Cut-back management

Gov. Snyder Plays Hunger Games With Michigan Counties

Gov. Snyder Plays Hunger Games With Michigan Counties

Local governments in Michigan are being subjected to the equivalent of The Hunger Games under Gov. Snyder’s policies. New laws and budgeting dictates have pitted community against community and department against department as if they were competing corporate entities. Snyder and GOP lawmakers naively think that this is a good thing — believing it will lead to a smaller, more efficient government, and thereby some sort of magic kingdom of prosperity.

Wayne County is the poster-child of the fundamental flaws in the governor’s boilerplate municipal fiscal policies. Applying the Government = Bad hypothesis, Snyder starts with the corporate-borrowed premise that eliminating governmental functions, and the infrastructure they are designed to provide, through cut-back management is an end goal meant to create “savings”. This demonstrates Snyder’s deep misunderstanding of the primary function of government — to provide infrastructure, not dismantle it. The basic necessities of a prosperous civil society cannot be achieved by starving it of revenue, especially while lavishing tax cuts on private corporations, held unaccountable as job-creators in the state.

Sound infrastructure is key to growing Michigan’s economy — which can only be achieved through government investment in the state’s future. Private sector rules of capitalism fail miserably in this regard.

Wayne County has been pushed to the breaking point. The prosecutor’s office is suing the county over inadequate funding. As Democracy Tree reported last week, the Wayne County prosecutor is no longer able to service many misdemeanors, and not just traffic violations. Their $25.6 million dollar budget has nearly eliminated their ability to issue Personal Protection Orders. The Associated Press reports that they are facing a $160 million dollar deficit, and just laid-off 22 attorneys and 3 investigators. They have a backlog of 40 homicides, 130 child abuse cases and 66 sexual assaults. Paula Bridges, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office said: “If it takes longer to get a case to court, that person will have to spend more days behind bars…This means we are going to be paying more to house these individuals”. It costs the county $140 per day for each prisoner.

Sheriff Benny Napoleon is also squaring-off with the county over his department’s funding. Their current budget provides for 1754 inmates, but they are actually servicing an additional 1000 (at the above mentioned cost). Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano complains that the department is already $35 million over their $85 million dollar budget, and laments that the state didn’t step-in and make it illegal for departments to sue the county.

The county itself has been using inter-departmental bridge loans for stop-gap budgeting emergencies, but the state recently denied approval for the county to temporarily reallocate some unused grant monies for that purpose, and last year passed a bill that spun-off the Wayne County Department of Mental Health as a separate entity to protect its revenue stream.

There you have it, Wayne County: starving poster-child of Michigan.

Former Governor Milliken, a true statesman and visionary, understood the importance of investing in Michigan. Snyder however, is still thinking about window-dressing his quarterlies for Gateway.

Whatever happened to that company anyhow?

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

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U.S. Department of Education Checks-up on Michigan Public Schools

images[2]The Detroit Public Schools are being paid a visit today by Tony Miller, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education. Department spokesperson Daren Briscoe told The Detroit News that the purpose of the visit is:

“…to assess the status of reform efforts to improve outcomes for Detroit’s public school students and to determine how ED can best provide continued support and technical assistance across a broad range of reform and management areas. He will meet with the leadership of the Detroit Public schools, the Education Achievement Authority, and the Michigan Department of Education.”

How nice…almost sounds like they’re coming for tea.

The Michigan powers-that-be must sense that their lawbreaking days are coming to an end.

And their crimes are many:

Detroit schools have been operating under Emergency Management since 2009, and under that authority have been decimated through cruel cut-back management schemes borrowed from the corporate world. Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, a former GM executive, further destroyed the district through his Education Achievement Authority plan in which he transferred the dead weight of the 15 lowest performing schools in DPS to a new state operated district. Last years’s legislation that paved the way for the wild proliferation of charter and cyber schools has further turned DPS into an educational ghost town.

Last August, on the same day Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager law, was suspended as the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the certification of the petitions putting the law to a referendum vote in November, state Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit to suspend seven elected DPS board members on a technicality. This week Wayne County Circuit Court threw-out the case as so much hogwash. DPS school board legal counsel chararacterized the harassment as “a bogus lawsuit by the AG from the beginning. It just showed contempt for Detroit”.

Speculation swirls whether the various complaints of civil rights violations committed under DPS Emergency Management will be discussed at today’s “helpful” meeting. Included among them are the closure of so very many schools that are primarily serving minority communities, the transfer of those 15 low performing schools to the EAA, and the suspension of 180 high school students who staged a walk-out in protest of the poor quality of education in DPS.

This federal scutiny comes at a pivotal moment for the EAA. Certain lawmakers have been pushing hard for legislation that would codify the state-wide district into law so they may expand from 15 schools to 60 within five years — and obtain critical grant monies to keep afloat.

Federal government agencies rarely stick their noses in state operations, and when they do, the effort is typically flaccid at best. For two years the coalition that put together the petition drive to repeal the Emergency Manager law has been soliciting the assistance of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, asking him to investigate violations of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. The petitioners have been met with…crickets.

Let’s hope today’s meeting is a productive one.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree
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