Detroit: It's a consent agreement

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®

DETROIT - Let's do some important math here and you can say you heard it here first on Local 4.

On Tuesday, in an interview with Local 4 News, Jack Martin, a member of the governor's Detroit financial review team, tipped his hand. He said, "I would say anything other than an emergency manager or bankruptcy. I think, hopefully -- I would vote for a consent decree … I think that is the best outcome for all of us if we can work with the city administration and the state and bring Detroit back to what it was."

In response to that statement and others Martin made, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing told Local 4 News in a phone interview, "Jack just told my story! I have always felt that way … I will not ask for a consent agreement … but I will not fight one either. It leaves our leadership intact and it will allow us to do things you otherwise can't."

Last night, Detroit City Council member Gary Brown reiterated what he has been saying for the last week, that five votes exist on council for a consent agreement.

Last April, Gov. Rick Snyder himself told Local 4 News he thought a consent agreement was the right answer.

Add it all up, and for all intents and purposes, it's simply a matter of time before the city of Detroit gets a consent agreement.

Now, we know the city of which I speak. Nothing is ever this simple in Detroit. There are forces lining up to stop and emergency manager and some on City Council believe a consent decree is a slippery slope to that emergency manager.

There is that pesky temporary restraining order against the governor's financial review team. It prevents the team from meeting in private any more, although the governor's office is working overtime to figure out how to get around that or defeat it in court.

The goal by union organizer Robert Davis, who succeeded in getting that order is clear, he is attempting to get the work the team did in private meetings with City Council and department heads tossed out as tainted goods.

He makes no bones about his desire to undue the entire process. He may or may not succeed on these legal technicalities.

But let's be real here: it is possible for the state of Michigan to figure out where Detroit stands financially without the review team. The treasurer's office already knows the numbers. This is really about the governor taking his characteristic careful steps so as not to offend a lot of people and still get Detroit the financial turn around it so desperately needs.

Of course there will be negotiations on a consent agreement.

These will be as thorny as the current attempt by mayor Bing to get union concessions from the city's unions. [He is currently working with the police officer unions] In his interview with me today financial review team member Jack Martin said the city of Detroit will not run out of money in February or March as some project.

He would know, he's seen the books. But in order for the consent agreement to work, it needs to be in place quickly.

So, at this point, the review team is expected to give the governor its report by the end of February.

The governor will likely pull the trigger on negotiating a consent agreement soon thereafter and then there's that City Council vote.

Never a dull moment in Detroit, but let there be no doubt the turn around effort will begin with a consent agreement.

Whether that's where it ends is a topic for another day.

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