Thursday, April 05, 2012

Narrow City Council Vote Paves Way for Corporate Dictatorship in Detroit

City Council Vote Paves Way for Corporate Dictatorship in Detroit

PANW Editor's Note: Wednesday's 5-4 vote by City Council, along with two court decisions by the appeals court and the federal court, lays the groundwork for the imposition of a financial stability agreement that will totally empower the banks and corporations to enhance their exploitation and oppression of the majority African American population of Detroit.

The only way forward is mass action and militant street actions for the workers and youth. Below is the corporate view of the papers which have been the major champions of the undemocratic seizure of the city.

April 5, 2012 at 1:00 am

Split Detroit council OKs consent deal

By Leonard N. Fleming, Darren A. Nichols and Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News

Detroit— The City Council on Wednesday approved a consent agreement with the state intended to rescue and restructure a city quickly going broke.

The historic deal, made under the threat of imminent state takeover, keeps Detroit's elected officials in place but gives the state significant control over the city's finances.

The agreement came despite multiple legal challenges and blistering criticism from city residents who accused council members of selling out Detroit. Failure to meet terms of the deal still could trigger the appointment of an emergency manager.

Council members voted 5-4 to endorse the agreement after days of emotional debate. It's expected to be signed by the governor today, his spokeswoman said. An ailing Mayor Dave Bing, who was readmitted to the hospital hours before the council vote, also is expected to sign.

"This agreement … ensures that the future of Detroit is determined by Detroiters andits elected officials," Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis said in a statement.

Voting yes were council President Charles Pugh, President Pro Tem Gary Brown and members Saunteel Jenkins, Kenneth Cockrel Jr. and James Tate. Voting no were Andre Spivey, JoAnn Watson, Kwame Kenyatta and Brenda Jones.

Under the plan, an appointed Financial Advisory Board would be created to oversee the city's fiscal restructuring, while a project manager and a chief financial officer — both reporting to the mayor — would be empowered to carry out directives.

Gov. Rick Snyder praised the council's vote in a statement Wednesday. The city was facing a deadline of today to act or face appointment of an emergency manager.

"The council has acted responsibly to put Detroit on the path to financial stability," Snyder said in a statement. "Approval of the consent agreement is a positive opportunity for the city and our entire state. It's a clear message that we will move forward — and win — as one Michigan." Snyder stressed, however, that "much work remains."

"The magnitude of the city's financial challenges means that many difficult decisions lie ahead," he said. "We must build on this spirit of cooperation and be willing to act in the city's long-term interests.

'Forces of evil'

Opposing council members were defiant until the end, with Watson even referring to state officials as "forces of evil."

"Stand up and demand what the governor owes," Watson declared before the vote. "Don't give up the legacy of this city. It's not only immoral, it's illegal. It is illegal to give away your home rule rights? Who does that? I grieve."

The council vote came after three days of relentless public criticism.

Activist minister Malik Shabazz told council members they are "forever changing the city of Detroit."

"I pray that God will forgive you all," Shabazz said. "It's certainly going to be hard for the people to forgive you."

The vote was preceded Wednesday by approval of the agreement from the state review team appointed to oversee Detroit's finances. That body voted 7-0 to approve it after the state Court of Appeals overturned a lower court's decision to block the team from meeting.

After the review team vote, state Treasurer Andy Dillon said he believes Detroit will move forward, but it will take years, perhaps even a decade.

"What we learned during the process is that we had a broken city financially but also operationally," Dillon said. "It's going to take a long time. The city didn't get in here overnight. It's going to take a while to get it back on her feet."

Brown, who has been pushing for reforms for months, said the negotiations had been "stressful" but it wasn't tough to make the decision.

"It's something I've thought about for eight months," he said. "It should have been done long ago. I've studied the issues. I made a decision a long time ago, and it was just a matter of hammering out the details in the agreement and making sure that at least five members were comfortable enough to vote yes."

Jenkins called the decision "the most important vote that I'll ever make on this council."

"It's probably the most important vote in the history of the city," Jenkins said. "Of course, I am nervous because I can't see the future and if I could it would have been much easier.

"(But) I will sleep well tonight because I know my vote was based on what I believe is in the best interest of the city. … This city is on track to run out of cash and I felt it was in the best interest of the more than 700,000 people who live here to work with the state to solve this financial issue."

Spivey said he came to his decision to vote no over the weekend, and was influenced strongly by the state's demand to scrap the tentative union contracts.

"They (the unions) did not have to come to the table," Spivey said. "We came to them and asked if they would. We turned our backs on them."

Not all citizens who spoke Wednesday opposed the deal. The Rev. Michael Owens, president of the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, opened the public comment period at the meeting by announcing his group's support.

"We would much rather have an agreement we can live with than have an emergency manager … with no accountability to the city of Detroit," Owens said.

Jenkins commended the pastors group for having the courage to stand up for the consent agreement.

"It's good to have people to speak about the complexities and speak about the truth and not the rhetoric that's (given) at the microphone (and) at the table."

The vote Wednesday became possible when the state Court of Appeals granted the state's request to overturn a temporary restraining order sought by activist Robert Davis that barred the review team from meeting. Davis had argued the team was not legally allowed to meet beyond a 90-day window.

Request denied

Also Wednesday, a federal judge denied a request from Detroit employee unions to block the agreement, which seeks to impose tough contract terms.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow declined to issue a temporary restraining order sought by the unions to block the governor and state treasurer from executing a consent agreement or financial stability agreement and block them from appointing an emergency manager.

AFSCME Council 25 also sought to stop Snyder and Dillon from opposing ratification of the AFSCME contract.

Union leaders wanted consideration of the concessions they already have agreed to, though some city officials say they won't generate significant savings.

"Plaintiffs have not shown that the extraordinary remedy of a (temporary restraining order) is warranted in this case," Tarnow wrote.

Also Wednesday, the state filed an appeal of an Open Meetings Act lawsuit brought before Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette by AFSME negotiator Edward McNeil. Collette ordered that the team appear at an April 9 hearing. The Appeals Court canceled the hearing and took jurisdiction.
(313) 222-2072
Detroit News Staff Writer Christine MacDonald contributed.

Consent decree schedule

A consent decree between Detroit and the state sets a tight schedule. Here’s what must happen next:

Immediate: Appoint a Financial Advisory Board to assist the city and monitor ongoing financial performance. It will consist of three appointees from the governor; two by the mayor; two by the Detroit City Council; one by the state treasurer; and one by the governor and mayor with consent of the council.

Within seven days, the mayor must create positions of chief financial officer to oversee budget and financial decisions and program management office director to supervise reforms and keep them on track. Both would answer to Mayor Dave Bing.

Within 30 days, Bing must fill both positions from lists of three candidates agreed to by the mayor and governor.

Within 45 days, the city shall submit to the state Treasury Department a list of all accounts payable worth $250,000 or more and prepare and maintain monthly financial forecasts.

Within 60 days, the city shall adopt ordinances requiring the mayor to decrease budgets if expenses exceed appropriated levels.

In July and January, the city shall hold revenue estimating conferences.

By July 15, the law department must submit reports of all lawsuits to the Financial Advisory Board.

Details of the consent agreement

Creates a nine-person Financial Advisory Board whose members will oversee city officials and track city restructuring plans.

Sets compensation for each of the nine members at $25,000 annually. The costs will be split 50-50 between the state and the city.

The financial advisory board must hold public hearings and is subject to state open meeting laws. Members cannot be city or state employees.

Creates an office of program management in the mayor’s office and calls for the appointment of a program manager director.

The director — to be chosen with input from the governor — will report to the mayor. The director will have the power to affect union contracts.

Creates a chief financial officer position, who will work with the director as the chief operating officer and senior executives.

The mayor will have the power to rewrite and approve labor contracts but must follow guidelines.

Council members will retain the power to approve budgets, but will have limits based on funding estimates established by the Financial Advisory Board.

The state will assist with restructuring efforts and provide an estimated $137 million, which includes $33 million to pay down existing city debt and $104 million to be placed in an escrow account to pay for reform costs and operating expenses.

The state will assist the city with income tax collections.

Union contracts may be rewritten when they expire in July. Labor changes include promotions based on merit instead of seniority; new hires will join a 401(k) program; there will be restricted bumping rights.

Bing back in hospital

Mayor Dave Bing returned to the hospital Wednesday for what his staff described as a "simple precaution" because of "discomfort."

Bing, who had surgery March 24, was readmitted to Henry Ford Hospital. He had been released Monday morning following a nine-day stay for a perforated colon.
The mayor had been recuperating at the Manoogian Mansion.

Kirk Lewis was named deputy mayor while Bing is hospitalized.

From The Detroit News:

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