Tuesday, 24 July 2012 07:49
Watch This! Why Public Education Needs Major Reform
This video is a GREAT starting point for further investigation into the bankruptcy of modern education. It’s well worth 10 minutes of your precious time.
Right not in Detroit, public education is being reformed with the new Education Achievement System (EAA) district and other measures. That’s why it’s more important now than ever for people to know what education of the future look like; and demand it.
It’s not just in Detroit that education needs reform. This is a global issue. Kids are being taught in a system that was created during the industrial revolution. All you have to do is look around to know that times have changed since then. But school systems have not.
Kenneth Robinson, an English author, speaker, and international advisor on education, argues in this video breaks down the fundamental flaws in the current global education system.
A must-watch for parents and students:
Click HERE to watch video.
Monday, 23 July 2012 07:26
Consent or Bankruptcy? No Easy Way Out
Last week, when the city council voted on the controversial, proposed union wage and benefit cuts under the consent agreement, Council Member Kwame Kenyatta suggested the city would be better off filing for bankruptcy.
That got people talking: What are the real consequences of municipal bankruptcy?
One Detroit News columnist, Daniel Howes, speculated on what could happen if the city went under the mercy of a federal bankruptcy judge versus the financial board that's now in place under the consent agreement.
“When a judge orders Belle Isle sold to repay creditors or demands the Detroit Institute of Art liquidate a portion of its holdings or abrogates collective bargaining agreements with the city or approves massive legal fees for legions of lawyers or renders judgment on a parade of horribles — that would be preferable?”
After reading that I wanted to find out exactly what the powers of a bankruptcy judge are and whether Howes was right: Could we potentially be forced to sell Belle Isle?
I decided to ask an expert on municipal bankruptcy. Eric Scorsone, specialist in State and Local Government at Michigan State University, says, "no":
“A bankruptcy judge cannot force the City of Detroit to sell Belle Isle or any city-owned property. That’s just not accurate,” he said.
Scorsone distinguished a key difference between a bankruptcy judge and a financial manager or board:
“A bankruptcy judge is really almost more of an arbitrator or an administrator than anything else. An EM is kind of in the driver’s seat.”
Since a bankruptcy judge tends to be more hands off, that’s part of the problem. If the city went bankrupt a judge wouldn’t have the power to change any policies or government structures that landed the city in this financial stew in the first place:
A bankruptcy judge is not gong to fix try to the city’s economy,” Scorsone told me.
But even if we weather bankruptcy, an EM, or Consent Agreement board, it looks like there’s just not easy way out of this, Detroit.
Tuesday, 17 July 2012 07:41
Detroit City Council Member James Tate had a question yesterday for the Financial Advisory Board's Chief Jack Martin. The Board met with the Council yesterday to discuss their proposed cuts to city labor contracts.
"PA4 we know is up in the air right now. Potentially it will be voted down if placed on the ballot. What is your contingency plan?" He asked Martin, who is in place under PA4 (the state's emergency manager law) to manage the city's finances in crisis.
"I can’t say specifically what we may do. But no matter what happens with PA4, we’re still running out of cash. We need the hard dollar savings to get through this year. There’s a million-dollar difference in expenses and revenue between 2012 and 2013. My standpoint is we stay on the current path no matter what happens to PA4."
At yesterday's meeting the City Council did not approve the Financial Advisory Board's proposed cuts to city worker's wages and healthcare benefits. But Mayor Dave Bing and the Financial Advisory Board urged the council to act and not stall the labor cuts as the city can no longer operate in the status quo. Under PA4, the Financial Advisory board does not need the council's approval to make these cuts.
"We can talk about this for the next six months, but the bottom line is we’re running out of cash. If we don’t do it in an organized fashion there is going to be chaos and we’ll end up like some of these jurisdictions that filed bankruptcy."
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 09:54
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.
Tuesday, 10 July 2012 07:53
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.
Monday, 09 July 2012 07:58
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.
Thursday, 28 June 2012 07:48
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?
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 07:50
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.
Tuesday, 26 June 2012 00:25
There was no shortage of law enforcement officers at the Detroit Fireworks Monday evening: Federal officers, State troopers, Detroit Police, Coast Guards, Wayne, Macomb, Oakland County Sheriffs, and a number of DNR officers patrolled the riverfront.
The city’s efforts to keep the event safe and well patrolled by pulling in neighboring law enforcement resources from anywhere possible, really showed. Groups of uniformed officers speckled the crowd of thousands of people, and it seemed the majority of them were not even Detroit Police.
Hart Plaza and the popular hill that many watched fireworks from in the past was closed due to construction, officials said.
The officers were friendly, just the numbers of officers was impressive. Although I didn't personally witness any detainments, the Detroit News reported that officers detained 250 minors for being unaccompanied by adults past the citywide curfew of 6 p.m. Take a look at some of the views from the event:
Thursday, 21 June 2012 07:22
I woke up to bad news this morning: DPS will cut 2,000 jobs this fall to stay afloat, someone died in a shooting on the West Side and in another incident a man was stabbed, a woman was carjacked by a ten-year old... These are not exactly chipper facts to go with your morning coffee.
If I hadn't read the news, I wouldn't have known anything bad was happening. That's because I also woke up to some great news this morning: The eggs I set under one of my hens are hatching, the cucumbers I planted ate starting to climb up the trellis, the field of garlic on a vacant lot is standing tall and the plums trees, also in a vacant lot, are heavy with ripe fruit: too many to eat. All the snap peas are ready, birds are chirping loudly and cheerily, as if it were the best day of their life. And best of all, it's summertime! Today is the first day of summer and one of the longest days of the year.
Despite all the bad news, I remember why I love Detroit. It's the absolute freedom of farming vast spaces of vacant land, of having bonfires in the middle of a city lot. It's the countless birds chirping. It's the wild, wild Midwest feeling where laws and ordinances have been flung to the wayside years ago: The city can't even afford to fully mow it's own vacant lots so my garlic field is safe from citation.
In any other city I couldn't do this. I couldn't get dolled up and drive five minutes to a fabulous cocktail party downtown and still dig my lunch out of the ground out back. People flock from all over the world to visit Detroit. So many people want to interview me about my garden from Holland, Sweden, Australia, South Africa ... that it gets annoying. I just like fresh food. These tourists come to photograph the eerie abandoned factories, the urban farms, the artwork. Because it's a city where almost anything goes.
Despite al the bad news, I love living in Detroit. It reminds me of my home country: Belize, Central America. And while that's a third world country, the decaying economy also lends residents a lot of freedom if they know how to find it. We could have the best turnaround team in the world on board to help fix the city's finances, but we have to be real with ourselves: Nothing's changing overnight and it may get worse before it gets better. So embrace the freedom. Stay informed, but focus on the positive.
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