Election Leaves Future of Detroit's Consent Agreement Up in Air

With Detroit still at risk of going broke by year's end, the future of its deal with the state to restore the city's fiscal stability is up in the air with the repeal of Michigan's emergency manager law, Public Act 4.
by , | November 8, 2012
 

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With Detroit still at risk of going broke by year's end, the future of its deal with the state to restore the city's fiscal stability is up in the air with Tuesday's repeal of Michigan's emergency manager law, Public Act 4.

Detroit City Council members said Wednesday that though they welcomed voter rejection of the state's chief mechanism to enforce drastic cuts and restructuring on troubled cities and school districts, the vote changes little about the financial condition of Detroit.

"I don't think anybody should be popping open a bottle of champagne," said Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr., one of five council members who voted in April for Detroit's consent agreement with the state. "The reality is the City of Detroit still has a cash-flow crisis, and that's still got to get dealt with."

-- Election results: National -- Michigan Legislature -- Michigan ballot proposals, Supreme Court -- Court of Appeals, special races -- Wayne -- Oakland -- Macomb

Cockrel said he asked the city's top lawyer, Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon, for an opinion on what the repeal means for Detroit. Crittendon's position could decide the council's direction on crucial questions, including whether:

--The city can continue honoring terms of the consent agreement the council narrowly approved April 4.

--The city revisits pay and benefits cuts Mayor Dave Bing imposed on city workers in July over the council's objections.

--To reconsider transferring the city's health department to an independent nonprofit institute and dissolving the city's workforce development department.

--The joint city-state financial advisory board is disbanded or reconstituted as a voluntary board. The board is the entity that overruled the council in implementing 10% pay cuts.

Bing did not address such specific questions Wednesday. In a statement from his office, Bing said he was opposed to the emergency manager provision of Public Act 4 but said the law provided "a tool to help us implement our restructuring plan, by giving us more leverage with labor unions."

"The financial stability agreement ... is still in place," Bing said. "We are fully engaged in implementing 25 city reform initiatives under that agreement."

Whatever the outcome, it almost certainly will mean more lawsuits.

Gov. Rick Snyder's administration says the state's previous emergency manager law, which Public Act 4 repealed, is now in force, upholding the bulk of Detroit's consent agreement.

But opponents said the earlier law was invalidated by the approval of Public Act 4, and Tuesday's vote means Michigan now has no emergency manager law.

"We marched, we debated, we collected signatures, and most of all, we voted to show that unilaterally removing elected officials and cutting collective-bargaining agreements was unacceptable to Michiganders and a threat to democracy," said the Rev. Charles Williams II, president of the National Action Network's Michigan chapter.

Councilman Kwame Kenyatta, who voted against the consent deal, said Wednesday that he hopes officials in Lansing will sit down with leaders in Michigan's most cash-strapped cities to focus on methods of turning around their finances that will be "rationally discussed without the gun to the head."

"The consent agreement has not worked," Kenyatta said. "It's been on the table since April, and we're still having issues. ... You cannot resolve those problems by putting your foot on us and saying, 'Do it this way, do it that way.' "

(c)2012 the Detroit Free Press

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