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Detroit leaders show united front, vow to work out city's fiscal problems on their own

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Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and other city leaders stood side-by-side at city hall Thursday night, saying they’re all ready to work together.

The show of unity comes as the city scrambles to stave off a state-appointed emergency manager. Governor Snyder has threatened to send in a financial review team that would initiate that process if the city doesn’t get its act together.

Detroit’s leaders have known for weeks that the city is poised to run out of cash sometime early next year. But they haven’t been able to get behind a single plan that would keep the state from stepping in.

But as Lansing steps up the pressure, Bing, City Council members and union leaders say they’re ready to do what needs to be done.

Bing says it would be helpful if the state offered feedback on some of the city’s proposals, and was more clear about its expectations.

“I would appreciate if the state would come back and say what they don’t like about our plan, or what they do like, or can they enhance it,” Bing says. “I think they’ve got to be a party to this.”

Bing also repeated calls for the state to pay Detroit $220 million it owes from a 1998 revenue sharing agreement. Governor Snyder and Republicans in the state legislature have been cool to the idea.

Bing also wants the state to help Detroit collect city income taxes. “Refusal to consider those proposals while initiating this process sends a disturbing signal to our community,” Bing says.

The city’s unions have so far been unwilling to make concessions Bing insists are necessary. But union leaders now say they’re willing to work with the Mayor—if he’s willing to accept some of their other money-saving proposals. The unions have issued a series of recommendations, including re-negotiating terms with city contractors, and switching the city’s health care provider.

Al Garrett is the President of AFSCME Local 25. He says his members don’t want to make concessions, but “once they’re informed and given the information,” they’ll reconsider.

“I think that the way the Governor and the Republican legislature set this thing up, we’d be fools not to try and fix this thing ourselves,” Garrett adds.

Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Governor Snyder, says reports that the Governor will start a review of the city’s finances this week are “inaccurate.” But she says the Governor expects the city to present a “shared vision” to address the city’s “structural issues” very soon.

Wurfel also notes that Snyder looks at a review as a preliminary way to help Detroit get a better grasp on its fiscal situation--without necessarily going all the way to appointing an emergency manager.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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