Detroit faces ‘emergency’ takeover despite voter disapproval

Governor to use special powers in bid resolve Motor City's fiscal woes

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced Friday that he will likely appoint an emergency financial manager in an effort to solve Detroit’s decades-long financial woes.

A state-appointed review board declared “financial emergency” in Detroit on Feb. 19, paving the way for Snyder’s announcement.

The move comes only four months after Michigan voters repealed Public Act 4, known as Snyder’s “emergency manager” law, which had given the governor vast powers over city government.

When voters repealed Public Act 4 in November, it appeared that Detroit would avoid a financial manager. The Center for Public Integrity chronicled the roots of the law and its effects on residents in Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, the Detroit Public Schools and elsewhere.

But Snyder’s Republican administration fought back following the referendum.

The governor’s attorney general first released a legal opinion stating that an earlier emergency manager law passed in 1990 would replace the repealed law, preserving many of the same powers for the state government.

Then Snyder signed a replacement law, Public Act 436, in December’s lame duck legislative session. That new law, which also preserves many of the powers of Snyder’s 2011 law, is set to take effect March 28.

While Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he will "respect" Snyder's decision, some members of City Council expressed opposition on Friday, urging the governor to continue working under a consent agreement forged in April between the state and city.

The governor had used the financial emergency law to appoint managers in several cities and school districts since 2011. Managers have been given extensive powers to fire city council and the mayor, privatize city services, sell public assets, and break union contracts with public employees.

Opponents have launched lawsuits as well as a union-led effort to put the law up for referendum.