For years Detroit has been on the brink of one financial crisis after another. While the threat of running out of cash is an ever-looming one, this time the State is not buckling under Detroit’s reluctance to change the status quo (or at least the division in leadership over how to change it).
Ultimately, the buzz about the escrowed state funds is a tiny spec on the surface of an enormous financial monster. Let’s be real: Detroit is in way deeper -*- than a $30 million bond sale installment and a few unpaid furloughs can remedy. The city council could approve Miller Canfield contracts all day long and the city would still be down the well so to speak.
At this point big chunks of city operations need to be dissovled or merged. This is serious restructuring that city leaders have been able to pull off over the past decades of post industrial depression.
The consent agreement with the State put in place last spring in lieu of an EFM just isn’t cutting it. As Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey said on Tuesday:
“…The truth of the matter is we are 8 months away from when the consent agreement [was implemented]. We could have had a baby in this time. But nothing has been done.”
That’s why an Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) now seems inevitable. Since Public Act 4 was suspended in November, the State must revert to the old emergency manager law, Public Act 72, which limits the powers of a state-appointed appointed money czar. By now it’s not a question of “if” anymore, rather “when” and “who”.
While an emergency financial manager would not have the sweeping powers that an emergency manager would have had under PA4, he or she could still take control of financial matters [hopefully] without getting too tangled in politics.
That said, perhaps the most important question for Gov. Risk Snyder when is comes to appointing an EFM to Detroit is the “who.”
It will take an individual of tremendous resolve, intelligence, and overall chutzpah to turn around the roaring southbound train that is Detroit’s finances.
The person who is appointed to head Detroit’s money matters will have to have the resolve of a Hillary Clinton and the optimistic, fiscally conservative outlook of a Rick Snyder.
If it is as Mayor Dave Bing said last week and leading Detroit is the second hardest job in the country, the EFM position could easily line up as the third most challenging.
Aside from negotiating a cease-fire in the Middle East, perhaps negotiating with city unions for hefty pay cuts and layoffs are the most difficult negotiations to make in the nation.
Snyder should appoint as Detroit’s EFM a woman with the character and intelligence of Hillary Clinton.
Conservative Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to President George W. Bush said recently of Clinton:
“Secretary Clinton in particular stepped forward and exerted some leadership. That's very good news, because what the Middle East has been crying for is greater U.S. leadership."
Well, what Detroit has been crying for is greater leadership, too. So if an emergency financial manager is the only way out, lets make sure that manager is thoroughly vetted and can to the dang thing.
In 2011, DPS Financial manager Roberts was confident that Education Achievement Authority (EAA) would be a success. “I’ll make you a little bet,” he told Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey. “Give us two years and people will ask us to be in EAA.”
The EAA is a new state-run school district, which is a public/private partnership between the state and Eastern Michigan University, is the first of a statewide effort to turn around schools that are underperforming. The creation of the EAA district was taken under Public Act 4, the controversial emergency manager law that’s now up for public vote in November.
If the people decide to toss PA4 on Election Day, Roberts won’t be able to see out his EAA bet—or anything else—as the Board of Education will regain power.
The question remains, if Roberts isn’t there to “undo 50 years of crap” as he puts it, who will? Certainly not the old systems that have been in place—or a superhero: “Superman ain’t comin’ is one of Robert’s favorite quips when referring to the DPS crisis.
Back in 2011 when Gov. Rick Snyder first appointed Roberts, he made it clear he was tough—and frank—enough for the job. And with the scope of EFM power increased under the new Public Act 4 legislation, Roberts had the ability to do things his predecessor, Robert Bobb, couldn’t.
Things like overseeing the new EAA district, offering take-home Netbooks for students in grades 8-12, individualized learning plans for each DPS student and new specialized schools including Medicine and Arts high schools and still slashing $75 million from the budget.
As Tuesday marked the first day of school for DPS, the advertisements ramping up to opening day have been aggressive—and good: Either the Detroit Public School district is doing a world-class PR job, or it really has taken great measures to improve the learning environment for the upcoming year. And while it may be a little of both, it seems that the district is starting off the academic year revamped and better organized.
With just over a year of what Roberts has called “the hardest job of his life” under his belt, he has accomplished much of what he said he would without being hamstrung by the Board of Education. Now, as November approaches, time is running out to prove that DPS is better off in the state’s hands.
Parents have to decide for themselves if their children are better off now than they were two years ago. But both Roberts and his counterpart, EAA chancellor John Covington, both agree that the future is not just up to them—or superman. And while two years is hardly enough to judge long term progress, so far they have made huge strides in changing the landscape of public education in the city.
“This is something we can’t do by ourselves,” Covington said, calling on people to get involved in the process. “We need the general community to get actively involved. There aught to be someone out there holding us accountable.”
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!
- 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' Porsha Stewart Locked Out By Husband Kordell? [Video} (2)
- Earn and Learn Program helps chronically unemployed find careers (1)
- "Hot Lap Ride" with Will Power and the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix (1)
- Charlie Murphy headlines grand opening of The Comedy Zone (1)
- Gordy explains Ross relationship (3)