Saturday, January 23, 2016

Anger in Michigan Over Appointing Emergency Managers - The New York Times

Anger in Michigan Over Appointing Emergency Managers - The New York Times:

Anger in Michigan Over Appointing Emergency Managers

Protesters in Detroit on Wednesday held signs depicting Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan and Darnell Earley, the new emergency manager for the city’s public schools. Critics say the appointment of emergency managers by the state disenfranchises local voters. Credit Laura McDermott for The New York Times

LANSING, Mich. — In the spring of 2013, Detroit was groaning under the weight of its troubles. It had accumulated billions in debt, was riddled with crime and had seen much of its affluent tax base disappear. A former mayor, Kwame M. Kilpatrick, was convicted of racketeering and fraud.
Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, swept in with a rescue plan: the appointment of an emergency manager, Kevyn D. Orr, who was charged with saving a city in fiscal despair. Many Detroiters were furious that Mr. Orr, then a high-profile bankruptcy lawyer from Chevy Chase, Md., had been given a role with extraordinary power, usurping control from local elected officials.
That anger has been revived in Michigan this week. Public outrage over the tainted water in Flint and the decrepit schools in Detroit has led many people to question whether the state has overreached in imposing too many emergency managers in largely black jurisdictions.
In Flint, emergency managers not only oversaw the city — effectively seizing legal authority from the mayor and City Council — but also pressed to switch the source of the financially troubled city’s water supply to save money.
In Detroit, the schools are on the brink of insolvency after a series of emergency managers dating to 2009 repeatedly failed to grapple with its financial troubles, while also falling short on maintaining school buildings and addressing academic deficiencies. The current emergency manager for the schools, Darnell Earley, previously served in that role in Flint.
Under the administration of Mr. Snyder, who has held office since 2011, seven cities or school districts have been declared financial emergencies and placed under appointed management, state officials said. During the eight-year tenure of his predecessor, Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, five cities or school districts were given emergency managers.
Three school districts — but no municipalities — remain under the control of emergency managers, a state official said.
Residents of majority-black cities have long cried foul over the practice. They argue that it disenfranchises voters and violates a deeply felt ethos of American democracy that allows for local representation. They also say emergency management gives influence to what is now a mostly white, Republican leadership in Lansing, the state capital. And they worry that in their decisions, emergency managers are more concerned with fiscal discipline than public health.
“Tell me what race dominates in those communities that get emergency managers?” said Hubert Yopp, the mayor of Highland Park, Mich., which is 93 percent black and in past years has had an emergency manager. “People have a very real reason to question what that’s about. It would be one thingAnger in Michigan Over Appointing Emergency Managers - The New York Times: