Detroit, Emergency Managers, Highland Park — February 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Wednesday afternoon Michigan Emergency Manager news round-up


It just goes on and on and on again…

  • Decision to close Highland Park school not made by Emergency Manager Jack Martin
    Contrary to what some outlets have reported, the decision to close Barber Focus school was NOT made by new Emergency Manager Jack Martin
    During a parent meeting on Monday, superintendent Edith Hightower announced that Barber Focus School would merge with Ford Academy. The decision to close Barber was made prior to Martin’s arrival without his knowledge, contrary to other published media reports.

    At the meeting, tempers flared with one attendee saying, “I’m sick of them in Lansing sending these black men in here to take over”, before being escorted out.

    Martin told parents that the school district wasn’t going to be dissolved so long as attendance doesn’t drop any further.

    But he reassured parents that the entire district would not shut down — if enrollment is contingent with current figures.

    “If we tank on enrollment this year like we did last year, then I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Martin said. “If everybody decides they want to go to Detroit, we can shut the doors and turn out the lights.”

    Huffington Post Detroit reports that there is also talk of “plans to demolish three currently empty school buildings: Willard, Ferris and Midland.”

  • Muskegon Heights schools take another step toward an Emergency Manager
    Muskegon Heights schools recently asked for a state financial review due to their massive budget shortfall. The state found them to be in a state of emergency and, yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder appointed a review team for the district.
    The Muskegon Heights school district asked for a state review of its finances back in December.

    The preliminary review found the school district was in ‘probable financial stress’, due to the district’s $8.5 million deficit.

    That set the stage for the governor to appoint a state review team to scour the school district’s books.

  • Detroit Mayor Bing and unions reach tentative deal
    Yesterday, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced that his administration had reached a tentative deal with city union members in an attempt to stave off the imposition of an Emergency Manager on Michigan’s largest city.
    Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s administration has reached tentative agreements — contracts with substantial worker concessions — with a significant number of the city’s 48 labor unions in a down-to-the-wire effort to ward off a state-appointed emergency manager, according to people close to the negotiations.

    Labor leaders said Tuesday that 25, slightly more half of the city’s bargaining units, have reached tentative agreements. However, administration officials would not confirm that number. […]

    Bing is seeking to cut $102 million from this fiscal year’s budget to help avoid the state taking control of the city.

    Union leaders said they agreed to a savings of $20 million a year alone on prescription drugs by finding a new provider.

    The biggest long-term savings targets the ballooning pension costs. Under the tentative agreements, new employees would be largely responsible for paying into defined-contribution plans, much like a 401(k). Currently union members have defined-benefit plans, financed largely by taxpayers. Still, the pacts are anything but certain.

    Labor leaders said they won’t seek ratification by their members unless defiant police and fire unions also approve concessions. And rank-and-file members, most of whom accepted 10% wage cuts nearly three years ago, would still have to approve the deal.

  • Former Pontiac Emergency Manager up for City Manager position in Roseville
    Former Pontiac Emergency Manager Michael Stampfler is on the list of possible city managers for Roseville, Michigan.
    The former emergency manager of Pontiac is among the candidates Roseville city officials began interviewing Tuesday for the position of city manager. The list also includes a school superintendent and two managers of other cities.[…]

    “We’re looking for somebody that promotes economic development and new ideas, fresh out of the box, to raise revenue,” Mayor John Chirkun said.

    One candidate, Michael Stampfler, was emergency manager of Pontiac until his resignation in September. Appointed in 2010, he dissolved the city’s police contract and engineered the privatization of the city’s water system. He resigned after rancorous meetings with county and city officials and an oddly timed vacation as final budget numbers were due to the state.

    As Pontiac’s Emergency Manager, Stampfler outsourced the city’s water treatment to United Water, a company facing a federal 26-count indictment for violations of the Clean Water Act, saving the city an estimated $2.8 million per year. Recent reports about poor customer service and water contamination have some city residents questioning that decision.

  • Editorial boards urge Michigan Supreme Court to weigh in on PA 4 sooner than later
    Two different newspaper editorials today, one in the Livingston County Press & Argus and another in the Daily Telegram are condemning the Michigan Supreme Court for not bypassing lower courts and weighing in on Public Act 4 immediately.

    The Sugar Law Center has asked their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law to go through the normal judicial process which would allow evidence to be presented. So far, they have prevailed. However, one justice, Stephen Markman, recently penned a strongly-worded dissent, demanding that they hear the case immediately.

    As I said in my earlier reporting on this, “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.”

    One wonders why these editorial boards wish to bypass the normal judicial process, as well.