Detroit Has A Consent Agreement. What’s Next?

Spirit of Detroit. Credit: flickr user Urban Adventures.

After weeks of debate and sometimes raucous dissent, leaders in Detroit and Lansing finally signed off on a financial stability agreement for the city yesterday.

You can read the full agreement here. But as important as the agreement is, it doesn’t actually solve any of Detroit’s pressing financial problems. It merely lays out the structure and the powers of the new group that will.

So today is when the real work begins.

The Detroit Free Press reports today that the first step in the process is to hire 11 people. Mayor Dave Bing is in charge of finding the first two:

Mayor Dave Bing now has six days to create the positions of the city’s chief financial officer and program management director and 30 days after that to hire the people for the positions. Those holding the jobs must have experience in municipal finance and balancing the books of a government operation of at least $250 million. The candidate list and ultimate hires will have to be approved by Snyder and Bing.

The mayor, governor, state treasurer and city council will also each have a say about who goes on the nine-member financial advisory board that will oversee the city’s finances for the next few years.

Once the team is in place, the next big question is how to salvage Detroit’s finances. That’s where things may get ugly. Continue reading “Detroit Has A Consent Agreement. What’s Next?”

Midwest Memo: Detroit Assembles A Team, Indiana’s Accounting Errors And Chicago’s Tourism Offices

Detroit looking for accountants Detroit has a deal to avoid state takeover. Now, the Detroit Free Press reports leaders have to pick the members of the new panel that will oversee the city’s finances.

Whoopsie An error by the state of Indiana shortchanged county governments by $206 billion over the last year, according to the Indianapolis Star. The paper says it’s the second budget error announced by the state in the last four months. The two mistakes amount to half a billion dollars in accounting miscalculations.

Poised to strike Partner station WBEZ reports teachers at more than 150 Chicago schools are ready to go on strike, if contract negotiations with the Mayor’s office fail. Mayor Emanuel is pushing for a longer school day, a new calender and new teacher evaluations.

Appealing to tourists The city of Chicago will open new tourism offices in Brazil, Germany and Japan this year, according to the Chicago Tribune. Last year, the city launched tourism offices in London, Toronto and Mexico City.

It can happen anywhere WKSU found new oil and gas drilling happening in some unexpected places in Ohio. One of the sites for a new “fracking” operation in the state is right under a school.

Midwest Memo: Detroit Has A Deal, Chicago Has Crippling Debt And Ohio Has Bulldozers

Detroit’s deal Last night, the Detroit City Council voted to approve a consent agreement with the state to avoid takeover by an emergency manager. That means, as long as the governor signs the deal as expected and the courts don’t strike the deal down, Detroit finally has the first step in a plan to avoid bankruptcy. Partner station Michigan Radio reports on what it all means.

Chicago’s debt problem The Chicago Sun-Times went looking for reasons why Chicago would turn to private partnerships to fund its new multi-billion dollar plan to rebuild infrastructure. One major reason: the city’s staggering debt. Chicago can’t take out any more bonds to pay for improvements because the city spends almost 23 percent of its annual budget paying off the $7.3 billion in debt it already has.

Illinois’ turn Illinois is getting into the fracking game. Crain’s Chicago Business says the state could see a natural gas-drilling “boomlet” as companies explore southern Illinois for possible drilling.

Bulldozing blitz Partner station WCPN Ideastream had a story on NPR’s Morning Edition today that looks at the effort to tear down vacant houses in Ohio. The state set aside $75 million from its share of the $25 billion nationwide mortgage fraud settlement to pay for demolitions.

No more coal ash The Ludington Daily News reports the city’s historic car ferry has received a grant to convert its fuel source. Without the grant, the coal powered ferry would have been forced to shut down by the EPA. The historic vessel dumps about 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan every year.

#goodnewsforDetroit Twitter says it will open a new office in Detroit. Michigan Radio’s Jennifer Guerra reported the news in tweet form. You have to hear it.

Watch Live: Governor Snyder To Take Questions From Detroiters At 11 a.m.

Watch live streaming video from snyderlive at livestream.com

On Monday, the state appointed financial review team for Detroit held its final meeting, and members got an earful from Detroiters who are worried that their city could face a takeover. Today, governor Rick Snyder is speaking in the city, and he’s expected to take questions. The governor has until April 5th to reach a consent agreement with Detroit leaders. If that doesn’t happen, he’ll likely appoint an emergency manager to run the city.

The event will stream live at 11 a.m.

To Prepare Workers, Retraining Programs Try To Predict The Future

Sarah Alvarez contributed to this story.

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Unemployment numbers in the Midwest are bad. Not as bad as when the recession was at its worst, but there are still a lot of people looking for jobs. Even so, we keep hearing that some employers can’t find enough skilled workers. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says in his state alone, there are more than 77,000 job openings that can’t be filled.

Wendy Whitmore. Credit: Preeti Upadhyaya

There is really only one way to bridge that gap. People need training. And the way people are getting that training is changing.

Wendy Whitmore is the CEO of EMR Approved, a company in Chicago that works with doctors and hospitals that are making the switch to electronic medical records.

Four years ago, EMR Approved didn’t exist. Back then, Wendy Whitmore was running SSG Consulting, an IT consulting firm that wasn’t doing so well.

So she decided to try something new, and she took 12 of her employees with her.

Whitmore still runs SSG Consulting, and some of her employees straddle both businesses, but what they’re doing now is totally new.

Continue reading “To Prepare Workers, Retraining Programs Try To Predict The Future”

Midwest Memo: Amazon Invests In Indiana, Snyder Takes Questions And Cash Mobs Swarm Stores

Amazon’s deal Amazon will build a $150 million distribution center in southern Indiana. The decision to build came after Indiana agreed to let the retailer go two more years before forcing it to collect Indiana sales tax. BussinessWeek reports the distribution center could eventually have 1,000 jobs.

Ask Snyder Partner station Michigan Radio reports that governor Rick Snyder will take questions from Detroiters today. The governor says he wants people to know the facts about the state’s negotiations to fix the cities finances. Many Detroiters worry they’ll lose local control.

Judge assists A judge in Michigan says the state was wrong to cut off about 11,000 families from welfare assistance last year. The families were cut off because of a new federal five-year limit on receiving benefits. But the families were still eligible for the benefits under state law.

Still planning to protest An official with the Chicago Police says there’s been no drop in interest from protesters since the announcement that Chicago would not host the G-8 Summit. He says just as many protesters are planning to show up for the NATO meeting.

Ready for tourists Cleveland has a new five-year plan to attract more tourists to the city. Partner station WCPN Ideastream takes a look at the ideas.

The good mob Reuters looks at a new trend in local boosterism: cash mobs.

Have We Reached The Final Countdown For Detroit?

Detroit's financial review team listened to impassioned arguments during public comment at yesterday's meeting. Credit: screen shot of streaming coverage from wdiv.com.

We told you yesterday would probably be a historic day for the city of Detroit. Well, not so much.

The state-appointed financial review team for the city did hold a meeting, as expected. It was a pretty raucous meeting, as our partner station Michigan Radio reported. The reviewteam was required by law to make a recommendation to the governor about how to handle Detroit’s “fiscal crisis.”

There were basically two options: Recommend a consent agreement with the city, or recommend appointing an emergency manager who has the power to toss out union contracts, sell assets and balance the books. At the time of the meeting, no consent agreement had been reached with the city, so the emergency manager option – an option no one really wants – was starting to look more likely. But instead of taking option 1 or 2, the review team took option 3: Restate that there is a fiscal crisis in the city, restate that the team prefers a consent agreement and restate the obvious fact that there is currently no consent agreement. Not exactly a historic decree.

Essentially, the team kicked the can.

Continue reading “Have We Reached The Final Countdown For Detroit?”

Midwest Memo: No News In Detroit, Michigan’s $1 Billion Year And Transit Worries In Chicago

Nothing yet There’s still no consent agreement between the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan. The team that’s been reviewing the city’s finances re-affirmed yesterday that they believe the city is in severe financial stress. But they did not recommend that the governor should appoint an emergency manager. Partner station Michigan Radio says the state and the city now have 10 days to reach a deal, before the governor is forced to take action.

Pure money Michigan’s tourism bureau says the Pure Michigan ad campaign helped attract a record $1 billion in travel sales last year. Partner station Michigan Radio reports that number is up from $605 million the year before.

Tripping up transit Chicago could lose $1.2 million per day if Congress doesn’t approve an extension of the country’s transit legislation by Saturday. The Chicago Tribune says the funding shortfall could jeopardize plans to buy buses, and modernize railway equipment in the Windy City.

Bigger, faster A study panel in Wisconsin has recommended a $207 million dollar expansion for the Lake Parkway in southern Milwaukee County.

Lottery online Illinois became the first state to sell lottery tickets online. The state made $15,000 on the first day of online lottery sales, according to NBC Chicago.

Off the hook Ohio legislators are considering a law that would allow phone companies to drop landline phone service in some areas of the state. Partner station WCPN Ideastream reports a collection of consumer groups say the change would hurt seniors and low-income people who don’t have cell phones.

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.

Continue reading “Answers To The 9 Most Important Questions In Detroit Right Now”

Midwest Memo: Detroit In Legal Limbo, Ohio Becomes Dumping Ground And Etch-A-Sketch Gets A Bump From Gaffe

It’s a mess, basically Efforts to avoid a financial meltdown in the city of Detroit are turning into a confusing legal situation. Partner station Michigan Radio reports a judge says the state can’t enter into its proposed consent agreement with the city until he decides whether the state’s review team broke open meetings laws. And there’s some disagreement over when the actual deadline is to reach a deal.

Wasteland BusinessWeek reports on how Ohio has become a dumping ground for the chemical-laced wastewater brine that’s a byproduct of new natural gas drilling in the U.S. BusinessWeek says Ohio has 176 storage wells for the “fracking” fluids. In comparison, Pennsylvania has just six such wells.

Romney is helping business The Toledo Blade reports on how an Ohio company has benefited from a political gaffe. Ohio Art Co., the maker of Etch-A-Sketch, has seen its stock more than double since a Mitt Romney aide referenced the toy in an interview on CNN. The statement has turned into one of the biggest gaffes of the GOP primary, but Ohio Art Co. isn’t complaining. Sales of Etch-A-Sketch toys are on the rise, and company executives are trying to manage requests for media interviews.

O-H-I Am Pandering President Obama visited Ohio State University yesterday. He promised to increase drilling in the United States, but he says he draws the line at drilling in Ohio Stadium. The President also made some hand signs that won’t play well in Ann Arbor.

Hogan out Partner station WBEZ reports on the resignation of University of Illinois president Michael Hogan.

Chicago secession? A landfill operator is trying to secede his 86 acres of property from the city of Chicago, and join the suburb of Dolton. The move is an attempt to get around the city’s ban on landfills.