A week before the Nov. 6 election Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) Roy Roberts made a big statement: He warned that if Proposal 1 (the controversial legislation that gave him broad power over of the beleaguered school district) fell through, he may leave is post as EFM.
What would ultimately influence Roberts’ decision to stay or go? The Detroit Board of Education.
At the time of the announcement, it was unclear if the warning was just a pre-election threat to get people to vote "Yes on 1" or if jumping ship was something Roberts really planned to do in a time when the district has seen much restructuring under his leadership, and in at a crossroads.
Roberts said he would make a decision as to whether he would stick with DPS based on how the Board of Education received him in a post-election meeting on how to proceed without Public Act 4.
Proposal 1 asked voters if the State should uphold Public Act 4---a beefed up version of a Emergency Manager legislation enacted in 1990---which enabled the Governor to appoint financial managers with sweeping powers to municipalities and school districts undergoing financial crisis. The measure was defeated and now the old emergency manager law, Public Act 72 of 1990 holds, limiting the power of EFMs like Roberts strictly to finances. If the board members were willing to work with him and not against him as Roberts claims they have done in the past, Roberts said he would stay.
Ultimately, Roberts has put the future of his post in the hands of School Board members, the same Board whose president repeatedly called for Roberts and his predecessor, Robert Bobb, to step down.
It's an interesting tactic. If Roberts resigns, he's has positioned it so that it is the School Board's fault for not being willing to set aside politics and put the children first.
Roberts wrote in a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder one week before the election stating:
"In the absence of legislation empowering a single entity with the authority to operate the district, continued progress will be virtually impossible. Therefore, while my commitment to the children of Detroit remains as strong as it was when I began this journey, without the tools provided by (the law), I do not believe that my presence here can have any further impact."
One day after the Nov. 6 election defeated Proposal 1, Roberts wrote in a letter to DPS employees:
“I also reached out to the School Board to schedule a meeting to discuss how we can move forward in the best interest of educating Detroit's children. I am confident that as long as we can keep the focus on the children we can work together to make DPS a leader in public education once again.”
Roberts, it seems, isn’t giving up just yet. A day after the defeat of Proposal 1, Roberts sent a letter to DPS employees with an upbeat message about the passage of a school millage renewal.
Pending a meeting with the school board on how to move forward in a post-PA4 environment, Roberts said he was willing to stay at DPS for at least another 30 days. If he resigns, he has implied it will be the School Board’s fault for making his job too difficult.
Roberts has gained a reputation of a no-nonsense leader who is frank about the district's problems. One of Roberts’ biggest accomplishments during his two-year tenure has been to shrink the district’s deficit by from $327 million to $75 million, mostly in bond sales.
At events around the city Roberts made it clear that he didn’t like the prospect of having to work with the school board.
“You can’t have two masters in a home,” he said of having to battle with the School Board over every decision he makes that ‘s not strictly financial.
How school board members will receive Roberts in the upcoming meeting has yet to be seen, although the relationship between the two has been rocky. Will school board members and Roberts come to an agreement in the best interest of Children’s education?
They should. If Roberts and the school board truly have the children’s best interest at heart, they will find a way to put their differences aside and come to a compromise. And it’s not just up to the school board. Roberts will have to concede some of his power to the Board and do the work that Robert Bobb did before public act 4 was enacted. It's doable, it just takes more negotiating.
The question shouldn’t be whether or not the Board of Education will allow Roberts to do his work. The compromise has to come from both ends.
The question should be how they both will work together and best use all of their talents. At this point it really is a test, on both the School Board's and Robert’s part on who is willing to put pride and power aside in the name of one of the nation’s most important rights: public of education.
Whatever happens with suspended Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, will play out in time.
But in the meantime, the Detroit Police Department (DPD) is in good hands. That’s the message from Detroit Councilman James Tate.
The former deputy police chief only had positive things to say about now interim Police Chief Chester Logan, who he has worked with in the past. "He's someone who is highly regarded by the men and women of the Police Department," Tate told the Detroit Free Press.
Logan is a lifelong Detroiter with more than 38 years of experience with the Detroit Police force who also served the U. S. Army in the Vietnam War.
Godbee Broke Trust, Not Rules
After sitting through hours of the Kwame Kilpatrick federal corruption trail, the difference between unethical and illegal is still ringing in my ears. While no one thinks what Godbee did was illegal, it is certainly believed to be unethical to have an interdepartmental affair.
Fair grounds for suspension, many have said. Obviously Mayor Dave Bing thinks so.
According to the DPD’s employee policy, there’s nothing that prohibits interdepartmental relationships, according to a Detroit police spokesperson.
But Bruce Miller, an employment lawyer and president of Miller Cohen told The Free Press that there’s a reason for a lack of specific rules: "An organization can't have a rule that defines everything it does," Miller said. "The rule book would be awfully thick."
Detroit Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said Godbee should resign and to clear the city of any scandal or perceived ethical breach: Just because a decision is not illegal or against the rules doesn’t mean it’s not wrong.
The bottom line is that the DPD is in good hands with Logan and one Police Chief’s digressions are small compared to the big picture of keeping the city safe. Knowing this we can all calm down on the Godbee topic.
If the city of Detroit was a business, and Mayor Dave Bing was the President/CEO, and Corporation Council Krystal Crittendon was said businesses’ top lawyer, Crittendon would have been fired months ago.
But the city isn’t a business, and the mayor isn’t a President or CEO and able to call all the shots. There are many reasons one could argue that municipalities aren’t like a business, and alternately, many reasons why one could argue that they are.
Bing has said many times that the city aught to be run like a business. And in his letter to Crittendon yesterday, he cited how she had hurt her client, the City of Detroit, in her lawsuit challenging the consent agreement. As a direct result of her actions, bond ratings dropped, along with the already low public opinion of the city.
As much as Bing would like to run the city like a business, there are instances, like this one, where the two are distinguished. The city council has to vote on this one and six of them have to agree with Bing in order to remove Crittendon from her post as the city’s leading lawyer. And the council doesn't work for Bing.
It is unlikely that the City Council will vote out Crittendon for two reasons: First of all, there are not six city council members who agreed with allowing the consent agreement in the first place. That vote rattled through at 5-4. Secondly, Bing has already asked the city council members to remove Crittendon: just last week. They said “no” and no major external shifts have taken place since then, unless they are under some more, less public pressure from the state to get rid of her, the vote isn’t likely to change.
The question of weather a city should be run like business has intrigued me for some time.
But now is not the time for more philosophical debates and back and forth within city government. Could Crittendon’s removal turn into another city circus?
That’s what Bing is trying to avoid, and yet it almost seems inevitable.
One of the definitions the Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives for the word “business” is:
“Serious activity requiring time and effort and usually the avoidance of distractions "
Under that definition, Detroit is definitely a business and needs to avoid as many distractions as possible in order to stabilize not only the city’s reputation, but its finances.
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