A worthless Council, a damaged city
If anyone had any doubts about what the financial stability agreement means for Detroit, self-determination or local leadership, watch how City Council was reminded of their insignificance during this week’s talks over employee cuts. Earlier this week, Mayor Dave Bing announced a 10 percent pay cut and numerous other health care and benefit reductions for city employees. The cuts, in an effort to restructure the city’s finances, are permitted under the Consent Agreement.
The issue went to a heated Council debate. Union leaders and the rank and file protested the cuts at the Council table. City Council rejected the cuts 5-4. Yet, Council voted themselves into obsolescence earlier this year when they approved the Financial Stability Agreement (FSA). Ultimately, their vote didn’t even matter.
For once, we agree with Councilman Gary Brown. If you voted for the consent agreement, how do you now reject the impending cuts? Council President Charles Pugh and his dubious political value system managed this feat of inconsistency when he voted no, but earlier helped lead the cause for adopting the FSA. During the debate, Pugh was a vocal champion of the agreement going so far as to chastise residents who came to the body in protest.
We hope Pugh understands his choices and his vote. Well, now, his lack of a vote. Even Councilman James Tate, who counted the police officers as a significant constituency, stayed consistent and voted for the proposed cuts. After Council voted, the mayor, the state-imposed Financial Advisory Board, CFO and Program Management Director (PDM) stepped in. The PDM overrode Council and the cuts will take immediate effect.
Ironically, the city will not achieve the savings the unions themselves presented to council January of this year. After working through December, a coalition of unions responded to Detroit’s financial crisis. At least 25 of the 45 unions that work with the city proposed cuts via a tentative agreement. The cuts could have saved the city $110 million.
In hindsight, not only could the city have begun its cost saving plan at least six months ago, but FSA could have been avoided. Mayor Dave Bing, however, delayed a Council vote on the tentative agreements because it was in conflict with the state’s plan. This is the first of many changes under the FSA we believe will damage the city.
Schools’ failure is state’s failure
The ACLU is posing a legal challenge that could greatly benefit Michigan’s children. The ACLU, in suing the state because of its failure to take the proper steps to ensure students are reading at grade level, is tackling a problem suffered by too many children in poor, mostly Black neighborhoods. Who else but the state is failing these children? Many will blame the parents, but the fact is these schools, especially those that have been taken over by the state, are accountable to Michigan’s children. This new EAA district must be held to even higher standards. The Detroit Public Schools have been under state control for more than 10 years and we still aren’t realizing the promise of student achievement. Only the reality of high administrative costs, fiscal mismanagement and the elimination of community input. Limited education will mean limited opportunity for these children and this fight for equality — a civil rights fight — is an important one not just for Highland Park students and parents, but for all Michigan residents.