Emergency Managers, Emergency Management

Synonyms for Headlee Evasion

Darnell Early

Darnell Early

La victoria trova cento padri, a nessuno vuole riconoscere l’insuccesso
A victory finds 100 fathers, nobody claims credit for a failure.
Galezzo Ciano, 2o Conte di Cortellazzo e Buccari, Diary (1942)

The left wing meme on the Flint Water fiasco is that Governor Snyder seized absolute control of Flint and installed doctrinaire Republican viceroys who ruthlessly slashed Flint’s payroll and expenditures without any regard for the residents.

If only this were so.

Michael Brown

Michael Brown

The Flint emergency managers had only one common thread in their backgrounds, long records of administration in government and the nonprofit sectors. No productive experience. Experts at spending other people’s money. Well paid experts.  Outright Democrats or chameleons politically; typical politics of the bureaucratic class. Look at the backgrounds of the Flint emergency managers:

Edward Kurtz

Michael K. Brown

Edward Kurtz, again

Michael K. Brown, again

Darnell Early

Gerald (Jerry) Ambrose

Emergency managers are not viceroys with absolute powers. The evolution of emergency management in Michigan was frustrated by public union opposition. Five successive laws, one repealed by referendum. The law in force during the critical Flint water fiasco decisions is PA 436 of 2012. The powers it confers upon emergency managers are:

MCL 141.1549, Section 9

(2) Upon appointment, an emergency manager shall act for and in the place and stead of the governing body and the office of chief administrative officer of the local government. The emergency manager shall have broad powers in receivership to rectify the financial emergency and to assure the fiscal accountability of the local government and the local government’s capacity to provide or cause to be provided necessary governmental services essential to the public health, safety, and welfare. Following appointment of an emergency manager and during the pendency of receivership, the governing body and the chief administrative officer of the local government shall not exercise any of the powers of those offices except as may be specifically authorized in writing by the emergency manager or as otherwise provided by this act and are subject to any conditions required by the emergency manager.

The emergency managers replace the mayors, council, and chief administrative officers of the municipal governments. While this does indeed give them extraordinary powers of control, their control is anything but absolute. The municipal charter continues in effect and continues to protect the prerogatives of lesser bureaucrats. The vague statutory powers of emergency managers beyond replacing the mayor, council, and chief administrative officer poses unremitting legal jeopardy to emergency managers. Encourages timidity and bureaucratic subterfuge. Not absolute control.

Jerry Ambrose

Jerry Ambrose

The Flint City Charter of 1974 is a remarkable document. A municipal government modeled upon a UAW contract. The rights and privileges of Flint residents are given short shrift, but the rights and privileges of Flint city employees are set forth in painful detail. How Flint got into repeated financial trouble and why Flint required five and a half years of emergency management in two separate periods.

The economics of Flint’s descent into chaos and the measures undertaken by its emergency managers were studied by the MSU’s Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. A good read which does not require an economics background. Yes, it shows the decline in population and tax base and which everyone knows. It shows that the emergency managers trimmed government employee rolls and benefits. But it also shows that emergency managers concentrated even more on increasing revenues by massively increasing ‘fees’ and ‘charges for services’.  Here they did exercise ruthless authority.

Ed Kurtz

Ed Kurtz

Emergency managers assiduously protected a still oversized, overpaid municipal workforce by extracting money from residents at rates beyond Headlee limits after they maxed out every legal tax. Extravagant Headlee evasion. Blatantly violating Bolt v. Lansing [587 N.W.2d 264 (1998) 459 Mich. 152]. Elevating the fortunes of the government class above the residents they supposedly serve. If Headlee limited taxes won’t support the government class in the style which they are accustomed; let the governed class pay fees and charges.

Water and sewerage charges were at the forefront of those increases. Average water bills in Flint rose from $ 30 per month to $ 140 per month from 2007 on. Stiff increases actually came just before emergency management, but emergency managers doubled down on those water bills. Net of water and sewerage bills over costs became Flint’s largest revenue stream. Greater than income taxes. Greater than property taxes. Greater than state revenue sharing. Flint residents stopped paying their bills. They knew their water bills were a rip off. No one in Michigan invoked Headlee to protect them. Emergency managers came up with further Headlee violations: the streetlight assessment and garbage fee. Michigan’s constitution failed Flint residents.  Michigan’s Supreme Court was ignored.Richard Headlee Image

Emergency managers originally considered selling Flint’s water and sewerage operations.  They got schooled.  Increasing the net revenues from those charges drove the decision to join the Karegnondi Water Authority. Net revenues drove the decision to use Flint River water temporarily. This was a battle in the lower depths of bureaucracy. Was Detroit Water & Sewerage Department or Flint going to get those coveted revenues? The Flint emergency managers and bureaucrats across Genesee County decided that their revenues were not going to Detroit.

We will probably never know exactly who made the various decisions which created the Flint water quality fiasco. Evidence is already disappearing. But we do know the philosophy which created this fiasco, and the class espousing that philosophy. A philosophy which compels very bad decisions. Welfare state liberalism. Welfare directed by capable bureaucrats proud of their Master’s degrees in Public Administration.

Emergency management as now practiced in Michigan does not revitalize dying cities. It does preserve most of the bureaucracy and the entire regulatory state. People abandoned Flint and Detroit in droves because taxes were too high, regulation ridiculous, and services poor. Substituting fees and charges for declining taxes does not make a city more attractive. Improving government efficiency and cutting exactions does. Regulations do not attract new, tax paying residents. Freedom does.

Michigan suffers from an overabundance of capable bureaucrats and public servants; enforcing too many laws and regulations. The costs of the welfare state first overwhelm poor communities with limited tax bases. But the damage is no less real in the rest of Michigan. This is your fight, too.

You Betcha! (15)Nuh Uh.(0)

  6 comments for “Emergency Managers, Emergency Management

  1. JD
    January 30, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Let's quit pretending that even Tea Partiers have been all for the emergency manager concept since the first Gadsden was flown on tax day whether they pretended to point to its failings or not. Bankruptcy (the dirty word of our generation) has been the only sane alternative and wasn't pushed HARD by anybody on our side for the same reason that we turned tail and ran during Right To Work.
    We caved on pension obligation bonds and bailouts of every type; didn't give a rip as to transparency (the easiest fight) and knew darn well all along that bankruptcies all across this state would energize our young people with the fresh start that they NEEDED to rebuild what WE destroyed...at OUR expense.

    This was all about grandfathering pensions and playing a big game of musical chairs before the last child in Michigan was left standing courtesy of every single political movement out there. Instead of fighting to MASSIVELY haircut the benefits of every single public employee in this state of EVERY type(?)...we allowed them to sail unmolested to where we witness them all now...on a sinking ship pushing children out of the way to get to the lifeboats.

    We weren't 'conservatives' since '09...we were one big go-nowhere distraction that the rest of the parties needed just as badly to neatly tidy up thousands of early retirement packages in countless corners of this state before riding off in to the sunset.

    Bankruptcies should have been just the beginning of these needed take backs. Our only hope now is for our children to REALLY discover what just happened (see tragic situations such as Flint)..and for that angry fire to become something oh-so-much larger on a missing legacy level

    We knew what needed to be done and it had absolutely nothing to do with emergency managers or bailouts..yet a good share of us wouldn't be drinking together tonight had we thrown the other overboard when our children needed saving.

    You Betcha! (1)Nuh Uh.(0)
    • Jason
      January 30, 2016 at 7:21 pm

      Speaking for myself, I saw bankruptcies as necessary. I saw the EM with a sense of promise. The combination of the two could break the unrealistic promises in favor of ones that don't punish three or four generations beyond. As for truly paid for obligations, we owe what we owe.

      You Betcha! (2)Nuh Uh.(0)
      • JD
        January 31, 2016 at 5:04 am

        There is no such thing as a paid for obligation in terms of a state or nation requiring what we do right this second in regards to basic security (of all types), infrastructure, re-programmed (actual) talent and even massively cut (cough) 'obligations to those who knew full well what train that they were on from day one.
        WE (emphasis added) stop paying on even the national debt in '57.
        WE stopped caring what was taught in our schools shortly thereafter.
        WE decided that this country could be built/survive without budgeting right along to maintain it in every respect.

        "We owe what we owe" merely applies to every "paid for obligation" OUTSIDE of those originating publicly (in all forms). The big hurt that is about to be unveiled won't be shared equally and anyone with an ounce of common sense knows this. What happened at Right To Work illustrated it very plainly with the public assaulted for speaking freely and not a peep from anybody afterwards. For heaven's sake, some of us were assaulted right on the steps of our Capitol (days earlier) in plain view of those standing directly in front of and behind us during unanswered calls to 911.

        Our children aren't asking for much. They are saying very plainly this:
        If the baby boom or 'greatest' generations are adverse to simple math, defending our borders/interests, spending what is needed NOW to deal with the enemy here already or EQUALLY spread shared sacrifice tied to the age of those who caused this mess in the first place..we are not dumb and realize EXACTLY why this country is purposely 'split' without MATH as the #1 issue.

        It is necessarily split to buy time. Time to grow a little older, spend a little more of our children's legacy and 'hopefully' check out just as the whole thing collapses or (better yet) the day before.

        What a life. When we taught our kids that "timing is everything".?..they should have listened with a little more anger in their eyes for certain.

        You Betcha! (1)Nuh Uh.(0)
  2. Corinthian Scales
    January 31, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Laughable. Of course we "know exactly who made the various decisions which created the Flint water quality fiasco." Unless living in the culture of "fundamental transformation" that is today's Obama worldview - The Buck stops at the Governor's Desk. It is Snyder/Calley who had their EM overseeing Flint (now at DPS), and their NERD Fund, Baird chosen, Snyder U of M campus buddy from Jones Day EM in Detroit.

    Another thing. People abandoned Flint and Detroit because of - crime. People also have abandoned Flint and Detroit because jobs were shipped overseas.

    Matter of fact if one wants to place all the cards on the table of who creates massive holes muni budgets:

    The department plans to send warning letters this week to about 200 commercial and industrial customers with accounts listed as more than 60 days overdue, including a golf business and a cemetery, The Detroit News reported Wednesday.
    Active commercial and industrial sites account for about one-third of the $90 million in past-due bills that the department says it is owed. The top 40 on that list, according to the department, have past-due accounts ranging from around $35,000 to more than $430,000.

    "All we're doing is taking enforcement action to protect the integrity of the system," said Bill Johnson, a department spokesman.


    Yes, it's That Guy again: http://billjohnsondetroit.com/?p=2531

    Would you care to elaborate about property tax base? All because a bean counting nerd with a law degree who thinks he's the smartest man in any room he graces your presence, played number games and epically lost, just made an entire housing market completely worthless.


    I truly feel bad for those all poor folks.

    Ps. when it comes to state appointed EM's ignoring statutes, well, they learned from the very best.... http://rightmi.com/old/www.rightmichigan.com/story/2011/6/10/121830/771.html

    You Betcha! (3)Nuh Uh.(0)

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