Detroit — March 24, 2012 at 10:01 am

Appeals Courts allows state to sign Consent Agreement with Detroit, unions make concessions


You win some, you lose some

Last night the Michigan Court of Appeals stuck down a ruling by Ingham County Judge William Collette barring the Snyder administration from moving forward with a Consent Agreement with the city of Detroit until after a March 29th hearing on violations of the Open Meetings Act.

A three-judge appeals panel reversed a ruling by Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette earlier this week that barred Snyder and members of a state financial review team from entering into a consent agreement with Detroit until after a hearing Thursday on alleged violations of the state’s Open Meetings Act.The portion of Collette’s ruling “precluding defendants from executing a consent agreement is reversed,” said the appeals court in its ruling. The court also issued a stay on other proceedings related to the alleged Open Meetings Act violations.

The Appeals Court said that Judge Collette didn’t have authority to stop future actions by the review team unless he found continued violations of the Open Meetings Act, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Activist and Highland Park school board member Robert Davis said he will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

In other news, a coalition of 30 Detroit public employee unions agreed to extend a 10% cut in pay that will save the city $54 million a year. The decision to sign this agreement is a dicey one. First, it does not include 18 unions that include police and firefighters have not signed onto the agreement. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the proposed Consent Agreement on the table now will not allow Detroit officials to open union contracts for renegotiation until they expire. If Mayor Bing signs this agreement now, it ties his hands for three years in terms of trying to wring more concessions from unionized city employees.

The Snyder administration immediately responded to the unions’ concession agreement saying they were not enough.

Bing’s Chief of Staff Kirk Lewis called the agreements “historic and precedent-setting,” saying they represent “a shared sacrifice.”But the state isn’t as impressed, especially since the city is shouldering a whopping $12 billion in longer-term debt and is within a month of running out of cash to pay for basic services.

“We remain concerned that tentative agreements would not generate the amount of savings that are needed to address the city’s short-term and long-term crisis,” Lasher said. “You have to get your arms around the future costs.”

Per usual, the unions didn’t cause the financial emergency but they are being asked to take the draconian cuts needed to solve it.

At some point, working for a city like Detroit will become so unprofitable that the problem won’t be if they are paying people enough but, rather, how to find qualified people to fill the positions. That day may not be so far off.

[Image credit: Luc De Leeuw | Flickr]