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To challenge or not? Detroit's elected officials struggle for response to Governor Snyder

City of Detroit

Detroit city officials are struggling to come up with a unified response to Governor Snyder’s decision to appoint an emergency financial manager.

They now have less than a week to decide if they want to challenge that. If they do, Governor Snyder has said a hearing will be held March 12.

Most members of the City Council want to at least pursue a public hearing challenging Snyder’s decision. But several say that’s difficult because Detroit mayor Dave Bing hasn’t publicly declared his position.

City Council member Ken Cockrel Jr. says “given the magnitude of this” situation, the mayor should  “At least do some sort of a speech clarifying what his position is.

“And if there is to be an emergency financial manager, how he sees this role playing out under that type of management, and how he sees the Council’s role. We have really yet to hear that,” Cockrel said.

Some Council members advocate taking up an appeal even if Bing declines to do so.

Council President Charles Pugh says the City Council should advocate for other forms of state intervention, because an emergency manager would send Detroit into a “devastating  downward spiral.”

Pugh says he’s talked with Bing, and hinted that the mayor isn’t likely to sign on to any challenge.

But Pugh says the Council should go ahead and challenge Snyder’s decision anyway—just to “make sure we follow proper procedure” and don’t miss an opportunity to formally object to an EM appointment.

Pugh says he’s tried to convince the Governor that a revised consent agreement is the way to go. He insists some officials appointed under Detroit’s current consent agreement can force Mayor Bing’s hand—and achieve reforms without emergency management.

“The issue is the mayor’s office’s execution of the consent agreement,” Pugh said.

“[If] the Governor wants someone in the driver’s seat who can make that happen…then the Governor can appoint the Program Management director [Kriss Andrews], who can overrule the mayor and the Council.”

If the city does end up challenging Snyder’s finding, it’s likely the State Treasury will dismiss the appeal and side with the Governor.

If that happens, some Council members have discussed litigation—possibly suing the Governor’s officeover the constitutionality of the emergency manger law itself.

The Council is slated to meet Wednesday to mull over their options, including possibly hiring outside counsel to pursue a legal challenge.

UPDATE (5:10 PM): Mayor Bing's office released the following statement "in response to media inquiries:"

“I have been meeting with various members of City Council since the Governor’s announcement last Friday.  I continue to weigh all available options related to a possible appeal of the Governor’s financial emergency declaration.”  

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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