History suggests Detroit bid to avoid state takeover is futile

Sun Mar 10, 2013 3:45pm EDT

City of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing talks about the future of the city during an interview in his office in Detroit, Michigan February 5, 2013. REUTERS/ Rebecca Cook

City of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing talks about the future of the city during an interview in his office in Detroit, Michigan February 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/ Rebecca Cook

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(Reuters) - The Detroit City Council will argue its case on Tuesday against a state takeover of the city, but history shows a successful challenge would be unprecedented.

So far, none of the five Michigan cities declared in financial emergency has been able to change the state government's position through a hearing, Terry Stanton, a spokesman for the Michigan Treasury Department said.

Leaders of the city of Detroit have been unable to agree on a united position for the hearing. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing declined to join the appeal and last week acknowledged that an emergency manager will eventually be appointed by the State of Michigan to run the city's finances.

But the council forged ahead anyway, a possibility under a 1990 state law that provides for a hearing before Republican Governor Rick Synder can go ahead and appoint an outside manager.

If Snyder reaffirms a financial emergency for Detroit in the wake of the hearing scheduled for about an hour, the appointment of an emergency manager could come quickly.

The City Council could then take their case to a state court. Stanton said only two Michigan cities, Highland Park and Flint, went to court during a similar process and both eventually ended up with state-appointed managers anyway.

Bettie Buss, a senior research associate at the public-policy group Citizens Research Council of Michigan, agrees it would be an uphill battle.

"Essentially, (the court has) to find it was an abuse of power and that has simply not happened," she said.

Some residents of Michigan largest city already are protesting the looming takeover of Detroit's finances because they feel an unelected manager would take away their voting rights.

Snyder has said he has identified a top candidate for the job, but he declined to give a name.

The state law currently in effect restricts the hearing to whether or not the state government had reasonable evidence to back up its conclusions that Detroit faces a financial emergency.

The birthplace of the U.S. automotive industry and Motown music has suffered under a steep population decline that has left the city with declining tax revenue, rising crime and a costly and out-dated government structure, A report commissioned by Snyder has said that the city of 700,000 has "operational dysfunction" in its government, a crushing debt of $14 billion and a current fiscal year deficit of $100 million.

None of the major players from Michigan or Detroit, such as Snyder or Detroit's mayor or city council members, will participate in the hearing, underscoring what could be the futility of the process.

Detroit will be represented by the heads of its research and fiscal analysis divisions and the city's corporation counsel department. Representing the state will be, Frederick Headen, a legal advisor for the Michigan Treasury Department, according to State Treasury Department's Stanton.

An emergency financial manager in Detroit will have authority over the cash-strapped city's fiscal affairs, including control over contracts, asset sales, layoffs and consolidations. That manager could also recommend the city file for bankruptcy. That move, if allowed by the state, would mark the biggest Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy ever in the United States.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Tiziana Barghini, Greg McCune and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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Comments (15)
FOADYMCSHW wrote:
Since this story broke all I have heard from liberals is vile accussations that this is some sort of Republican conspiracy to deprive US citizens of the Constitutional rights. No mention (or likely thought) is given to the cities laid to ruin by the failed collectvist economic principals of the progressive liberals which have, over the past SIXTY YEARS, utterly destroyed Detroit. The time is well past due to remove the incompetent parties from offie and institute policies which will, hopefully, drive some life back into this once magnificent, now derelict city.

Mar 10, 2013 4:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TheNewWorld wrote:
They wouldn’t be facing this if Democrats understood things like balanced budgets, and undfundable liabilities. If they could actually tackle the union/politician cronyism, and corruption,. they could have saved themselves from this action.

Mar 10, 2013 4:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
bobber1956 wrote:
If Detroit wants to survive they have to wake up to the reality that unionized labor (the auto industry in particular) is not going to work any longer. They alos need to kick the unions out of their governments and schools. No one can afford them any longe. Then and only then will the be able to to compete and profit in the modern world of commerce. The same thing applies with the rest of the US. FACT! Yeah, I know, obama loves the unions. That only proves the point.

Mar 10, 2013 5:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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