As politicians in Lansing grapple with possible financial takeover in Detroit, yet another public institution is being added to the list of candidates for emergency manager. Highland Park Public Schools, in economically beleaguered Highland Park, Mich., may become the fifth Michigan entity in which the state takes control, says Reuters. Here are updates on the status of emergency managers in Michigan.
Under Public Act 72 of 1990, the State of Michigan may take over control of cities and public institutions, such as schools, that are in financial peril. Last year, Gov. Rick Snyder passed Public Act 4, which allows the state to place cities with high budget deficits under the authority of an emergency manager. In order to restore financial solvency, the EM may break agreements or contracts, cut spending, suspend council meetings, lay off employees and override capacities of city officials, even those who have been elected by voters.
How Michigan cities are responding to emergency managers
So far, Michigan cities of Ecorse, Pontiac, Benton Harbor and Flint have placed under city-paid emergency manager control. Detroit Public Schools has been places under EM rule, too. Reactions to the EM have been mixed. Flint Mayor Dayne Walling welcomed the new emergency manager, says the Flint Journal. In Benton Harbor, WZZM 13 reports that EM Joe Harris met with great resistance. In Detroit, which is currently under financial review, Michigan Radio states that protesters, including U.S. Rep. John Conyers and Rev. Jesse Jackson, are rallying against the proposed EM takeover. Click on Detroit adds that the Rainbow Push Coalition is organizing a march on Jan.16, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, to call attention to the inequities in Public Act 4.
Concerns about the EM
Along with the extensive powers of the emergency manager, another bone of contention is the fact that they don't come cheap. The Flint Journal points out that the EM's salary, set by the state, ranges from $132,000 to $250,000. Flint's EM Michael Brown makes a $170,000 salary. Pontiac's manager costs the city $150,000 annually and DPS's Roy Roberts earns $250,000 per year. That's more than the elected city officials they were hired to replace earn. Residents have expressed confusion about how adding an expensive salary to a cash-strapped city's payroll is supposed to balance their budget.
Highland Park Public Schools
Highland Park, Mich., the once-prosperous birthplace of Henry Ford's Model T, has been hard-hit by unemployment and poverty. This small city-within-a-city is completely bounded by Detroit. Last year, Associated Press explains, the city was unable to pay its light bill and Detroit Thomas Edison (DTE) repossessed the many of the street lights. Now Reuters says the school system which has lost over 58 percent of its enrollment and which serves slightly under 1,000 students may also get an emergency manager.
Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben writes about people, places, issues and events in her native state of "Pure Michigan."