Governor Rick Snyder did his annual take-stock-of-the-year interviews on Thursday.
You will read all kinds of headlines of the various topics he was happy to discuss in the hours to come as he enters a re-election campaign year. One of the topics he knows I will ask him about, because I've asked it every time I've seen him over the past year, is what will become of Wayne County?
He has admitted there are problems in the past but has not been willing to say there is enough red ink fueled smoke to start looking at whether the fire of emergency financial management is necessary.
Well, on Thursday, for the first time he admitted the “process” must now begin. Now, the governor is NOT saying an emergency manager is a certainty. He knows he needs to follow the process so that gives him enough cover to hedge on what will come next.
Having gotten a close up-and-personal look at the County itself, Bob Ficano’s management, the Sheriff’s Office and Benny Napoleon’s management and having just seen some of the financial Olympics county prosecutor Kym Worthy has been doing over the past couple of years, I can say with considerable authority there appears little doubt an emergency manager is on the way. In fact, there are a number of Wayne County Commissioners who will actually welcome some fiscal sanity in the form of an emergency manager.
On Thursday, and exclusively on Local 4, the governor put the county on notice that the State Department of Treasury will be sending its finance team to the Guardian Building, where the Wayne County Offices reside to start a deep dive into the county’s books in early January. It is never good news when this process grinds forward and it is fairly clear the Governor does not want Wayne County in emergency management at the same time the City of Detroit is there and in Chapter 9 Municipal Bankruptcy.
But, from what I have been told by sources inside and outside the county, Wayne County’s cash is going to run out by sometime next summer. If that is in fact the case then the state has no choice but to move in.
I have long said we watched GM and Chrysler slide into bankruptcy because of legacy costs, defined benefit pensions, lifetime healthcare and featherbedded jobs approved by management were what did in those hallowed Michigan companies. Much the same can be said of Kmart, Lear, Delphi and the City of Detroit. So, once again I ask how any entity similarly constructed can avoid the same fate?
This is the situation in Wayne County now and when you consider the failed $160 million jail is going nowhere fast, when the sweetened pension deals are leaving the Wayne County pension funds lacking on a grand scale, when the so-called “fringe factor" [that is the additional cost of benefits for every dollar a Wayne County employee is paid] is in the neighborhood of 95 cents, there appears no way Wayne County will be able to avoid that similar fate.
There is much hope all of this analysis is incorrect, but everyone in the Guardian building need only look across the street to the City of Detroit’s offices to understand their fates appear on a sadly parallel track.