Reporting Vickie Thomas
DETROIT (WWJ) - Cash-strapped Detroit received an ultimatum on Tuesday when state officials delivered a proposal that would consolidate public utilities, shrink city staff and trigger the appointment of an emergency manager if its terms were contested or left unmet.
The city’s water department, lighting department and public bus system are all among the items being targeted in the consent agreement.
- View a copy of the consent agreement (.pdf format) -
WWJ’s Vickie Thomas reports that the proposed deal calls for the creation of a 9-member “super advisory board,” as well as the appointment of a Chief Operations Officer, a Chief Financial Officer and a Human Resources person. Those people would all report to the mayor, but be overseen by the board.
The plan isn’t going over well with some members of Detroit City Council, including Saunteel Jenkins who said it doesn’t leave Mayor Dave Bing with much power.
“They consult with the mayor, but the treasurer and the board have the authority to veto anything the mayor wants to do,” Jenkins told WWJ Legal Analyst and Talk Radio 1270 morning show host Charlie Langton.
The mayor would initially be granted the power of an emergency manager, but would not have the authority to do away with collective bargaining agreements.
The proposal states that within one year, the COO and the mayor would have to put out a plan to consolidate or eliminate the Water Department, Department of Transportation, Public Lighting Department, I.T. Department, Public Works Department, Human Resources and the city airport.
The consent agreement also says if anyone on the super advisory board is suspended or terminated for any reason other than misconduct, fraud or gross negligence, that will trigger a lump sum cash payment of $1 million payable by the City of Detroit.
Councilwoman JoAnn Watson said State Treasurer Andy Dillon wanted to meet with her just a couple of minutes before Tuesday’s council session – but she declined.
“It’s disrespectful to be asking an elected official who is paid to vote at 10 (a.m.) to meet with the treasurer at 9:55 to receive a consent agreement that is unconstitutional and illegal in my view,” Watson said.
Watson said the consent agreement is a “contract” and should have come to Council from the Mayor, adding that such contracts “should not be shopped around office to office.”
Detroiter Greg Murray had this advice for council members: “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Don’t fall for the okey-doke. Stand up. It’s bad enough that Dave Bing tries to punk you out, but now you’ve got Snyder punking you out through remote control!”
Bishop Edgar Vann is among Detroit’s religious leaders given a heads up by Gov. Rick Snyder that the plan was being put on the table.
“I would hope that if it’s the two options that are available, if that be the lesser, the consent agreement, then I would hope that it would be embraced so that our elected officials can remain in tact, and so we can try our very best to work through the issues that we have,” said Vann.
One other thing in the consent agreement says that contesting it or public act for could immediately trigger an emergency manager or chapter 9 bankruptcy proceedings, or serve as a basis to suspend revenue sharing.
U.S. Congressman John Conyers said he “strenuously objects” to the consent agreement, adding that it “essentially asks the city to forfeit its citizens’ rights in exchange for no tangible benefit.”
“They’re calling this a consent agreement when in fact, everything in the agreement points to an emergency manager,” said Jenkins.
Gov. Snyder said March 27 is the deadline for the state review team looking into Detroit’s financial mess to issue its report. He said a consent agreement would mean the city agreeing with the state about a path to move forward “for which people will be held accountable.”
WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick said Snyder called the agreement a “draft” saying that he wants to find a middle ground. According to Skubick, Snyder has stressed that this is not a power grab – that the Mayor and City Council would maintain their executive and legislative powers respectively.
Detroit faces cash flow problems and a nearly $200 million budget deficit.