Flint Emergency Manager eliminates pay and benefits for mayor and City Council, fires others

Newly-minted Flint Emergency Manager Michael Brown got right to work last. On Friday (pdf) he fired seven staff members at City Hall and then eliminated pay and benefits for Flint’s newly-elected mayor and the City Council. The order says:

  1. Mayor Dayne Walling’s salary and all other compensation and benefits, including the accrual of post-employment benefits, are eliminated.
  2. Flint City Council members’ salaries and all other compensation.

Brown’s appointment as EM of Flint came the same day Mayor Walling was re-elected to his position as mayor. Walling issued a statement acknowledging and thanking the fired staffers for their service.

While the elimination of pay and benefits may appear a bit audacious, I think it’s at least more consistent than what happened in Benton Harbor where the City Commissioners continued to be paid for a job that Joe Harris made them incapable of doing. Brown at least is putting his money where his mouth is. He’s telling the current leaders, “You are not a useful part of the process of putting things right in Flint so you shall be paid nothing. The people may have elected you but I have UN-elected you. Go away.”

I’m asked repeatedly “What is YOUR answer then, if you don’t like the Emergency Manager law?” My answer is this: solving these municipalities’ problems does not start from the baseline that the locally-elected, democratically-elected officials are not a useful part of the process, to be shoved aside. Everything that happens should begin at the baseline that democracy is not just important, it’s essential, even if it’s not always pretty and even if it’s sometimes inconvenient in the rush to privatize everything that isn’t nailed down to funnel taxpayer money to private companies.

If we can start there, then we can have a conversation.

UPDATE: In addition to eliminating the Council members’ pay and benefits, Brown has also cancelled all future Flint City Council meetings until further notice. He needed to do that, of course, since they are no longer officially employed by the City.

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  • aielman

    “My answer is this: solving a municipalities problems does not start from the baseline that the locally-elected, democratically-elected
    officials are not a useful part of the process, to be shoved aside.
    Everything that happens should begin at the baseline that democracy is
    not just important, it’s essential, even if it’s not always pretty and
    even if it’s sometimes inconvenient in the rush to privatize everything
    that isn’t nailed down to funnel taxpayer money to private companies.”

    Ok…then, Question 1…What’s your solution? That’s a statement about what you feel about the law. What’s your solution if not to set aside those local elected officials who’ve failed their electorate and put their municipalities into near default. Bottom line is that communities like Flint and Benton Harbor are about to go bankrupt. If that happens, the court will be far more harsh than the EM ever was. The problem is now, and can’t be put off by something that will take more than 6 months to get in place and possibly longer to see a return on. So what is the short term solution for the immediate problem if not the type of cutting that the EMs are doing? Kicking the can down the road is not at acceptable solution.

    Question 2. If it’s not always pretty, and democracy is essential, then why do you support recall efforts for elected officials who have failed to do what they were elected to do, but are vehemently against the EM who is ostensibly there for the same thing. And the disenfranchisement argument is a straw man. Elected officials appointed the EM, and the state has the right of preemption in matters of finance as the state is providing the financing.

    Question 3. If private industry can do what government can’t in a more efficient and less costly manner, then why not use them? Because profit is evil? The bottom line is providing services for less money. If they can do that, then why not use them?

  • Agi_hammerthief

    The assumption that private enterprise is more efficient and less costly is not based on fact.  Whether it is or isn’t needs to be examined on a case by case basis.  The assumption that for profit companies can provide the same or better service than government is, at best, counter intuitive.  Personally I’d rather that my tax dollars went to providing good paying jobs with decent benefits rather than into the pockets of fat cats and economic manipulators.

    • aielman

      Having worked for the government for close to 30 years at both the federal and local level, I’d be happy to argue how much more efficient private industry is in most cases, but I didn’t say it was more efficient. I said if they are more efficient, why not use them.

      Tax dollars should go to get the job done…as efficiently and as frugally as possible. The government isn’t and shouldn’t be a job program. If the “fat cats” can do the job better and more cheaply, then that’s who should be used.

  • Tilghman

    In answer to your question 3, the idea that private industry can do it more cheaply and more efficiently than government can is an oft-repeated political meme that has rarely been substantiated.  In most cases, private industry low-balls the bid, making an initial claim to a better pricepoint, but when the final bill comes, the price is significantly higher than what government initially paid.  If there was an option to simply not pay private industry if their bill is higher, that might be a good solution.  But private industry will be paid whatever they bill, which means they are never held to the same standard to which government-run services must abide.

    • aielman

       As someone who’s worked for both federal and municipal government as both an employee and a contractor, I can tell you that a great many jobs can and are done more cheaply and efficiently by the private sector than public sector…especially for unskilled or low skilled labor.

      And it’s completely untrue that private industry isn’t or can’t be held to the same standard…unless you’re talking about pay and union concessions. But then again, that’s the point…and the reason they can do the job more efficiently and cheaply.

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