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Former Councilwoman: Don’t Fear The EFM Law

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Sheila Cockrel

Sheila Cockrel

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DETROIT (WWJ) – A former Detroit city official says those up in arms over the new Emergency Financial Manager law need to take another look. 

WWJ’s Vickie Thomas spoke with former Detroit City Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel, who said communities should not fear the new emergency financial manager law.

“The issue gets cut, basically in the media, as revolving around essentially a civil rights issue. We’re missing the real point of this law, which is to say, we want to give you the tools you need to make the tough decisions, because we know it’s hard to look across the table and say ‘You’re no longer going to get longevity pay,'” Cockrel said.

Cockrell, who teaches at Wayne State University, sat through a recent emergency financial manager training session.

“This is a question of giving a set of tools to local units of government, school boards and municipal governments as well, with a set of tools to stay away from having an Emergency Financial manager,” Cockrel said. “People understand, you know, here’s the bottom line, there’s no more money.”

Cockrel said communities need to start working together to build their strength.

“In a sense, there are going to be jobs lost. As tough as that is, we have to reinvent ourselves or we will become the first above-ground Pompeii. It’s just not going to survive,” Cockrel said.

Emergency financial managers are appointed by the state to take control of struggling municipalities and school districts.

Governor Snyder said the law lets the state offer help earlier when governments are in financial distress, instead of having to wait until they are on the brink of bankruptcy.

Ultimately, the Gov. decides whether an emergency manager is appointed to a district. The manager then could modify or end union contracts, order elections to raise or extend property taxes, or take a host of other actions.

A manager could also recommend that local governments consolidate and, with the Gov.’s approval, could  dissolve a municipal government.

The law has drawn much opposition from union leaders and Democrats, who say the measure is a state power grab that could set up virtual dictatorships and strip power from local elected officials.

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