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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fire sales of public assets, as a result of Public Act #4, a reality in Pontiac, Michigan

English: Oak Hill Cemetery Pontiac MI
Indigent burials on public owned
ceremonies could happen no more,
after Emergency Manager Louis
Schimmel, Jr. put city of Pontiac
ceremonies up in fire sale.
ROJS News Op/Ed

A fire sale will occur soon in the Emergency Managed city of Pontiac, according to a December 20th article in The Detroit Free Press

Louis Schimmel, Jr., from the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy and Emergency Manager of Pontiac will oversee sells of public assets to the highest bidder.

Amazingly Schimmel boasted his plans for Pontiac, if he was able to implant his type of Draconian leadership in the city on December 2006, encouraging fire sales of the city Department of Public Works. Yes folks, nearly six years ago and he was planning selling Pontiac's public owned assets, in advance.
"The city of Pontiac needs a dramatic reorganization. One area that is ripe for privatization is the city’s Department of Public Works," Schimmel wrote in his Mackinaw Center dictation.

Now that Schimmel has a death grip on all Pontiac's financial affairs, his style of Emergency Management has risen to a entirely new level just in time for Christmas. Similar to the Scrooge character in the famous play, "A Christmas Carol", Schimmel is rubbing his hands in glee while the people of Pontiac lose any control of their public assets.

On Tuesday, December 20th, Schimmel along with his assistant, Pontiac's Mayor Leon Jukowski and a reporter were the lone people in the room when it was announced city assets would go for sell, piece by piece. According to the law known as Public Act #4, the Emergency Manager bill, a public hearing is required whenever city assets are up for sale.

Maybe, public attendance at the meeting was non-existent because they couldn't find information the meeting. 

A review of Pontiac's public calendar of events for December 20th, states nothing about a public hearing regarding the sell of public assets. If residents wanted information about bingo games, used jewelry sales or the golden opportunity club, it was available and easy understand the intent of those events. The context of the ill-described 'Hearing Officer' meeting at 9:00 AM Tuesday morning, not so much.
Schimmel said that because he is required to hold a public hearing anytime the city has assets to sell, he might as well put everything on the list. The city isn't prepared to turn over the keys to city hall or its police or fire facilities this week, but Schimmel said he wanted to put everything on the table. "We just want the option," he said. "We don't want to come back piece by piece," The Detroit Free Press stated.
No more bingo games to distract seniors from a meeting, who might not want their city assets sold to the highest bidder? What a shame.

Even if residents, tax payers and hereby owners of Pontiac public assets of 5-fire stations, 2-cemeteries, 2- landfills, 11 water-pumping stations, 2 community centers, the public library and police station would have assented upon the meeting -if they had ESP to know a 'Hearing Officer' meeting was actually a 'Public Assets Fire Sale Negotiation'- according to the Public Act #4 they wouldn't be allowed to stop the sell.
“An Emergency Manager has broad statutory authority in receivership to rectify a financial emergency and to assure the fiscal accountability of the unit of local government and the capacity of the unit of local government to provide or cause to be provided necessary governmental services essential to the public health, safety, and welfare,” Public Act #4 Q & A Fact Sheet notes.
An Emergency Manager “acts for and in the place and stead of the governing body and the office of chief administrative officer of the unit of local government,” the document stated.
Considering E.M.’s Louis Schimmel’s job is to ‘assure the fiscal accountability of the union of local government’, selling off of Pontiac’s assets described above surely would quickly solve the city’s estimated $58 million dollar deficit, right? Not, so much. At least not by quick-planned, little notification type fire sales of Pontiac’s public assets.
“He doesn't know how much money, if any, the fire sale would net and what impact it would have on the budget," the Detroit Free Press Report stated.
The results for city residents are bigger than loses of a local Bingo game at a Senior Recreation Center. Take a drive downtown to have dinner at a local small business in Pontiac struggling to survive; residents will pay a higher fee to the private industry running the city’s parking meters to do so.
“Parking rates in the city's 10 lots on the list might increase,” The Detroit Free Press noted.
If a Pontiac resident is indigent of funds for burial, they could have turned to one of the public owned cemeteries to meet Public Act 63-Section 614 guidelines.
Sec. 614. The funds available in part 1 for burial services shall be available if the deceased was an eligible recipient and an application for emergency relief funds was made within 10 business days of the burial or cremation of the deceased person. Each provider of burial services shall be paid directly by the department (Michigan Department of Human Services-DHS),” Public Act #63 of 2011 notes.
Since Pontiac city owned cemeteries are now scheduled to be sold to highest private bidder by Emergency Manager Schimmel, privatized new owners could pick or not choose at all indigent Pontiac residents eligible to be buried in their home town. The same hometown residents paid taxes into over years, to purchase and operate the public ceremonies in the first place.
"The city's two cemeteries alone -- one of which is in Independence Township -- require an annual $450,000 subsidy, he said. He can't sell the cemeteries -- Oak Hill and Ottawa Park -- without a change in state law. If he can't get it, he hopes to at least privatize the operations," The Detroit Free Press reported.
Maybe, indigent residents can turn to E.M. Schimmel to bury them once he sells the cemeteries on his revenue received from his Emergency Manager salary paid for by all tax payers in the state of Michigan? Time will tell.

What’s occurring in Pontiac could be coming for a Michigan City near you, if Public Act # 4 isn’t repealed by voters. Michiganders have a unique opportunity to sign a petition requiring a Constitutional Referendum vote during the November 2012 General Election, allowing the public to decide if the P.A. #4 law should be eliminated or kept as state law.

It would be hard to believe, after reading what’s happening in Pontiac, residents of Ann Arbor, St. Clair Shores, Bloomfield, Berkley, Manchester, Chelsea or Canton –some of Michigan’s most financially robust cities- would agree with selling town hall or the city library. Don’t be fooled! 

Public Act #4 can be applied to any Michigan city, town, county or village. Not just in areas with a large population of people of color. If you don’t believe this to be true, read the Act in whole, itself.
Listen to our ROJS Radio Executive Interview with city of Pontiac Councilman Kermit Williams on the impact of an Emergency Manager on public assets and city operations below:

Find out more information to sign the Constitutional Referendum Petition to suspend Public Act #4 until a General Election vote of the people, on if the law should remain Michigan Law, by contacting Michigan Forward.

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