LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday he’s open to negotiating further with Detroit leaders about how best to restore the city’s financial solvency as long as a counterproposal being drafted by Mayor Dave Bing and city council members gets the job done.
“I believe that’s a constructive step and hopefully we’ll hear back very quickly,” Snyder told reporters in Lansing.
The governor, who leaves Saturday for a weeklong trade trip to Germany and Italy, said he plans to hold a series of town hall meetings with Detroit residents when he returns.
Snyder is warning the state is not going to step in with more money to help the city deal with a $197 million budget shortfall and its long-term legacy costs. Detroit leaders say they never got $200 million in revenue sharing funds cut by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, but Snyder denies the state owes the money.
WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reports that the deadline for finding a solution may not be written in stone. Skubick said that the March 26 deadline that’s been discussed might not be so final, as mandated by the emergency manger law.
But the governor won’s concede that point when questioned. “I don’t believe the statute answers that question,” said Snyder.
Skubick said the governor is fearful that, if there is no perceived deadline, the pressure will be off to settle this sooner rather than later.
Bing and other critics of the consent agreement Snyder has proposed say it gives a nine-member financial advisory board whose members would be appointed by state and city officials too much authority over the decisions made by the elected mayor and City Council. Bing tweeted several of his objections Thursday morning shortly after Snyder wrapped up his meeting with reporters.
“The agreement does not protect the city from the appointment of an emergency manager,” the mayor said, adding that it “prevents me from choosing my own executive staff to implement restructuring. They are appointed and directed by the board.”
Snyder strongly disagreed, saying the mayor and council “absolutely have power under the consent agreement – a lot of power.”
City Councilman Gary Brown said in a statement that a consent agreement provides the “teeth and the tools” to ensure the city won’t run out of money in coming months.
Harvey Hollins III, Snyder’s urban initiatives director, said he understands why some Detroiters are suspicious of having an unelected group of financial experts have so much say over the city’s finances. But he expects many will come to see the consent agreement as a good idea.
“Residents are fearful of a takeover,” Hollins said. “When we give them the information and we’re able to walk through some of the scenarios, that’s a different dialogue.”
The Republican governor pointed to many initiatives he has unveiled to help Detroit that have nothing to do with finances, such as beefing up the number of state police troopers and assigning more of them to Detroit to combat crime.
He also wants to invest millions of dollars to provide job training for the chronically unemployed in Detroit, where unemployment hovers at 17.3 percent, and get a regional high-speed bus system in place.
“We’re preparing a lot of good things to help the city,” Snyder said. “This is not about fighting or having someone lose.”
Snyder be back in the state on March 24, two days before a financial review team must either tell him no financial emergency exists or recommend a consent agreement or a financial manager be put in place. Snyder said further negotiations with Detroit leaders must happen quickly to meet the deadline.
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