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Detroit officials beg state to reconsider Emergency Manager appointment

Representatives of the Detroit city government appealed the state government's decision to appoint an Emergency Manager.
/ Source: ED Show

Representatives of the Detroit city government appealed the state government's decision to appoint an Emergency Manager.

In a Tuesday morning hearing, representatives of the Detroit government formally appealed Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s planned appointment of an Emergency Manager for the city. Chief Deputy Treasurer Mary MacDowell led the proceedings, hearing arguments from both the Detroit city government and state Treasury Department legal adviser Frederick Headen.

“Our position, just to wrap it up, is to stay the course,” said David Whitaker, the Detroit city council’s research and analysis director, near the end of the hearing. He argued that the financial stability agreement for Detroit, approved by both the state and city governments last spring, made emergency management unnecessary.

Snyder announced earlier this month that he would appoint an Emergency Manager (EMs) to balance Detroit’s books and bring the city out of a “financial emergency.” Emergency Managers have sweeping powers to overrule the mayor and city council, as well as unilaterally amend or cancel public sector collective bargaining agreements. As MSNBC reported on Monday, EMs across Michigan have used their authority to privatize public services and eliminate public sector jobs. Detroit unions and city officials fear the same thing could occur in their city.

“The plan that’s in place gets us where we want to be without creating the displacement of elected officials, which, in my estimation is beyond anti-democratic,” said Whitaker.

Headen, representing the state government, defended the decision of the state review team, whose ruling made it possible for Snyder to appoint an EM. He said that the city had implemented few “structural” reforms, and had shown considerable reluctance to do what was necessary in order to bring its finances under control.

“The city does have a staggering amount of long-term debt,” he said.

But Whitaker argued that the review board hadn’t given the fiscal stability plan enough time. “It’s no surprise, when the state suddenly aborts after eight months of this plan…they basically have a review team analysis that mirrors the review team analysis that was done less than a year earlier,” he said.

MacDowell will present the information gathered in the hearing to the governor, who is expected to reject the appeal. Washington-based attorney Kevyn Orr is rumored to be Snyder’s choice to lead Detroit.