Today’s the day. Today, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is expected to receive a comprehensive report on Detroit’s finances to determine whether he should appoint an emergency manager to take over the city’s finances or not.
Snyder has said it won’t take him long after reviewing the report to make a decision about Detroit’s future. Earlier this month Snyder told reporters he wasn’t indecisive:
“It will probably take a week or two for me to make a full analysis of the report, and then decisions will be made. My reputation is not one to be sitting on things rather than making decisions.”
But the hard part may be finding someone willing to take on the tall order of reigning in Detroit’s finances—a $300 million-plus short-term deficit and a long terms debt of more than $12 Billion. On top of everything, this is a city that takes great issue with state-based initiatives in city government.
If Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is right about having the second hardest job in that nation, then one can only imagine the post of Detroit’s emergency manager is right up there with the hardest of them. Talk about being hated.
Many people rumored to be on Rick Snyder’s short list have declined any interest in the post.
But one of those rumored EM possibilities is George Jackson, head of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. According to The Detroit News: "Jackson is the only named person who hasn't denied he is in consideration. A spokesman for Jackson declined to comment and referred the issue to Snyder's office".
A state-appointed review team has been combing through Detroit’s snarled finances since December. While Detroit, as the state’s largest city, would be the biggest municipality to fall under state receivership, it would not be the first.
The cities of Pontiac, Highland Park, Benton Harbor and Flint have all undergone the controversial state measure of involving locally elected officials being stripped of many or their powers so a state-selected leader can take over.
The issue has been so controversial that it has inspired Flint playwrights to create an entire production on the topic.
State of Emergency, a play opening this Friday in Flint, uses verbatim theatre, that is a technique that uses real quotes from interviews and found materials, to make up a theatrical production outlining what life under state management is like for cities like Flint.
The play could also soon apply to Detroit. One of the play’s creators, Andrew Morton of Shop Floor Theatre Company, says the struggle for power between local officials and state appointed receivers is one that makes for a great drama.
Morton told Mlive-Flint:
"A very specific example is the announcement of (the emergency manager) on the night of the election of 2011. To me, that's a dramatic event," Morton said. Shakespearean plots, it's all about who's in power, or power shifting from one group to another, or one groups trying to wrangle power back."
For Detroiters who don’t want to drive all the way to Flint will be able to watch it online streaming live HERE on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7 pm.
Local political annalists have agreed in their predictions that Detroit will go the way of Flint, Pontiac, and other cash strapped Michigan cities.
As with any year that hasn't been lived yet, a world of possibilities awaits Detroit. For instance, the Detroit Tigers could still win the 2014 World Series and Belle Isle could still become a state park.
That's right. It's not over yet.
Hopes for a State-City lease deal that would have put Detroit’s island park in the charge of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources were seemingly smashed to bits last month when governor Rick Snyder pulled the offer. Snyder says he only dropped the deal after Detroit city council failed to vote on the proposal before deadline.
But it’s not the end of a possible State lease of Belle Isle. If enough council members change their minds, or if the city falls under the reigns of a state-appointed emergency manager, the 30-year lease deal may likely resurface in 2014. At least that’s what Snyder has been hinting at recently.
Reports that the state set aside more than $4 million to spend on Belle Isle's upkeep if the deal went through were true, but now that money will dissolve back into the state’s $50.9 billion annual budget. Snyder says he's willing to nest-egg some funds for Belle Isle again, though.
Last week the Detroit News reported:
“… The governor said he's not ruled out budgeting the money for converting Belle Isle into a state park in 2014 if City Council changes its mind about the lease.
"That deadline's past, so it's not going to happen (this year)," Snyder said.”
Snyder told the Detroit Free Press editorial board the same thing: that the Belle Isle may just come back to the table.
He said he left money in the state budget for Belle Isle to show he was “dead serious” about making a deal with Detroit to maintain the 982-acre park.
The council indirectly voted against the proposal this year by stalling past deadline, something that cancels the offer for this year. But 2014 is a chance for the city to have a change of heart.
“They can say they didn’t vote, but I take it they voted ‘no’,” Snyder told the Free Press. “So we’re going to follow through in what we were going to do for 2014. I said '13 was off the table, but if somebody wants to talk '14 ... [I’m open].”
For all intents and purposes, it sounds like the offer is still an option, just delayed. And from the looks of things, Detroit will likely be in State receivership come 2014. As we all know, a lot can change in a year.
Again, it's a world of possibilities.
As early as last fall when former DMC head Mike Duggan became more open about his intended run for Detroit Mayor, he started on a major task: to distance himself from current Mayor Dave Bing and Governor Rick Snyder, both of whom are widely unpopular among Detroit voters, polls and pundits and plain old word on the street have shown.
Everything Bing has supported, Duggan has pinned as a bad idea, from the Belle Isle Lease to the proposed lighting authority and the privatization of city services. the consent agreement to claiming in November that Bing and Governor Snyder were going down “the wrong road.” Duggan’s big job over the next few months will be to find ways to be relatable to Detroiters and to unravel the rumors that he is a union buster.
In an interview Monday with Angelo Henderson on WCHB-AM 1200, Duggan continued to distance himself from Bing and disputed the idea that privatization is the answer, something Bing has often turned to in his role as mayor. Over the past three years, Bing has pushed to privatize the DDOT bus system, the city lighting department, the health department and even trash collection. He has also hired a number of outside firms to perform services that the city offers. Bing has said the city’s last resort is to privatize services and that hiring outside firms is necessary to fix problems within the city.
But Duggan, when asked how he felt about privatization, said it was a result of leadership failure. He told Henderson on Monday:
“Privatization is an admission of management failure. A private company has to make a profit. The government does not. So if government can turn over to the private sector for running it cheaper, the government has to be pretty messed up in the way it was running.”
In 2010, Environmental advocates and concerned citizens gaped at the documentary Gasland which shows people lighting tap water on fire as a result of methane leaks due to “fracking”, a controversial natural gas extraction method linked to ground water contamination. The process involves breaking into shale rock below ground water levels to acess methane. Once the rock is broken, gas released can potentially seep upward into water supplies if not extracted correctly.
A Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) spokesperson has decried the film, stating that the images in Gasland are not accurate.
Today, the debate over fracking and its dangers and benefits continues in Michigan as Governor Rick Snyder announced a plan Wednesday to increase the state's production of natural gas.
On Wednesday, Snyder said the best way to tap into Michigan’s plentiful natural gas deposits is to research safe ways to expand the use of fracking. He said an increase of the drilling process will result in lower gas bills for Michigan residents:
"We've been doing fracking for over a decade with some of the toughest regulations in the country and it's worked well," he said. "Fracking is something that is very serious and it needs to be done the right way.”
According to a report in The Detroit News, Michigan plans to team up with the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute on a two-year, $600,000 study of best practices for the use of fracking. The increase in fracking may not be halted by the DEQ.
In October Michigan DEQ communications director Brad Wurfel declared hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” a safe method under the right controls and decried the controversial documentary that smeared the practice.
Wurfel told The Rockford Quire:
“I’ve seen Gasland and it’s a fun movie, but it isn’t real. In Michigan in 60 years and 12,000 wells there has never been a single incident associated with fracking. People get really excited about this. We are the Department of Environmental Quality, we protect the land, air and water. If something was going to damage those resources we would shut it down or outlaw it.”
But there are those who counter Wurfel’s statement, citing a scientific study that linked flammable drinking water to fracking.
On a federal level, the Obama Administration tightened fracking regulations this May, implementing laws requiring the disclosure of chemicals used in the process when done on federal and American Indian lands.
Still, the issue is hotly contested at a state and national level. Those who rely on ground water to drink worry about the affects of fracking. But under the right controls, many argue that it’s a step toward Michigan becoming more energy independent.
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.
Just when the legal showdown over the Detroit consent agreement was escalating to a special kind of crazy, the show is over: But not before Mayor Dave Bing hired a private lawyer to fight his own city's law department. Really, you can't make this stuff up.
Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette ended what could have been a long and nasty battle between the city and, well, itself. On Wednesday afternoon Collette immediately tossed the lawsuit brought by Detroit’s top lawyer Krystal Crittendon without hesitation.
“This lawsuit will not go forward. I saw it from the very first moment."
Now the City Council can appoint the final members of the financial advisory board that will ultimately take over financial decisions for the city.
But will Krystal Crittendon and the protestors of the consent agreement fade off into the sunset? Not likely. If it wasn't such a serious issue that affected my city, I'd grab a bowl of popcorn and call it entertainment.
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