Answers To The 9 Most Important Questions In Detroit Right Now

Downtown Detroit. Credit: David Tansey.

One way or the other, today is likely to go down as a historic – and possibly transformative – day for the city of Detroit. The city is burning through its cash, and fast approaching bankruptcy. By the end of the day, we could know more about what approach the state will take to help avoid that bankrupcty.

But the negotiations over Detroit’s future have taken a lot of confusing turns in the past couple of weeks, so we’ve tried to put together some answers to the city’s most pressing questions.

What’s happening today? Today is the deadline for the city to sign off on a proposed consent agreement with the state. The agreement would lead to the creation of a new panel to restructure Detroit’s finances.

What’s actually in the consent agreement? A lot. Sarah Cwiek at partner station Michigan Radio has an explainer.

What happens if the consent agreement isn’t signed today? Some say the state’s financial review team will be forced to recommend that Gov. Snyder appoint an emergency manager. Then, the governor will have 10 days to do so. But the Detroit Free Press says some of the details are still up for debate.

Why isn’t Detroit’s mayor leading today’s negotiations? Mayor Dave Bing went in for emergency surgery on Saturday to repair a perforated intestine. Reports say he’s getting updates on the negotiations from his hospital bed.

Is anything being done to actually cut the city’s costs right now? Over the weekend, 30 of the city’s unions ratified new agreements to cut costs. Michigan Radio reports it’s unclear whether those deals are really enough to fix Detroit’s problems.

What is Michigan’s emergency manager law? In short, Michigan’s Public Act 4 is meant to be an alternative to bankruptcy for cities that are running out of money. Michigan has long had a law that allows the governor to appoint emergency financial managers, but in 2010, the law was expanded. Now, emergency managers have the power to sell city assets, toss out union contracts and override any decision made by the city council or mayor. Our partner station, Michigan Radio, has had extensive, ongoing coverage of the emergency manager law. Here’s a nice summary: “7 things to know about Michigan’s emergency manager law.”

What happens if the consent agreement fails, and an emergency manager is appointed in Detroit? Detroit will go through what’s happening in Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor and Ecorse. The trash will still get picked up, water service will continue. But elected leaders in Detroit will lose pretty much all of their power. The Detroit Free Press runs through some of the specifics.

What’s going on in court? Michigan’s Public Act 4 is facing a number of court challenges. Last week, a judge in Ingham County ruled that the state could not go forward with the consent agreement until he determined whether the state had followed open meetings laws. Over the weekend, the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned that ruling, which opened the door for the consent agreement. But Michigan’s emergency manager law still faces broader challenges in the court, so the issue is far from settled.

How did Detroit get to this point? You could write a book on that question, and still not come up with a sufficient answer. But the shortest, simplest thing to say is that Detroit is running out of money. Some say the city will run out of money next month. Pretty much everyone agrees that it will happen before the end of June.

What other questions do you have about the situation in Detroit?




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