Emergency manager to take over Detroit, Michigan governor announces

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency Friday, and announced he plans to appoint an emergency manager after March 11 to take over the city of Detroit after years of financial difficulties, predicting that it will be 18 months before elected leaders, including the Mayor, might take control of the city again. The move comes after a February 19 report that found the city is experiencing a “financial emergency.”

The decision had been predicted for weeks, but Friday’s announcement means that more than 50% of African Americans in the state of Michigan no longer elect their local leaders.

As the Eclectablog as chronicled extensively, half of African Americans in the state live in the jurisdictions that have had an emergency manager appointed. Those cities include Allen Park, Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Flint, Pontiac, and now Detroit. In those cities, the emergency manager, chosen by the governor, has the ability to overrule all decisions made by elected leaders including local mayors and city councils. As many critics have argued, this essentially invalidates the voters power on the local level.

Michigan voters already rejected the concept of emergency managers, repealing the law last November in a referendum. However, the Republican legislature passed a new version of the law only a few weeks later, which Governor Snyder signed in late December.

Emergency managers have not been popular in most other jurisdictions they’ve been appointed to. A judge in Pontiac recently said the city’s emergency manager “looked like a dictatorship.”

City Council members do not welcome the announcement, and are actively taking legal action against it. Some have even threatened to quit. Mayor Dave Bing opposes the manager as well, but plans to work with the state. He told reporters yesterday, “I’ve never fought help. I’m more interested in, instead of fighting Lansing, trying to work with Lansing.”

But one former Councilwoman welcomes the announcement. “It’s time to just fix it for Detroit,” said Sheila Cockrel told the Detroit News, noting that after decades of financial hard times, the city’s tax base has been decimated. She notes that for 43 of the last 63 years, the city has had budget deficits.  ”This has been a long time coming.”

During his announcement today, Snyder spoke at length about wanting a brighter future for Detroit and that he wants to bring all sides of the debate together to help bring the city out of its downturn. He made a point to say that Detroit’s future is ”something the citizens of Detroit should define,” although he did not elaborate on how citizens can participate in the process where their elected leaders no longer hold power.

City leaders now have a 10 day grace period come up with a new plan before Snyder will reconsider appointing an advisor.