Ecorse, Michigan, population 9,554, emerges from Emergency Management



[Caricature by DonkeyHotey from photos by Anne C. Savage for Eclectablog]

The small town of Ecorse, Michigan, under control of an Emergency Financial Manager or Emergency Manager since 2009, has been deemed to have emerged from its emergency and will now be indefinitely under the control of a Transition Advisory Board (TAB).

Joyce Parker, the Emergency Manager for both Ecorse and Allen Park will be on the TAB. Gov. Snyder provided a list of her accomplishments:

Among the benchmarks noted by the governor: eliminating the deficit as well as a $5 million structural deficit; reorganizing the police and fire departments into a public safety department; cutting annual operating costs by $4.3 million; raising annual revenues by $2.3 million; saving $2.8 million by rebidding city services; securing more than $4 million in grants to support city operations and services and setting a two-year budget.

The city also merged court services with River Rouge and Lincoln Park and implemented a police and fire special assessment.

It’s a great thing and, Stephen Henderson at the Detroit Free Press describes, Parker has accomplished this by being as much of a true partner with Ecorse as an EM can be:

[S]he did it all pretty cooperatively. She held lots of public meetings to get citizens’ input, and actually worked with unions on altering collective bargaining agreements; it wasn’t all kumbaya and sing-alongs, but in general, her approach was inclusive rather than purely dictatorial.

Parker leaves behind an entire community planning model that’s based on citizen participation and input.

My concern, one that I have been voicing for over a year now, is shared by Henderson, as well: the conditions that led to Ecorse’s situation have barely changed. It is still a city with far fewer resources and a dramatically shrunken tax base – the result of the departure of the auto manufacturing that once made southeastern Michigan a middle class engine. Here’s Henderson:

If there are doubts about Ecorse’s future, they arise from more systemic issues that are affecting all cities. Is there enough of a tax base left to support city government? Should cities like Ecorse be governed by larger jurisdictions that can leverage greater tax revenue to provide services?

In short, can Michigan (which has some 1,800 local governments) afford to maintain as much local control as it has historically?

I am, of course, thrilled to see Ecorse emerge from emergency management. I pray that they can sustain it.