Ballot Chameleon: Events Change, Constitutions Don’t
When we go to the polls this fall and we get to the ballot proposal section, we can’t make our decisions solely based on current events.
These constitutional amendments and city charter shifts could hold for decades, through all sorts of conflicts.
In Detroit, there are four ballot proposals for people to decide on in addition to six statewide proposals. These city proposals are mostly clarifications and amendments to the city’s governing document, the charter.
An example of current events affecting city laws came during the charter revision process that started in 2010. People were caught up on the Kilpatrick scandal, they wished, at that time, that the law department had more power over the scandalized mayor.
The decision to give city attorney’s independent power was supposed to provide some sort of insurance to make sure this never happened again.
But that backfired when a new situation arose. The State and the City entered into a consent, or turnaround, agreement and when the city’s top lawyer, using her new found power, tried to stop it, there was nothing the Mayor or the Council could do about it.
Now the question on the ballot is whether the charter says that city lawyers have this power or not. It’s a clarifying question that has been seen through current-event shades.
That goes to show us that the amendments proposed this November can’t be changed on an issue by issue basis. They have to stick through all sorts of police weather and economic shifts. They have to be versatile.
Just because it’s unpopular for a city attorney to have power right now after the Crystal Crittendon consent fiasco, the scene may change next year.
So when we vote on these long-term decisions this on Election Day, we have to keep in mind: things won’t always be like this. These people won’t always be in power. Times change. Are these laws versatile?
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.
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.
But I remember three years ago when Bing just got into office and he was trying to do make the cuts needed without state intervention. Remember the union contracts? I particularly remember when lawsuits were flying then namely around AFSCME Local Council 25. The city charter was again in question. Bing had terminated union contracts saying basically the same thing: If I don't there will be payless paydays, the city is broke, and so on. Only, then he estimated the city had a month or two to go before it crumbled--financially that is.
Bing is doing what he and many others feel is best for the city. Concede some power to the state so the city doesn't go bankrupt -- which would be bad for everyone involved. What has to happen is it has turned into an "us vs them" argument when now is the time people need to be working together. If Bing is right this time and the city IS running out of cash, then that is, indeed, perilous for all residents. Too bad Bing used the running out of money in x amount of time warning too many times before.
No doubt he wasn't kidding then, but now, since he is giving the city four days before bust, it's similar to what he said before to get the cuts he needed. So now that the situation has escalated and the stakes have risen, people are acting apathetic. Threats of running out of money are nothing new because the city has been running out of money for a long time. What is the case now? Is it literally a count down to chaos? Does all of Detroit's future really hung on Krystal Crittendon and the lawsuit she filed to hold up the consent agreement? The stakes are high, yes. But does that mean the drama needs to escalate, too?
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