Mar 19, 2012
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder proposed a consent agreement for the city of Detroit. Detroit’s Mayor Dave Bing immediately spoke out against the agreement, and instead proposed his own consent agreement.
Snyder’s consent agreement would create a “Financial Advisory Board” that would appoint three executives. The Board, the executives and the mayor would have the same powers as an Emergency Financial Manager. They could terminate union contracts; lay off workers and break contracts with vendors; outsource city services like water, parks, garbage collection, street lighting and parking; and sell off city assets.
For all of Bing’s and the City Council’s bluster about their opposition to Snyder’s plant, their own proposal ends up in the same place. It gives the same emergency manager powers solely to Bing, but without a Financial Advisory Board. Bing says his proposal would not allow him to terminate union contracts. He could, however, use his power to lay off workers and eliminate services and department to force union workers to agree to contract concessions – which is the main point of both proposals.
Snyder and Bing were forced to turn to a consent agreement because Bing couldn’t convince city workers to stab themselves in the back and accept the huge concessions he demanded. It has been more than six weeks since Bing and some leaders of the city’s unions reached a tentative agreement on major concessions. But they still haven’t put it up for a vote of the rank and file. And that testifies to the opposition workers have expressed.
A consent agreement is a back-door way to impose the concessions and possibly more. And Snyder’s proposal says it would remain in effect even if the state’s emergency manager law is suspended or overturned by a petition that was circulated to put the law up for a voter referendum.
This end-run around the petition effort shows the state’s Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) law was always directed at cities like Detroit, no matter how generally the law appears to be written.
The city’s unions, churches, students and community groups have demonstrated their opposition in many ways to the attacks on public workers, schools, and city services.
We’ll see what happens next.