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?
Remember when former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was getting into all that trouble? There was much talk about the city charter then, how the law department was powerless to control the mayor, how the charter had to be updated. The talk ramped up into action and an elected charter revision commission worked for two years to revise the city’s law book.
Now, two years later, the new and supposedly improved charter is taking affect, big time.
But a lot has changed since Kilpatrick’s mess and the revised charter is giving the law department the power to act independently of a new kind of Mayor: one caught in a financial crisis and trying to keep the city afloat with state funds—and state mandated financial experts to the tune of controversy. There are those who believe the city could do without state mandated experts taking over city finances.
The new charter has city’s law department separate from the executive branch so that neither the Mayor nor the City Council can give city law officials orders. What’s more, the law department has the power to remove elected officials from office if they violate the charter. The mayor and the council can also remove law officials.
The stakes were raised last week for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and City Council members. Threats from state treasury officials are putting city leaders in with a financial time bomb: Drop the lawsuit that's holding up the consent agreement or loose $80 million in revenue sharing, a state treasury official threatened. The threat came in a letter to Jack Martin, the state appointed financial guru to head the conditions of the stalled consent agreement.
That spells stalemate for Bing, the Council and Law Department.
Bing and the Council are set to meet behind closed doors today to figure out what their options are.
What’s interesting to me is why the state is so eager to force the city to drop the lawsuit. The state and the mayor contend that the city doesn’t have enough time to wait for a legal battle to play out.
But it seems like that state is worried the lawsuit really might just void the legality of the consent agreement. Why else would state officials be so forceful in making the city drop the lawsuit—a lawsuit that they claim hold no water?
A question for city leaders is: is the law bendable under the weight of an impeding financial crisis?
It was a theme highlighted by leaders at The Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes and Politics forum: collaboration. Often leaders speak of collaborating and working together, but it’s hard sometimes to point out specific examples of what that looks like.
That’s why when I read in the Detroit Free Press that sheriffs from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties were willing to send officers to help patrol the Detroit fireworks, I thought of a the collaboration theme.
In May at the “Big Four” session of Pancakes and Politics, one attendee asked Detroit Mayor Dave Bing if he would be willing to seek public safety help from surrounding counties Bing’s reply was that he was open to any options to help keep people safe in the city.
This week, that question was fully answered. When Bing asked the leaders in surrounding counties to send officers in to patrol the hundreds of thousands of people expected to attend the 54th annual Target Fireworks show on the Detroit river, the answer was yes. State police will also help patrol the event.
After ripping more than $200 million from this fiscal year’s budget, the city can’t afford to police large events, ones that ultimately draw in residents from all over the region and state.
“It is no longer feasible to have these events funded primarily by Detroit taxpayers.”
It makes sense that the surrounding counties and state would lend a hand. The fireworks may be located in Detroit, but it is a regional, event statewide attraction and therefore, the responsibility of those counties to keep residents safe. The financial burden of events such as this should not be placed solely on Detroit taxpayers in this economic climate. So patrol help from neighbors isn’t a handout, it’s a responsible step to keeping people safe.
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