Government Incompetence

Unconstitutional: Great Lakes Water Authority Lease Violates Michigan Constitution

--- Absence of Enabling Legislation Clearly Violates Article III, Section 6 --- 40 Year Lease Period Clearly Violates Article VII, Section 30

GLWA Detroit Seal ImageFriday, the Great Lakes Water Authority board approved a 40 year duration lease of Detroit Water & Sewerage Department’s assets and operations outside of the city of Detroit. This approval passed by a 5 to 1 vote with only Macomb County’s representative on the GLWA board opposed. The terms of the lease subordinate the DW&SD to the GLWA, a new intergovernmental authority created out of the ashes of the City of Detroit’s bankruptcy by a Memorandum of Understanding.

This deal was constructed as a lease to evade the 1963 Michigan Constitution‘s requirement, under Article VII, Section 25, for a vote of Detroit’s electors to approve the sale of any public utility. However, by constructing the deal as a lease, the City of Detroit is essentially granting a lease franchise covering the DW&SD’s water and sewerage operations to GLWA. The 40 year term of this lease franchise clearly exceeds the 30 year maximum permitted by Article VII, Section 30 of our 1963 Constitution:Michigan Constitution of 1963 Article VII Section 30
Merriam-Webster defines a ‘franchise’ as “ the right to sell a company’s goods or services in a particular area; also, a business that is given such a right”. Exactly the nature of the GLWA lease agreement with the City of Detroit. Should you doubt that the City of Detroit constitutes a ‘company’, Merriam-Webster defines a ‘company’ as “ an association of persons for carrying on a commercial or industrial enterprise”. Exactly what DW&SD has been doing for over 100 years.

State Representative Kurt Heise (R-20th) from Plymouth has challenged the establishment of GLWA under the 1963 Michigan Constitution’s Article VII, Section 28:Michigan Constitution of 1963 Article VII Section 28
Taken together with the 1963 Michigan Constitution’s Article III, Section 5:Michigan Constitution of 1963 Article III Section 5
it establishes our Legislature’s authority over intergovernmental units. But these two sections do not unambiguously grant the Michigan legislature exclusive authority over intergovernmental units, so there is probably legal wiggle room here.  Contrary to Representative Heise’s contention, a good lawyer could make a case that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court could establish the GLWA under Article VII, Section 28 and Article III, Section 5.

However…..

You Betcha! (17)Nuh Uh.(1)

Southeastern Michigan Water Fight

Last Act of the Detroit Bankruptcy Stumbles Behind a Wall of Secrecy

Water is Money Image 2The final Detroit bankruptcy plan established a 14 June deadline to reach an agreement transferring operating control of the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department’s (DW&SD) assets outside of Detroit to the newly created Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). The State of Michigan, Detroit, Wayne County, Oakland County and Macomb County all signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) creating the GLWA late last year, subject to a 200-day due diligence period. Under the MoU, the City of Detroit would receive a $ 50 million annual lease payment from the GLWA while retaining full control of DW&SD assets and operations within the city. Erstwhile DW&SD customers outside Detroit were promised a 4% cap on annual water and sewerage increases for a 10 year period, which have been running above 10% per annum, in residential bills, in most Southeastern Michigan communities.

In point of fact, what has actually been occurring are secret negotiations over future tax increases across Southeastern Michigan. Water rates have become a surrogate form of incremental taxation. These negotiations will set tax fee increment rates for decades into the future. For taxpayers ratepayers who haven’t even been born yet. How are these negotiations going?

No one who knows is talking. Why?

You Betcha! (13)Nuh Uh.(0)