Selling our city for a paycheck
There’s one group in Detroit city government that has been exempt from all the austerity measures leveled at others. This group has kept its salary intact; the auto is still free; the health insurance paid for; those two months a year of vacation waiting to be taken; the pension protected. Yes, their pension is protected. In fact, name any cut that has hit any other sector of city government and one group remains untouched: the city council.
True, council lost some staff positions. But, there’s really less work to do. Because bottom line, they have no power. Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has total power over every aspect of the city. He can change the charter, break contracts, eliminate entire departments, ignore public comments, or whatever he chooses — or his boss, the governor, requests.
So if the council is faced with a vote, they give Orr a legitimacy he doesn’t deserve. Their vote makes it seem as the city is operating democratically. It’s not. Ironically, it is that appearance of democracy that will — in the end — do us the most harm. Pending before the courts right now is litigation asking the courts to rule Public Act 436 unconstitutional. This law replaced Public Act 4. Over 2.3 million Michiganders in all but five counties voted in Nov. 2011 to defeat PA 4, the Emergency Manager Law. So the governor and Republican lawmakers pushed through the new version of emergency management, PA 436, in the dead of night without public comment.
In addition, the lawmakers made it impossible for voters to overturn PA 436 by tying an appropriation measure to it.
If the courts rule PA 436 unconstitutional, any moves taken by the EM could possibly be overturned. But that will not happen if the democratically elected body voted for it. And the council is approving any deal that aids Orr and his boss, Snyder.
Like the 40-plus blocks of prime land the council gave to billionaire Ilitch to build a new Red Wing stadium. Joe Louis will be torn down at taxpayer expense. Ilitch has no obligations to pay the city until after the first puck is dropped, and then the city gets little. Ironically, all economists, urban planners and community development specialists say stadiums are the worst economic development tool a city has: Little if any spin off follows.
Council members certainly can read the development literature that spells out what nonsense it is for a city to invest in a stadium, so why did they approve the deal? Why did they approve the Consent Agreement in the first place? What are they getting besides full salary and full benefits?
Saunteel Jenkins, James Tate and Andre Spivey are the remaining council members who voted with the governor for a consent agreement in 2012. They opened the door to let in the state, and they are still doing so. Orr said he let the bad-deal stadium project go through because “it was in the works.”
Call the council members and tell them to stop participating in the city’s demise. Tell them to stop selling the city for a paycheck.