Rod Meloni: One last chance?

Rod Meloni discusses Detroit mayor's final efforts before possible emergency financial manager

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®
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DETROIT - I can remember as a child this regular scene.

My little brother and I would wrestle in the house which was completely against the rules. He would inevitably end up hurt and I would inevitably end up in trouble. I would attempt to prove myself and show I learned my lesson with stellar behavior even before my parents dropped the hammer [usually a week spent in the confines of our yard… my how things have changed!].

That scene came to mind while sitting with Mayor Dave Bing and his turn around team on the City/County Building's 11th floor conference room news conference today. The mayor is similarly duly chastened. He knows he, City Council and his team did not get the job done. The turn around the State expected never happened and if my Lansing sources are correct it is entirely too late to change the significant and dire consequences. The cash burn is more like a bonfire and Treasurer Andy Dillon along with the Governor have said "enough is enough". They promised tough medicine was coming if there wasn't real restructuring. It's coming!

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So, Mayor Bing is doing what he can publically to show the state it doesn't need to drop the hammer. After a year of infighting the Mayor announced it's time for him and the council to sing from the same song sheet and he is assuring everyone they will. He said first and foremost he now has the requisite five votes to get his Miller Canfield contract through council, something heretofore he has not been able to do. [causing delay after delay].

Read more: Mayor Bing continues to work on Detroit finances despite impending emergency financial manager

The mayor says he will bring five other important items to council for votes next Tuesday that he believe show a unified front in which the State can find comfort. Truthfully what else can he do? He admits it's either fight or quit and quitting is not in his professional athlete's soul. He also admitted, when I asked him, whether he would bring one of the most important "milestones" the state has placed before him, the hiring of restructuring firms Conway McKenzie and Ernst and Young and he answered no. The negotiations with the state have bogged down.

He reiterated everything he's said since day one, that it's all but impossible to fix forty years of kicking the can down the road in three years. He says he feels for Detroiters and the pain they are already experiencing, the high taxes they pay for entirely inadequate services. [Need a cop? Call one and pray you survive!] He wants, with all of his might, to fix the City of Detroit once and for all. It's just that he needs help, he needs a good relationship with council; they need money and a break. But considering the wrestling they've been doing in the house for the past three years, the breaks are not forthcoming and something considerably worse than a week in the yard is as well.

The Mayor is left to do what he can, hope that he can show progress and cope with the Emergency Financial Manager whenever he or she shows up at City Hall. The Financial Advisory Board [the entity created in the consent agreement meant to oversee the turnaround plan] will meet Monday to tell State Treasurer Andy Dillon to bring in an EFM. The 30 day clock starts ticking.

Dillon and the Governor, both accountants and lawyers, know a lot about what turnarounds take and have already started the necessary pre-planning to take the City into Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy. They are not messing around anymore and the mayor knows it. He will be on his best behavior and will keep working. It's just that the inevitable pain is coming instead of his one last chance.

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