Detroit City Council Concedes Emergency Manager Likely, Ponders Alternatives

Members of Detroit’s city council conceded today that state intervention is “likely” in the city’s looming financial crisis. Nonetheless, they are still hoping to corral the city’s $45 million budget shortfall themselves.

The council finalized a list of proposed budget cuts that now goes to Mayor Dave Bing for vetting. Steps outlined by the council are considered even more severe than the ones Bing outlined last week.

They include: layoffs for 500 public-safety employees at a time the city’s murder rate is the highest in the country, reduced salaries for other public employees, increased transportation fares, possibly selling some government property and more. A joint committee with the city’s chief operating officer will be held Tuesday to determine the viability of some of the proposals.

Under state law, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder could implement a financial review of Detroit’s finances and then choose to appoint an emergency manager, who would have authority to make decisions without the input of the mayor and council and terminate existing employee contracts. The council has bristled at the prospect of losing power.

“We’re willing to push and make sure the folks who people elected to do this are the ones who are going to do it,” council president Charles Pugh told The Detroit News today. “We’re all frustrated.”

Alternatives are being sought. While some groups are contesting the legality of the state’s emergency manager law, members of the council have floated a trial balloon of sorts. Some members told the Detroit Free Press they prefer a compromise position: a consent agreement which would “heighten the authority of the council and mayor to devise a plan – subject to state approval – to save the city from insolvency.”

Such a plan would ensure existing stakeholders have a place in negotiations, but still would give the state the final say.

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