Council Meeting May 13th

Hey all! This week we are going to be working with a slightly new format for our city council reports. We want folks to be able digest a short-take of what is going on in our government, while still being able to go in-depth in a topic they are interested in. We also are going to present some issue based posts on various ongoing pieces of council business, so that folks can get a background on an issue.



Summary: The main focus of council this week was the presentation of the budget from the Emergency Managers Office and the Mayor. The budget reflects the plan of adjustment and the current state of negotiations around the bankruptcy. Council was also focused on how it can influence the proccedings in Lansing about the fate of the city going forward.


 Mayor Mike Duggan and CFO John Hill and the Budget


Mayor Mike Duggan was at council to present the budget. He began with the obligatory bewailing of emergency management, letting council know that he was really looking forward to next year, when he could present his own budget unrestricted by bankruptcy.

He then outlined what his two major additions to the emergency manager’s budget had been. The first of which is the Department of Neighborhoods, Mayor Duggan’s widely publicized program to meet blight head on in communities. The second are the “lean teams,” groups that are making systems and departments within city government more efficient.

Mayor Duggan then turned it over to John Hill, Detroit’s CFO, to explain the budget step by step. The big picture is that the general fund budget for the coming several years is around 930 billion dollars with the overall budget being closer to 2.5 billion, with exit financing from bankruptcy.

The budget break down was conducted at a generalized level, but the basic takeaways are that the city is going to escape from the crushing weight of pension obligations, in most cases by simply slashing funds. Many pensioners will see there health care more than halved. A turn towards privatization will also help the city save money. The plan is still to ramp up city services in the coming years, with surges in Fire and Police planned.

The slightly uncomfortable thing about the whole proceeding was that the presentation was, in a sense, empty. Council can pass whatever budget it wants, but the final power rests squarely in the Emergency manager’s hands. It is a hard reminder that some of the city’s most central democratic processes are at the moment empty.

John Hill was gracious and thoughtful in his presentation, taking the time to point out individuals who have put in real work on the process. It is certainly a difficult time to be making a budget in the city of Detroit

Public Comment

Public comment went on as usual. There were , as usual, several acerbic and whip-smart comments from union leaders about the injustice of pensions being taken away. The voice of the pensioners has been represented exceptionally well in the public comment session of council, but it is hard to see how impactful those voices will be, given the fact that council will have only be able to make a symbolic vote on the plan of adjustment. We also were treated to several theories about the recent church fire on Woodward. One of which involved the mafia and storage unit in Kansas.

Appropriations and Approval

It was a standard session of approval of city contracts. We had some discussion about the length of 25 year lease to the airport, an approval of traffic equipment payments, and several tax credit approvals for brownfield redevelopment.

Lansing Discussion

The council finished the session off with a broad ranging discussion on what they could do to influence the proceedings in Lansing. With the decisions being made having such a direct impact on the city and its future, it seemed difficult to imagine that city officials would not be consulted and have their voices heard. Member Jenkins and Castaneda-Lopez proposed a "council field trip" to Lansing that would allow city council members the opportunity to comment in the hearings. 



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