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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Op/Ed- Next stop on Public Act #4 train, Detroit as Gov. Snyder appoints a financial review team

ROJS News Op/Ed

Republicans sure enjoy making the Holidays less Merry for Michiganders

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This is on heels of Gov. Snyder signing a law mandating state unemployed job seekers get a minimum wage job in 10 weeks or lose the other 10 weeks of unemployment benefits, Emergency Manager/Mackinaw Center Scholar Louis Schimmel, Jr. handing out pink slips to Pontiac firefighters on Christmas Eve and cash-strapped taxpayers paying in Flint paying Emergency Manager Mike Brown $170,000 a year.

Sadly, Gov. Snyder is keeping the train rolling right through the Holidays as he appointed a Emergency Financial Review team on December 27th to 'review' Detroit, Michigan's largest city, finances.

From the Detroit Free Press

"Isaiah (Ike) McKinnon, who served as Detroit police chief from 1993 to 1998; Irvin Reid, who retired as Wayne State University president in 2007; and Conrad Mallett, who served two terms as chief justice in the 1990s, are among the team members announced Tuesday by Treasurer Andy Dillon. 
Gov. Rick Snyder issued a statement describing the team as “the right mix of expertise and backgrounds to tackle this very challenging job and ensure a thorough, objective, and fact-based review."
Snyder said his administration continues to work with Mayor Dave Bing and other city officials “to ensure a revitalized, strong and successful Detroit.”
Other members of the team include Dillon; Marygrove College President Emeritus Glenda Price; New Detroit President Shirley Stancato; certified public accountant Jack Martin; and state officials Frederick Headen , Doug Ringler and Brom Stibitz."
Who's paying all of these individuals? Is it a combination of the city of Detroit and Michigan's taxpayers? It's hard to believe that all of the above named 'honored' individuals,one of whom might be named the Emergency Manager for Detroit are doing this assignment for free.

The process from this point include the group, or abet team, has up to 60 days to report to State Treasurer former Democrat -turned who knows what- Andy Dillion the results of their review. Will it take 60 days? Probably not reviewing the process of other cities have 'Emergency Managers'. 

To Be Fair and Balanced, Let's Listen to Gov. Rick Snyder's Widely Viewed (not) You-Tube Video on Detroit Fiscal Crisis situation

Well, let's review Gov. Rick Snyder take on Detroit Fiscal Crisis and Emergency Managers. Get ready to open your ears -or close them- to the spin. Remember, in the video, Gov. Snyder states he "was proud" in the past-tense, of the city of Detroit.

One more note, notice Gov. Snyder asks for 'feedback' but someone has disabled comments on the video. So, how do Michiganders concerned about this situation give you feedback again, Governor? We don't know. Maybe on our news blog since only 2,601 people have viewed the December 23rd posted video, out of 9 million plus Michigan residents.

Moving on....

What Really Happens When a Snyder/Dillion Appointed Emergency Manager Come to Your Michigan Town

In Flint, a Gov. Snyder mandated Financial Review team appointed during October 2011, had five meetings in 36 days before recommending a Emergency Manager on November 7, 2011. So the process, in this case was 37 days for a city with over a 100 year history, to take away rights for Flint's citizens a voice in their city affairs. 

Maybe the taxpayers tab for the 'Detroit Financial Review Team Essential Group' will be less if they can get the 'review' process done faster. But, who knows? 

Let's examine the Financial Review process, when it was truly a in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

For Benton Harbor, their first Emergency Financial Manager was appointed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm in April 2009, under the former law now since repealed Public Act #72 of 1990. In this version of Emergency Financial Management, E.F.M. Harris was a overseer or auditor of sorts, guiding the city leaders in a 'financial crisis'.

After Gov. Snyder and the Republican controlled state House and Senate took office, they acted in quick fashion to allow now rename Emergency Managers -financial crisis need not apply- to remove in swift fashion elected leaders that don't sub-come to the demands of E.M.'s with Public Act #4 of 2011.

"The existence of other facts or circumstances that in the sole discretion of the State Treasurer for a municipal government are indicative of municipal financial stress, or, that in the sole discretion of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for a school district are indicative of school district financial stress," from the State of Michigan Department of Treasury website.
In fact, in April 2011 E.M. Joseph Harris in Benton Harbor did just that, when he took away the powers of the City Commission to vote on laws they were elected by the people to make.

E.M. Harris, who will be leaving his appointed position in April 2012, still has yet to solve Benton Harbor's financial crisis. The only problems E.M. Harris has managed to solve is increasing resident water usage rates, for a city that's by Lake Michigan that has plenty of water and adding on fees for bus transportation services.

From West Michigan News Resource 16:
Emergency Manager Joseph Harris may be relieved of his duty by the spring, but not before water rates increase 50 percent and he looks into creating a fixed-route bus service. 
Deputy City Manager Darwin Watson told residents at a Town Hall meeting Wednesday water rates will increase about $10 for average users. Most residents currently pay about $20 a month, but the rate hike was needed to offset a decrease in customers and help pay for capital improvements, such as new meters. 
"We didn't want it to [even] be 36.9 percent, but the fact of the matter is that's what it comes out to when you take away Benton Township, so it is what it is and there's no keeping it below 50 percent. We didn't want to, but there was no trying," said Harris. 
Benton Harbor frequently faces delinquent accounts and has been criticized in the past by residents at commission meetings for irregularity in shutting off service. 
Recently, the city has added any delinquent water bills to property tax bills to ensure payment. 
"That is a concern, but everybody needs water and it's interesting to put it that way, but everyone pays their bill. Sooner or later they come back and they have to have their water turned on, so it's not like some people are getting away without paying their water bill, it's the delinquency, it's the delay in getting the payments," said Harris, who admitted the city needs to be more consistent in shut-offs."
Even after E.M. Joe Harris leaves to hand over duties rightfully to newly elected Mayor James Hightower, he plans to hold bi-monthly meetings for Benton Harbor's residents. Who will attend these meetings, are unknown.

Harris said after the town hall meeting he is supportive of Hightower, but questions whether the commission will support him.

"Even though he is the mayor, he does not control what comes out of the mouths of Marcus Muhammad and Duane Seats," said Harris, to Channel 16, referring to two commissioners who have been critical of the emergency manager.
"Harris said he will not attend commission meetings after Hightower takes office because they were ineffective and that he will continue to host his own bi-monthly Town Hall meetings."
Power-hungry much? We don't know.

Who Will Take the Seat as Detroit's Emergency Manager? Let's Review One Possible Candidate

If for some reason Mackinaw Center Scholar, now Emergency Manager for Pontiac, Michigan Louis 'cut them and sell them' Schimmel gets Detroit's E.M. appointment, motor-city and suburban residents better get ready for Benton Harbor's style higher water bills.

Schimmel, wrote in 2006, his grand-idea to fix Pontiac fiscal problems is to sell the its Public Works department to the highest privatized bidder. Wonder what he would do to Detroit's Public Works/Water Department?

Here's a sample description from Schimmel's 2006 Mackinaw Center dictation:
"The city of Pontiac needs a dramatic reorganization. One area that is ripe for privatization is the city’s Department of Public Works. All of the services currently provided by the DPW also are available from private vendors to varying degrees.  
It needs a sweeping privatization program that would place a wide array of services currently provided by the city into the hands of vendors who win contracts through open competitive bidding. 
The DPW operates from several buildings and sites, including the city hall and four other locations, two of which are wastewater treatment facilities. The city maintains a large inventory of vehicles and equipment that could be sold if the city were to privatize its services. 
Other cities have saved substantial amounts of money by privatizing city services. Pontiac should do the same, and it should rank DPW services high on the list of privatization candidates."
Take the name of Pontiac out, inset the same of Detroit and one would easily be able to write the same talking points for Detroit's future Emergency Manager. Kind of like the "fill-in-the-blank" legislation Bruce Fealk, editor at the Rochester Citizen and expert cited on December 17th during a ROJS Radio  appearance, in which the American Exchange Legislative Council (ALEC) writes for federal and state Republican legislative leaders.

Will the Emergency Manager Train Be De-Trained or Continue Ramming Though Michigan's Cities and Its' Residents?

Detroit's citizens, looking this brief history of Emergency Managers have reasons to be worried. Many Democratic federal, state and local legislative leaders are concerned about a E.M. appointment to Detroit. So much, they asked Gov. Snyder to have a meeting with them about it.

Instead of quickly scheduling a meeting with these leaders over the Christmas Holiday week, Snyder moved process of a 'review' of Detroit's finances. Guess, he was busy.

Next on board on the train a possible Emergency Manager appointment little predominately African-American populated, Inkster, Michigan. All aboard!

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