Detroit mayor: Move for state takeover premature

AP News
Posted: Dec 01, 2011 8:03 PM
Detroit mayor: Move for state takeover premature

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing on Thursday sharply criticized an expected 30-day state review of the city's troubled finances, which is a first step toward a possible state takeover.

Bing told an evening news conference that Detroit is making progress on its expected $150 million budget deficit and cash flow problems on its own. A spokesman for Bing's office said earlier that a state review could begin as early as Friday.

"We are opposed to the governor beginning this process," Bing said, with United Auto Workers union President Bob King and other labor and political officials by his side. "We're opposed to an emergency manager and we're making progress and moving closer than ever to (solving) this fiscal crisis."

A Michigan law passed earlier this year expanded the powers of state-appointed emergency financial managers, giving them latitude that includes the ability to oversee city government and toss out union contracts in some situations. Michigan already has emergency managers in place in the Detroit public school system and several other cities.

Bing and Gov. Rick Snyder discussed Detroit's finances during telephone conversations Wednesday, and Bing spokesman Dan Lijana said Thursday that the governor "signaled his intention that a financial review could begin as early as Friday." Such a review is the first step toward appointing an emergency manager. The entire process would take about 90 days.

"This is our city," Bing told the City Hall news conference. "Detroit needs to be run by Detroiters. We know what needs to be done and we stand ready to do it."

Bing has submitted a $102 million savings plan for the current fiscal year to Snyder's office.

"If Lansing believes our plan isn't strong enough, I'd like to hear their suggestions for what they can improve," the mayor said. "I'd like to see action on some of the critical initiatives that we proposed to the state to help Detroit become fiscally stable once again."

Bing said the state could help by supplying $220 million he says the city was promised in a decade-old tax overhaul "that helped put us in this position in the first place." He said Detroit also has asked for help collecting the city's income tax, which would provide up to $155 million in additional annual revenue.

Snyder's office declined to comment on Bing's remarks, other than agreeing that people in Detroit should come together to work on the problems.

"This absolutely isn't an us versus them _ whether within in the city or outside of the city," Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said. "We're all in this together. Because again, a strong and successful Detroit is key to a strong and successful Michigan."

Wurfel said earlier that Snyder "still has every hope of avoiding an emergency manager for the city of Detroit," but added that "the timing is becoming tougher, and the governor does have a responsibility to act if that can't happen."

Bing says Detroit is facing a $150 million budget deficit, and a $45 million cash shortfall is projected by next June.

The mayor plans to cut 1,000 jobs early next year to save about $14 million this fiscal year. He has said the layoffs will be strategic and the positions will be eliminated by Feb. 25.

Some city council members have said they think more layoffs are needed, while Bing has been seeking deeper pay and benefits concessions from unions.

Now, all sides say they're listening to one another.

"We're going to sit down and resolve these issues," Al Garrett, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 in Michigan, said after the news conference where he stood with Bing.

Garrett said all parties want to work toward a resolution "and everybody knows there are concessions in it."

"One of the things that works in collective bargaining is the time element," he said. "The clock ticking is what causes individuals to start understanding that `I better start moving this stuff along.'"

What happens in Detroit could determine the long-term effectiveness of the emergency financial manager law. Some elected leaders in smaller Michigan cities with appointed managers have spoken out against the law. But the cry appears to be loudest in Detroit.

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Conyers sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking that his office "immediately review and monitor, if necessary," a challenge to the law's application.

"It goes without saying that appointing an unelected manager in place of an elected mayor, city council and other public officials would be totally antithetical to the concept of democracy," Conyers wrote.


Associated Press writers Kathy Barks Hoffman in University Center and Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.