Michigan Governor to Appoint Emergency Manager to Handle Detroit’s Finances

The Motor City's mayor is strongly opposed to the decision.

Posted: 03/01/2013 02:49 PM EST
Michigan Governor to Appoint Emergency Manager to Handle Detroit’s Finances

In a development that will shape the way government functions in one of the largest cities in the Midwest, the governor of Michigan said Friday he will appoint an emergency financial manager to lead the city out of its economic distress.

The move by Gov. Rick Snyder, which had been widely anticipated, is highly unpopular in Detroit, whose elected officials have maintained that they were able to repair the city’s dismal financial structure without the intervention of the state government.

Snyder said it is “a day to call all hands on deck, to say there's been too much fighting, too much blame, not enough resources, not enough people working together.” He added, "The key answer I believe all of us want to get to is growing the city of Detroit."

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has vehemently opposed the involvement of an emergency financial manager, who under state law will have nearly limitless power to restructure the city’s finances with no oversight from local elected officials.

“The governor has made his decision, and it was his decision alone to make,” Bing said, in a statement. “While I respect it, I have said all along that I do not favor an emergency manager for the city of Detroit. I will look at the impact of the governor’s decision as well as other options, to determine my next course of action.”

The mayor added: "I firmly believe that Detroit’s best days lie ahead, and my sole focus has been and will continue to be working to bring about the great Detroit that we all know can be achieved.”

To be sure, the governor has done what many Detroit officials had feared. And the decision also has racial and political overtones. The Republican governor essentially has the decision-making power over the elected officials of Detroit, a heavily Democratic city in which African-American residents account for nearly 85 percent of the population. Snyder has appointed emergency financial managers in other Michigan cities with large Black population, which has been a source of criticism from many in the state.

Detroit has been struggling with its finances for decades. But the problems have only become more ominous in the last few years. The city, whose population has dropped from nearly 2 million 60 years ago to slightly more than 700,000 now, is confronting more than $14 billion in long-term debt and frequent shortfalls.

In his announcement, Snyder said he had someone in mind for the position, but that he would make that announcement later. Many officials in Detroit believe he will select an African-American to offset some of the opposition from elected leaders.

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(Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

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