On April 4, a day etched in the memory of Black Americans, the Detroit City Council applied its own dose of infamy, voting five to four in support of a “consent agreement” that in effect cedes the city to state control.
The decision, resembling in its count several of the recent opinions handed down by the Supreme Court, did not sit well with a group of raucous dissenters, some of whom had to be forcibly removed from the council chambers after the vote.
Mayor Dave Bing, who is still recuperating from an illness, signed the agreement, which was delivered to the council by the mayor’s chief of staff, Kirk Lewis Jr. Lewis has been designated deputy mayor until April 15.
According to Diane Bukowski, a reporter for the Voice of Detroit, “The agreement cannot be terminated until Detroit is deficit-free for three years, has received one of four of the highest bond ratings by Wall Street agencies or at the say-so of State Treasurer Andy Dillon and/or a state-appointed Financial Advisory Board [FAB]. Since it cites other state laws in addition to Public Act 4 [PA4], it is debatable whether certification of over 240,000 signatures for a referendum vote against PA4 will nullify it.”
It is generally understood that Public Act 4 is basically an alternative to an emergency manager. “Despite this agreement’s broad provision of similar powers to nonelected officials, it still threatens the city with various ‘reform default’ provisions if the council and mayor do not agree to abide by decisions of the FAB, the CFO and the PMD,” Bukowski observed.
The agreement has also been approved by the Financial Advisory Board put in place by Gov. Rick Snyder, which, for all intents and purposes, is the dreaded emergency manager sent to rescue the city from fiscal disaster.
“We have been waiting for the head of the snake to show itself,” said Kwame Kenyatta, one of the four council members who voted against the agreement. “We have already seen its tail–the same cast of characters stood in complicity with taking our schools away, all based on Public Act 4.” He asked, “Where is the legal basis for the establishment of the Financial Advisory Board?”
Councilwoman JoAnn Watson was equally outraged about the decision rendered by what some detractors are calling the “Fatal Five.”
“There is no cash infusion from the state in this agreement,” Watson charged, perhaps referring to the surplus of funds in the state’s budget, “You are ignoring it’s union-busting. We should be demanding that the governor pay us what he owes us. Don’t give up the legacy of this city by allowing an illegal vote. There is no rationale for the city to give away its charter-provided home rule rights.
“Who gives away their own power to the forces of evil? This is unconstitutional and an assault on our citizens.”
After the vote, Gary Brown, president pro tem of the council, who, along with the Council President Charles Pugh and others, voted for the agreement, said, “The silent majority of Detroit has spoken,” which may have been a reference to recent polls that show the majority of Detroiters favor the takeover.
That outlook varied somewhat in a poll conducted by the Detroit News that asked “What is the best option for Detroit?”
Of the 174 respondents, 26, 14.9 percent, favored the consent agreement; 64, 36.7 percent, voted for an emergency manager; and 48.2 percent felt the city’s bankruptcy would be best managed by a federal judge.