Detroit, Emergency Financial Managers — March 8, 2013 at 8:18 am

Republicans dangle money in front of Detroit to encourage acceptance of an Emergency Financial Manager


If it walks like a bribe and quacks like a bribe

Michigan Republicans are hoping that the lure of state cash will entice Detroit city officials into accepting an Emergency Financial Manager without a fuss. After stripping $152.2 million in annual revenue sharing from the city, Republicans are pushing a familiar theme: take away funding or increase taxes then give a bit back to make themselves look benevolent.

The Detroit News reports:

Republican legislators have long been cold to sending Detroit a taxpayer rescue package, but they are warming to the idea of giving aid to Gov. Rick Snyder’s impending emergency manager.

The development angers some Detroiters, who note the Detroit City Council and Mayor Dave Bing have repeatedly requested aid to heal the city’s structural deficit.

State House Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh, R-Livonia, said he would support a state infusion of cash when an emergency manager has a turnaround plan in place.

“People, I believe, in this body would be willing to invest money into any municipality or school district under these circumstances that’s showing progress,” Walsh said.

House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, and his Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Randy Richardville, also aren’t ruling out financial aid for the city’s restructuring. {…}

Since 1998, Detroit’s annual revenue sharing has plunged 46 percent to $181.6 million projected for the current fiscal year from $333.9 million.

It’s long been my contention that simply sending in an accountant/business manager armed with tools for cutting and slashing but with no ability to help build our failing cities is a recipe for simply continuing their downward spiral under a fancy banner that says “Well, we tried…”

I was in a conversation this week with a conservative guy from the Chicago suburbs. We were talking about Michigan politics and he said, “Isn’t it hilarious that Detroit is pissing and moaning about putting a businessman in charge when they haven’t been able to manage themselves the whole time?”

Hilarious? No, sir. There is nothing hilarious about watching Michigan’s largest city slowly decline into a fiscal disaster. To suggest that the cause is as simple as a few incompetent elected officials is insulting. It ignores the complex nature of the demise of our manufacturing centers. It suggests that offshoring of domestic manufacturing, a long history of solving state and federal budget gaps on the backs of local governments, and the financial crater caused by years of shrinking populations don’t play a role. The truth is that they DO play a significant role.

Yes, poor leadership, mismanagement, and corruption are all part of the problem. What the Kilpatrick administration did to Detroit, for example, enrages me. But there are also many elements outside of the control of urban centers that have helped to create this intractable problem and there is nothing “hilarious” about it. As residents have left these cities for the less developed, more attractive suburbs, gone with them are their tax revenues, leaving behind cities forced to provide services across the same geographical area with a shrinking budget with which to do so.

It’s time for our state to start investing in the rebuilding of our failing cities and engage in some serious urban renewal. The consent agreement with Detroit was supposed to provide a framework for doing that without stripping away democracy in order to make it happen. It’s unfortunate that Republicans can only see fit to start investing in Detroit when they can control every aspect of how it plays out under the auspices of a state-appointed dictator.