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Detroit May Be Next Michigan City to Get 'Emergency Manager'

Finance team holds first meeting

CommonDreams staff

In March of last year, Michigan Gov. Snyder signed into law Public Act No. 4, the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act, also known as the “emergency financial manager law.”

As the Center for Constitutional Rights describes it: Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joseph Harris (photo: Michigan Municipal League)

Under this law, the Governor has the power to unilaterally (1) declare a local government or school district to be in a state of “financial emergency”, (2) determine if that local government or school district has a “satisfactory” plan to resolve the emergency, and, if he determines that no satisfactory plan exists, (3) appoint an emergency financial manager to act for, and in place of the, the local governing body (i.e., mayor, school superintendent, city council, school board).

So far in Michigan, Ecorse, Pontiac, Benton Harbor and Flint have been appointed emergency managers.

Now it seems that Detroit may be next on that list.

A team appointed to review the city of Detroit's financial situation met for the first time today, according to Reuters.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

A 10-member team appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder is trying to determine if a financial emergency exists in Detroit, a key step toward possible appointment of an emergency manager with broad powers to cut spending.

WDIV - Detroit reports that Detroit Mayor Bing had planned to address the financial crisis with cuts and tax increases:

Mayor Bing's plan calls for 1,000 layoffs, overdue payments from Detroit Public Schools and a corporate tax increase.

And Reuters further notes that:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is working to extract significant concessions from labor unions.

Michigan Treasurer Andy Dillon expects to make a decision on whether Detroit needs an emergency manager within the next 50 days.

Rep. John Conyers (D) noticed that the emergency managers have been put into place in cities that are primarily African-American. From the Washington Post:

As a Michigan panel considers whether a state-appointed emergency manager should take over Detroit’s debt-laden budget, some residents and leaders are arguing that the move would disenfranchise black voters.

“How come all of the jurisdictions put under emergency management are majority African American? Has anybody noticed that?” asked Rep. John Conyers (D), who has represented Detroit for 47 years. “There seems to be a racial aspect, a racial component of the application of this law.”

At the beginning of the year, a crowd, including Rep. Conyers, gathered for a town hall meeting in Detroit to rally against the potential for an emergency manager. WXYZ had video of the event:

In a piece from December, In These Times writer Roger Bybee looked at how Michigan was faring after Gov. Snyder appointed an emergency manager to Benton Harbor:

Gov. Snyder seems to believe that a state takeover of cities is more essential to their health than providing actual financial aid, which has been reserved for Michigan corporations in the form of $1.7 billion in tax cuts. Meanwhile, in part because of state budget cuts, [Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joseph] Harris plans to raise water rates by about 40 percent even though 20 percent of the city's residents can't or won't pay city fees.

The Rainbow Push Coalition has organized a march against the emergency managers as an assault on democracy. They write:

The Emergency Manager legislation violates our democratic rights, breaks unions and doesn’t work. In the tradition of Dr. King, we are going to stand in solidarity and fight for the promise of our democratic freedom. In this spirit, we urge you to join us on Monday, January 16, 2012.
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