Emergency Manager Law, Emergency Managers — January 30, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Monday afternoon Emergency Manager news round-up – UPDATED


Anyone wanna buy a sewer?

Lotsa Emergency Manager tidbits to report today.

  1. Highland Park schools Emergency Manager takes the reins
    As I reported last Friday, a new Emergency Manager has been appointed in Michigan, this time it’s the Highland Park school district that has been taken over. You can read about Jack Martin HERE. He’s also on the team that is looking over Detroit’s finances which has raised some eyebrows.

    UPDATE: A community group has formed to oppose the imposition of a Emergency Manager for Highland Park schools:

    Community leaders opposing Highland Park Schools new emergency financial manager held a news conference Monday to make sure their thoughts were known.

    The group announced the formation of the Financial and Academic Reinvestment Commission. The group says FARC “will take a holistic approach to solving local governance issues through the development of forward-thinking public policy to address investment, cost-savings and new models of educational access and providing essential services. “

    Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, said the group will find ways to help the city without the aid of state-appointed emergency manager Jack Martin.

    “You’re not going to see cities rebuilt. You’re not going to see school districts repaired and ready to teach children if there’s going to be no reinvestment,” Johnson said.

  2. Flint’s Emergency Manager says water and sewer system may go up for sale
    Flint Emergency Manager Michael Brown is considering putting the city’s water and sewer system up for sale.
    The city’s emergency manager is considering selling off Flint’s water and sewer plants to the highest bidder, potentially generating a one-time windfall of millions of dollars to help steady the city’s shaky finances.

    Emergency Manager Michael Brown confirmed that a sale of the plants is among the options under review by his office and said he is “nowhere near a decision on that.”

    “We have said everything is on the table,” Brown said. “Examining our assets (is) all part of the analysis.”

    Brown isn’t discussing specifics, including whether a sale might involve the entire water and sewer systems, including the pipes that carry waste and water to homes and businesses.

    Word that Brown was considering such a sale came from Genesee County officials, who believe the move would complicate and set back the proposed water pipeline to Lake Huron.

  3. Poll indicates more Michiganders dislike PA 4 than like it
    A Detroit Free Press/WXYZ poll says that more Michigander surveyed would repeal Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager law, than would keep it.
    A new law enacted last year increases the powers of emergency financial managers appointed by the State to manage local governments or school districts experiencing serious financial problems. Under the law, all powers could be transferred from local elected officials to emergency financial managers. Employee contracts could be voided, payments to vendors and businesses for services could be renegotiated and reduced, and, local governments or school districts could be dissolved, if approved by the Governor. Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Detroit Schools and Highland Park Schools have emergency financial managers in place, and one may soon be named for the City of Detroit. If enough petition signatures are collected by opponents of the law, a referendum may appear on the November ballot. If a referendum appears on the ballot, if the election were held today, would you vote “yes” to keep the law, or “no” to reject it?

    • Would vote “yes” to keep the law – 42%
    • Would vote “no” to reject it – 45%
    • Undecided/Refused – 13%

    The City of Detroit is likely to run out of money to fund city operations within the next few months. What do you think should be done to address the financial situation in Detroit?

    • Let Detroit solve its own financial problems without state involvement – 15%
    • The State should appoint an emergency financial manager to take over financial operations – 31%
    • The State should work with the Mayor and City Council to reach a consent agreement on city finances. – 50%
    • Undecided/Refused – 4%

    The Huffington Post dug into the numbers and finds that white Republican men are the biggest proponents for Public Act 4:

    The Free Press/WXYZ poll found 42 percent of respondents would vote to keep Public Act 4, and 45 percent would vote to reject it. Statewide, men were more likely to favor the emergency manager law than women (51 percent to 35 percent), and Republicans favored it much more heavily than Democrats (60 percent to 26 percent).

    The poll sampled all Michigan voters, not those residents of the municipalities and school districts currently affected by the emergency manager law. Each of those communities are majority African-American, and the poll did show black people would vote to reject the law 65 percent to 23 percent.

    Much more after the jump.

  4. Louis Schimmel’s Mackinac Center ties being scrubbed?
    Paul Abowd, a journalist for the Center for Public Integrity, has been in Michigan working on a piece about Public Act 4. He told me that Pontiac Emergency Manager Louis Schimmel denied any connection with the far-right, anti-union Mackinac Center, despite the obvious facts otherwise. This morning, Abowd tweeted that the Mackinac Center has altered Schimmel’s bio on their site. Sure enough, you can see that they have removed his photo and now refer to him as “a former member of the Center’s Board of Scholars”.

    Here are before and after shots of his bio:

    BEFORE (cached version from earlier in January 2012):

    Click image for larger version


    Click image for larger version

    Abowd asked in a tweet “Did they throw him a going away party?”

  5. Republican Supreme Court Justice Markman’s patience is running out
    Republican Michigan Supreme Court Justice Steven Markman is getting tired of waiting to hear Governor Rick Snyder’s request that the Supreme’s rule on Public Act 4 immediately. Opponents of the law say the process needs to go through the normal court procedure where evidence is presented and weighed in a court of law. Markman, apparently, wants to assist the Governor in making a quick decision.
    A Republican on the Michigan Supreme Court says a legal challenge to the state’s emergency manager law is dragging on too long.

    Justice Steven Markman is part of a four-judge Republican majority on the court. Markman says the state’s highest court should take over the case and make a decision.

    The Michigan Supreme Court has yet to rule on Governor Rick Snyder’s request to bypass lower courts and make a decision on whether the emergency manager law violates the state constitution. That request was made last summer.

    From his dissent (pdf):

    I respectfully dissent. I do not know what the majority intends when it states that “[t]he Executive Message remains under consideration.” “Under consideration” for what? “Under consideration” until when? A lawsuit was filed in the Ingham Circuit Court in June of last year; the Governor then filed an Executive Message in August requesting that this Court direct the Circuit Court to “certify” certain constitutional questions for the consideration of this Court; briefs were filed in support of, and in opposition to, such certification; this Court then directed the parties to file briefs addressing the substantive questions raised by the Executive Message; and, in December of last year, the parties filed such briefs. What then requires that this matter “remain under consideration”?

    If, as plaintiffs believe, the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act, 2011 PA 4, authorizing emergency managers, is in violation of as many as nine provisions of our Constitution, implicating what plaintiffs view as our “citizens’ inherent right to vote for local officials,” it seems imperative to me that all or part of this law be enjoined as soon as possible. If, on the other hand, as defendants believe, the act is not only constitutional, but essential in maintaining the “financial integrity” of the state and its localities, it again seems imperative to me that the authority conferred by the act be affirmed as soon as possible. In either case, it is time that this case no longer “remain under consideration” but be “considered and resolved.”

    Considering that he wants a quick decision in opposition to the Sugar Law Center lawyers’ request, I think it’s safe to say Justice Markman already knows how he will vote without having heard any evidence.

  6. Jack Lessenberry wants you to shut up unless you have a better idea
    Columnist Jack Lessenberry has a message for you: if you don’t have solution to the vexing problem of Michigan’s failing cities and schools, you should shut the hell up. It doesn’t matter if Emergency Managers deprive our citizens of their right to elect their own local representatives. Democracy is, apparently, disposable.
    Want to stop the emergency manager?
    Step up with the ideas to make things happen — or get out of the way

    Yes, you read that right.

    Last week hundreds of people marched in Ann Arbor to protest the emergency manager law — and the man behind it, Gov. Rick Snyder. They got as close as they could to the governor’s home in a ritzy gated community. They chanted “We are the People’s Army,” and “This is what Democracy looks like,” and similar things.

    They had every right to do that. The governor himself said so. But frankly, they didn’t accomplish anything.

    Nor did they say what the state should do instead of eventually appointing an emergency manager to run Detroit.

    Nor have any other of the law’s many critics come up with any alternative strategy that makes any rational sense. “Giving the elected leaders a chance to fix it,” just doesn’t cut it. They’ve had years and years to do so, and none of them are offering any plan now.

    Nor do they have a clue how to address the long-term problems, which include $12 billion in unfunded liabilities.

    Snark aside, I’m not entirely against some of Lessenberry’s suggestions. I’m just shocked that he would so glibly forsake democracy.