With regard to Detroit, it could be at least 13 years or more before local officials are given free rein in deciding how their city is run.
Published: June 2, 2014
Whether residents would be allowed to vote on any such change is unclear.
In Pontiac, former EM Louis Schimmel granted new, far-reaching powers to the city manager he appointed as Schimmel’s time in office was ending. Like Benton Harbor and Ecorse, which have both seen emergency managers come and go, a so-called “transition advisory board” appointed by the governor has been installed. Don’t be fooled by the word “advisory,” though. The board, in conjunction with the city manager, has the final say on all important fiscal matters.
With no budget for a staff of its own, the Pontiac City Council has effectively been sidelined when it comes to providing any of the checks and balances usually wielded by legislative bodies.
“It is hard for us to do our due diligence,” City Council Member Kermit Williams said in a recent phone interview.
In his five years on the council, Williams has never known what it’s like to enjoy the authority typically granted to an elected official, and he’s not sure that day will ever come.
“After you have an emergency manager, they can just put something else in place so that you never have a true democracy,” he says. “You can feel people’s frustrations.”
Curt Guyette is an investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan. His work, which focuses on Michigan’s emergency management law and open government, is funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation. You can find more of his reporting at aclumich.org/democracywatch. Contact him at 313-578-6834 or email@example.com.
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