day, Pugh told The Detroit News: "Shouldn't the mayor of Detroit be doing something else? Shouldn't he be trying to get investment or development in his community? Shouldn't we be trying to move forward with the Program Management office to reshape the city? Shouldn't he be trying to get taxes that we haven't collected? What is he doing?"
Now, with Duggan gearing up to throw his hat in the ring for the city’s top spot, Pugh said it’s time for those considering candidacy to step their game up. Pugh took a light stab at Bing by putting the mayor's credentials behind Duggan’s.
Ouch. These are some campaign fighting words. Bing better make his decision to run or not quickly, because it seems the race has (unofficially) begun.
If you’re a Detroit resident who hasn’t paid city income or property tax, times are changing. Under the consent agreement, one of its goals is to get systems in place to track down taxes owed. A lot of Detroiter’s owe city taxes in some form or another. However, the city lacked the capacity to collect before. Now, for those land owners and people who let their city income tax go unpaid, it’s time to ante up.
Here is an excerpt from the final draft of the consent agreement:
Improve Detroit’s Capacity to Collect Tax Revenues:
- Enhance city revenue collection capacity as requested by the City of Detroit through technical assistance for collections, audit, and city income tax administration
- Create a common assessment template—move the property assessment function from the city to the county to allow for efficiencies as well as between property owners
Many Detroiters simply don’t have the money owed to the city. Will the city garnish wages? Or if the resident who owes taxes is unemployed (our unemployment rate is the highest in the country) will the city or Wayne County then repossess property?
When Governor Rick Snyder met with the Council of Baptist Pastors yesterday, he obviously didn’t know what to expect. He reportedly was “whisked out of the Bethel Baptist Church on the east side of Detroit by his security detail” after people started heckling him about Public Act 4 and chanting protests.
“They basically just started shouting and yelling in a house of worship," Snyder said after the event, assuming that the meeting was at a church should keep people quiet.
Synder apparently hasn’t been to a Baptist church service if he thinks shouting and yelling in a house of worship is something to be scoffed at. It’s a cultural divide.
In many places including Detroiit, church is commonly a venue for people to express their concerns about the community and in a Baptist church, vocal praise or protest is nothing new.
The Governor was speaking in front of the Council of Baptist Pastors to share his plans for a second bridge to Windsor and his vision for Detroit’s future. While he deserves kudos for even agreeing to speak in a place where he knew there would be protestors, he needs to get tougher skin if he’s going to be making more appearances in the Detroit community. And, hey, maybe he could even attend a Baptist service or two, just to get a better grasp on the culture if nothing else.
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