--- Absence of Enabling Legislation Clearly Violates Article III, Section 6 --- 40 Year Lease Period Clearly Violates Article VII, Section 30
Friday, 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:
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:
Taken together with the 1963 Michigan Constitution’s 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.