As many as 400 Emergency Financial Managers to be trained in Michigan

    Bloomberg is reporting that Michigan may be training as many as 400 Emergency Financial Managers to take over the state’s struggling communities and school systems. Pervious reports had put the number at less than half that. Here’s a clip from the article.

    …Michigan is giving hundreds of financial professionals and public employees a crash course in advising troubled municipalities, building an army of emergency managers that may become a model for other U.S. states.

    As many as 400 accountants, lawyers, school employees and city workers will start classes in Lansing today on topics including “Dealing with the Unionized Workforce,” navigating municipal bankruptcy and negotiating contracts for sewer, water and other utilities…

    For those of you who are new to the subject, I’d suggest reading our previous discussions on EMFs, the somewhat ambiguous criteria that trigger their deployment, and the unprecedented powers that they wield to break union contracts and unseat democratically elected officials. [Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.]

    And here’s an idea for the Democratic Party of Michigan, if, in fact, it still exists… Let’s not continue to call these extremely power, non-elected, highly-paid political cronies Emergency Financial Managers. Let’s call them Czars. After the Tea Partiers have invested so much to negatively define the term, it would be a shame not to use it.

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      12 Comments

      1. IFM
        Posted April 18, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

        No, no please don’t make “czar” the new term. Czars are fun. Beer czar! Bikini czar! Goatse czar!

        You have to at least call them terrorists or tyrants (both of which I think are accurate). But, I prefer mercenaries. I think mercenaries is an accurate portrayal of their role.

        To be specific, Embassy Funded Mercenaries, or, my favorite, End of Freedom Mercenaries.

        I’m also okay with State Imposed Tyrants (the nanny state baby “SITs”), or The State’s Hastily Imposed Tyrants (The SHITs).

        Just not “czars.” If I had to chose between a czar and an EMF, I’d take the party guy czar any day.

      2. Posted April 19, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

        One piece of the EFM legislation that hasn’t gotten much ink is the consent agreement clause, which Detroit is referencing – http://www.detnews.com/article/20110419/METRO/104190336/1409/Bing-could-gain-new-power.

        In a move to avoid a state takeover, Brown wants to take advantage of a provision in a new law that would give the mayor authority to privatize city operations, sell assets and change ordinances — but wouldn’t alter the city’s basic governing structure.

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        “That allows the mayor and the council to stay and allows the mayor to have a lot of the tools the emergency manager would get,” Brown said. “The mayor needs those tools (under the new law). That’s a hammer, a powerful tool that the mayor could utilize to negotiate with the unions and get the concessions he needs.”

        Without re-reading the statute, I believe a few EM powers are withheld (such as the ability to unilaterally modify union contracts), but otherwise the statute allows the state to grant EM-like powers to local City Managers, Mayors, or City Councils, rather than sending in an outside person to use those powers.

      3. Ez
        Posted April 19, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        Benton Harbor’s EFM has been in place since before Snyder came to office. The fact, though, that BH’s EFM is the first to clean shop under the Governor’s legislation: does this have anything to do specifically with Snyder, or is the BH EFM simply acting of his own accord?

      4. Glen S.
        Posted April 19, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

        There are reports that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has decided to take a page out of Snyder’s book, and impose Michigan-style “Financial Martial Law” on Wisconsin communities that do not adequately adhere to the TeaPublicans’ anti-worker, anti-tax, anti-government philosophy.

        According to an article by Rick Ungar on the “Forbes” website:

        “Following the lead of Michigan GOP Governor Rick Snyder, Walker is said to be preparing a plan that would allow him to force local governments to submit to a financial stress test with an eye towards permitting the governor to take over municipalities that fail to meet with Walker’s approval.”

        Ungar goes on to say:

        “Should these reports prove accurate, Walker’s plan would resemble-if not directly mirror- the legislation signed into law by Gov. Snyder of Michigan which gives Snyder extraordinary powers to take over municipalities when he determines them to be in financial trouble, further permitting him to actually fire locally elected public officials when he deems it desirable.

        Gov. Snyder’s extraordinary law became all too real this week when Emergency Financial Manager, Joseph Harris, appointed by the Governor to take charge of Benton Harbor, Michigan, issued an order which took away all powers of the city’s elected officials.

        Yes, this has really happened right here in the United States of America.”

        http://blogs.forbes.com/rickungar/2011/04/16/gov-scott-walker-reportedly-planning-financial-martial-law-in-wisconsin/

      5. Edward
        Posted April 19, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        Does Murph make money every time he inserts an ad into his comment?

      6. Posted April 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        So, Murph, if I’m reading your note correctly, you’re saying that not all 400 signed up for the class are potential EFMs, but that many of them are city managers and the like who are, under the new legislation, able to use many of the “tools” created for the EFMs. Is that right?

      7. Redleg
        Posted April 19, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, Murph’s spot on. From what I read in the Freep yesterday, some attendees were current mayors, managers and such from across the state– The Freep also quoted Ruth Ann Jamnick, who seemed to be attending for both understanding the new legislation and how to go about getting one of those gravy jobs– My uncle, a former longtime resident of the township, would probably smirk as he always said a Stumbo or a Jamnick (among a few others) would always “rule” things there.

      8. Stewart
        Posted April 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

        Great. Ypsilanti will finally get some one intelligent to run the city.

      9. Posted April 19, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

        Mark – I’d guess some number of attendees are current elected officials or city managers there for intel purposes – just to see what their potential replacements are being told. Others are there looking into next careers. (To redleg’s comment, I think I’d rather have Ruth Ann as an EFM than 90% of whatever the class roster looks like – she’s somebody with a goodly amount of experience on how a municipality actually works, after all.)

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        Edward

        My comment was not directly about at the EFM Boot Camp, though, so much as a point of interest – that, for better or worse, our elected officials and existing city managers can request the State grant them many of the tools available to EFMs. I’d be interested to see a case where the locals request these powers under a consent order and are turned down.

        And, Edward, you owe me a beer. Thanks.

      10. Jsam
        Posted April 20, 2011 at 6:51 am | Permalink

        Murph,
        I concur in regard to Ruth Ann. When she was in office she fought like hell for me twice with utility execs and WON for me. She was and is always a champion for the “little guy”. And I have no connection to her or any other politician other than admiration in her case.
        I’m a 60+ lifer here and no other politician has been that attentive to my concerns. So she EARNED my praise (and I’m stingy with it).

      11. dp in ypsi
        Posted April 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        I attended the class.

        According to one of the moderators, there were 320 people in attendance, this announcement was made as a humorous play on how the media frenzy was going full tilt, as it always does, but not many of them were actually in attendance to know what was really going on. The moderator noted that according to Bloomberg, some 400 people were in attendance, and he wanted the 80 people missing to pay up (insert laugh track here).

        Yesterday morning, legal pads were circulated among attendees (yes, very high-tech) where you could list your name, phone and email address if you were interested in being added to the Governor’s list for consideration for future Emergency Manager (EM) appointments. That list was being taken to MSU for data entry and then, in theory, should be forwarded to the State Treasurer and the Governor. Participants received a certificate of completion from the MSU extension that can be used for professional continuing education credits, and for proof of attendance.

        On Monday, by a show of hands, more than half the crowd were employees of cities and school districts. Presumably they were there to learn about the new act (PA= public act) PA4, which replaces the old act, PA72. Most of the people I talked to were there for educational purposes. Notables in attendance that I recognized were former Detroit City Council Member Shelia Cockrel, Washtenaw County Treasurer Catherine McClary, and Ann Arbor City Manager Roger Fraser. There were lots of city, county and township officials, also lawyers, and consultants from places like Plante Moran, Clark Hill, and Miller Canfield.

        I attended as a point of information. As we have seen here, internet gossip/rhetoric is pretty polarizing, so I figured I’d go get the info first hand. Two other individuals from Ypsilanti Township carpooled with me for the same reason.

        Attendees received a binder, about 3 inches thick, which provided an overview and the source materials to do about another 30-50 hours of reading regarding statutes, case law, etc., on our own time.
        If Mark would like me to type up a synopsis of the 1.5 day class, I’d consider doing so at his request. I took 24 pages of notes during the presentations, so it may take a while to distill the info. This class was a brain dump of epic proportions and attendees left with an awful lot of homework to do if they really want to know PA4 and related issues extremely well.

        I’ve also been asked by a number of people via facebook to consider having a forum in Ypsilanti to discuss the class, PA4, and answer questions. If there really is interest, I could help put that together too.

      12. Posted April 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        DP IN YPSI
        PLEASE EMAIL ME THE INFO FROM YOUR CLASS NOTES. VALB@FRONTIER.COM
        This is such an important issue it goes well beyond the Michigan borders. This abuse of gov. powers in such an autocratic systematic method… how is this possible? I’m sure Benton Harbor is the test case for even broader, all encompassing control. Perhaps ‘they’ thought little Benton would not provide much resistance….guess again. It is not a Republican or Democratic issue . We, the people, must stand against this.

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