Blog: Detroit's review team meeting

DETROIT – As the State's Review Team prepares to begin its 3pm hearing today I have an update on where the opposition stands now.

A look at where the city is now

AFSCME union activist Robert Davis has filed paperwork with the Michigan Supreme Court asking it to overturn the lower court's ruling that allowed for the Review Team to meet today. Initially Davis convinced Judge William Collette to declare the Review Team's actions improper based on the fact it violated the Open Meetings Act. Davis believes all the actions taken prior to its attempts to do business, including meetings with the City Council were held behind closed doors in violation of the act and therefore should be thrown out and the process started all over again.

What happened last week

Last Friday night the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned Collette's orders. Davis succeeded this afternoon in having the Supreme Court consider the paperwork in the case in an effort to reinstate Judge Collette's original order. He has asked for a decision by Tuesday March 27th at 9am. I contacted the Supreme Court and the spokesperson says there has been no movement on the case as of yet but the court is in fact reviewing the paperwork and is mindful of the 9am deadline tomorrow.

-- protestors inside the meeting singing "We shall overcome"

The meeting has started and I will provide a running blog of events and try and give some perspective.

3:09 p.m. Chants of "No Takeover"

The meeting started loudly with the Rev. Malik Shabaz of the Shrine of the Black Madonna prompting the crowd into chants of "No Takeover." Shortly thereafter the meeting was gaveled to order at 3:09pm. The board approved the minutes of the last meeting. Treasurer Andy Dillon started the meeting stating he is not negotiating anything with the city on behalf of the Governor and that he is merely performing an advisory capacity and offer information to City Council. He said the sessions held this past weekend with Council members was in large measure a brainstorming session to try and wanted to mold a document that will fit everyone.  He then discussed the notion of a separate deficit elimination plan the city has been working on for some time and that it may in fact be usable as a consent agreement without bringing Public Act 4, the emergency manager law into plan. He also discussed the city's request to discuss the State taking over the collection of casino taxes, an idea Dillon sounded unenthused about. It was at that time the crowd, whose representative promised to disrupt the meeting started singing loudly. At 3:20 pm the strains of "We shall overcome", once again led by Rev. Shabaz and interrupted the meeting for more than a minute. When the singing died down Dillon resumed his presentation.

The state-appointed review team tasked with combing through Detroit's money troubles reiterated on March 26 that the city is facing monumental financial strain and wants Gov. Rick Snyder to continue consent agreement talks with Mayor Dave Bing.

3:20 p.m."If you want to be disrespectful that is your choice."

Dillon restarted the meeting. He discussed how there are 48 different union agreements that have give back contract provisions that were negotiated over several months are complicated and there are too many "me too provisions" and are a problem. Dillon complimented the unions for their cooperation but believes the concessions are inadequate. It was at this moment the meeting turned noisy again, the same man who identified himself as a professional wrestler in favor of an emergency manager for the city, he in fact wears a camouflage t-shirt with the title "The Emergency Manager". The meeting became angry, with considerable shouting and the Treasurer paused in his presentation. After several minutes Dillon said he intended to plow through the noise and said "If you want to be disrespectful that is your choice."

3:27 p.m. "You are being rude to this room, I'll carry on, it's your choice."

Dillon plowed in with the crowd continuing its chanting. Dillon said the unions should have the opportunity to get some city work if they can demonstrate they can in fact do the work in question. The shouting continued and so did Dillon where he said he met with six city council members and Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis today and felt significant progress had been accomplished, reminding everyone today is the last day to act. Dillon said there is a document in the meeting everyone can read that was the work of one person and not that of the Review Team. Dillon said "it is clear this draft agreement is set for discussion and the board is free to make changes." He said there are some on the Review Team who do not want their names attached to it. Dillon said the document as it stands now will not be the one they leave the hearing with today. Through continued screaming and shouting Dillon said there is a 10 day window for the governor to act on the Review Team's recommendation. At that point the meeting became loud again with cheers, jeers and chants. Dillon told the members in the audience "You are being rude to this room, I'll carry on, it's your choice."

3:40 p.m. Shouting continues throughout brief recess

The Review Team continued its discussion with the crowd growing all the louder. Member Conrad Mallet started discussion on a motion for the Review Team to possibly take a vote. There were a number of items on the list for this motion, including reiterating there is a severe financial emergency existing in the City of Detroit, that there is a consent agreement under negotiation but no formal document yet exists. There was some discussion among board members to amend some of the language when the crowd grew increasingly unruly. It was at this point 3:45pm Dillon called for a five minute recess. The audience continued its loud shouting throughout the recess.

3:49 p.m.  

Draft Document being read by member Conrad Mallet. The Review Team concludes that the local government is in a condition of severe financial stress and a consent agreement has not been adopted. This through more shouting by the audience. Motion read, seconded and approved unanimously. Mallet continued discussing the necessity of a second motion whereby with the inclusion with the information that has already been made public, to make a motion to take out all language of the paragraph being discussed on page 12 of the draft document. It is a discussion of taking out language regarding a consent agreement, and then started discussing more changes. Mallet says the entire section of the draft agreement regarding what the Review Team did because it adds nothing. Mallet moved to delete the entire section, saying it adds nothing to the discussion. Motion made, seconded and discussed. 

4:03 p.m. Public comment from an angry audience

Public comment started, again through the strains of angry members of the audience. Marie Thornton, former school board member, told the review team it is killing the city. "Conrad Mallet you sit up here, this white man, you sit there and fix it for him just like a good colored person. And you should not fix what he messed up, you modified some mess up he made. I was proud of you, I voted for you and you come and sit before my face while he violated the open meeting act. I dedicate this tea to you and this bag of skittles to you. Shirley Stancato is the only one who did right."

Al Garrett: President of AFSCME, "when I saw the people appointed I thought this city was going to get a fair shake. For you to sign on to ratify to something that Dillon made is wrong. Andy Dillon, I gave you the first $5000 when you ran for rep. I remember when we were young turks, I'm amazed where you have ended up. It's what we do for the folks. You are an extreme disappointment. They had screwed up pa 4… and he asked "how do you do that when you were chosen by your people. Shame on you Conrad, you should be ashamed. If there were a tribe in Detroit you would be banned. You are a sell out brother.

4:09 p.m. "I rise to tell all of you that at the end of the day make sure it is said you protected Democracy"

An audience member stood and discussed the fact that the board is looking at trouble with the federal government

No means no. You keep pushing and pushing and pushing, you raped us.

Dr. Tellis Chapman, Baptist Convention of Michigan: "I rise to tell all of you that at the end of the day make sure it is said you protected Democracy. That you were not fleeced and you within your powers did not the best thing but the right thing… which involves processes that has allowed you to be in the very place you are right now. You are the ones that have the responsibility to give advice and recommendation to the governor. When you do that that you protected Democracy. I charge, demand all of you to resign and take the document to the Governor and say "hell no" and we endeavor to do not the best thing do the right thing. Any one of you when the day is over and history shall have been written make sure you have done the right thing."

4:13 p.m. Go after the banks

Jerry Goldberg, Lawyer and Detroiter; "The emergency manager bill is a banker's bill, the same banks that foreclosed on the city, putting the ratings agencies in charge of the consent agreement. The ratings we say no to the banks and want to fight the banks and get a 70 percent reduction in debt service, not take away democratic rights. Go after the banks not the people."

About the Author:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.