Some more disturbing news out of Detroit, which can’t seem to shake the funk …
Steve Neavling, Detroit Free Press:
The city of Detroit is on the verge of running out of money by February because of runaway pension and health care costs, prompting Mayor Dave Bing today to warn that the state may soon have no choice but to appoint an emergency manager to take over city finances and union contracts.
The only way to avoid a state takeover, Bing said in an exclusive interview with the Free Press, is for union employees to accept deep cuts in pension and health care benefits by the summer and agree to modify workforce rules that make it difficult for employees to be laid off or shifted to other positions.
Employees last year accepted 10% pay cuts.
“I was voted in as mayor, not an emergency manager,” Bing said
City Council steps in with two cents on the dollar …
Leonard N. Fleming, Santiago Esparza and Darren A. Nichols in The Detroit News:
City Council members vowed to do what it takes to solve the city’s financial crisis without having to resort to the intervention of an emergency manager.
All nine council members appeared in the 13th floor auditorium at City Hall this afternoon to show the panel is united. Council President Charles Pugh says the city needs to negotiate concessions from unions and make other cost-cutting moves before entertaining the notion of independent oversight.
Pugh said a group of people has been meeting for the past 1 1/2 weeks to come up with a comprehensive plan to restructure city government to address the city’s cash flow problem. The council president said he knows some of the decisions that will grow from the meetings will be unpopular, but it’s better than an emergency manager.
The city’s business journal, Crain’s Detroit Business, thinks Bing is not the best pick for the job of emergency manager. Who is?
Not on the track record so far. Bing’s greatest gift has been to restore integrity to the office. Given the residue of indictments from the Kwame Kilpatrick era and investigations into potential misconduct at Wayne County, this is no small feat.
But he has been short on the “tough decisions” he promised to overhaul a city whose overhead is based on another century’s realities.
Despite new leadership — and hope — for improved basic public services such as police and fire, the city is failing on other fronts: streetlights that don’t work, buses that don’t run.
Regardless of who’s to blame, we need radical action. Perhaps the mayor should declare a public safety emergency and privatize transit. (If people can’t get to work because of snow, it’s an emergency, right? This is an emergency, too.) If bus service improved, he would be hailed as a hero and it could pave the way to other reforms.