- Dillon again threatens to withhold bond money
- Council members generally agreeable
- ‘State bullying’ by ‘white folks,’ one Detroiter responds
By Diane Bukowski
October 22, 2012
(VOD: photo quality is not the best because photos were taken from computer while watching session on-line.)
DETROIT— Mayor Dave Bing brought State Treasurer Andy Dillon, Financial Advisory Board (FAB) Chair Sandra Pierce, Program Management Director Kriss Andrews, and the city’s Chief Financial Officer Jack Martin to the City Council today for what was billed as a Mayoral meeting with the Legislative branch.
During a session that lasted less than an hour, Dillon threatened that if the Council does not immediately pass massive restructuring proposals and contracts on the table, the state will withhold revenue sharing funds of $10 million in November and $20 million in December, with the remainder of $80 million in bonds left open to negotiations.
During public comment, which for the first time was regulated by loud buzzers after each of only four speakers finished their two minutes, Sandra Hines of Free Detroit-No Consent gave her opinion on the unexpected scenario
“I’m really upset about what I just witnessed,” Hines said. “It was the state making a push to completely take the city over, move things along without any language pertaining to what the people of Detroit want. It was state bullying, with a still illegal FAB along. The vote on Public Act 4 Nov. 6 would affect this takeover, but we have people in office that just ignore the laws and do whatever they want to do because they’re scared of white folks. Bing was surrounded by them. This is nothing but a racist takeover.”
Members of Bing’s entourage were all there as part of a Public Act 4 “consent agreement” the Council approved April 4, allegedly to stave off an “emergency manager” takeover. His entourage did insist that regardless of the PA 4 vote, they plan to move their “reform agenda” forward.
“The city’s financial problems won’t change regardless of the vote Nov. 6,” Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins said.
Bing said in published remarks recently that he supports PA4, otherwise known as the “dictator” act. He is currently facing a recall challenge and a request for an investigation of fraud in his administration from State Rep. John Olumba (D-Detroit.) (Click on OLUMBALETTER for details.)
Bing laid major items on the table with few details and little discussion. Council President Charles Pugh approvingly said Bing had previously visited Council members “door-to-door” to discuss his “reform agenda” in secret.
“I am prepared to stand with you and the FAB to move the city forward,” Council member Kenneth Cockrel, Jr. said Oct. 22. “The City Council has been characterized as a roadblock, but we can turn things around quickly unless we have questions. For example, 95 to 99 percent of the contracts brought to us this week will be voted on and approved tomorrow.”
Contracts on the table for the Council’s Committee of the Whole Meeting Oct. 23 include the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s $48 million five-year contract with the EMA Group, which proposes to cut 81 percent of the DWSD workforce.
“Working with Judge [Sean} Cox and the Board of Water Commissioners, we feel confident with the expertise and professionalism exhibited with those individuals,” Bing said. “ We have obviously been having problems with DWSD for a long, long time. At this point I am comfortable with this contract. Jack Martin’s been able to bring in expertise from Washington DC to help us with assessment of the contracts, which includes upgrades from the .technology standpoint. We’ve been way behind the eight ball on that. We don’t want to go through and elongated process as relates to an RFP.”
In fact, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a request with U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox Oct. 12 expressing alarm at the drastic down-sizing proposal and asking for a 45-day halt on any further movement on the EMA contract until the EPA has reviewed it. Cox currently oversees the federal government’s 35-year review of DWSD compliance with the Clean Water Act, which was initiated by the EPA.
In a report on the EMA contract, City Council’s Research and Analysis Division asked the Council to comply with that request, and raised numerous questions about the no-bid contract. (Click on RAD opinion on EMA.)
Bing claimed the administration was going to bid out the management contract for D-DOT, currently with Parsons-Brinckerhoff and its subcontractor Envisurage/Transpro. However, D-DOT Director Ronald Freeland is asking the Council to approve new D-DOT contracts totaling $40 million on Oct. 23, including a $25 million contract with Parsons-Brinckerhoff.
Its subcontractor Envisurage/Transpro previously employed Freeland as well as former D-DOT Deputy Director Bill Nojay. Nojay departed in August after his ongoing run for office in the New York State Assembly, begun in May, was exposed by The Livingston County News, The Voice of Detroit, and the Detroit News.
Detroit COO Chris Brown told the press that both he and Bing were aware of Nojay’s campaign. It likely violated the federal Hatch Act because Nojay oversaw D-DOT federal funds. The U.S. Office of the Special Counsel notified the Livingston County News that it had dropped its Hatch Act complaint against Nojay, but recently informed VOD that it is “still investigating” charges VOD filed against Nojay, Brown, and Bing.
The peripatetic Brown, previously thought by many to be Detroit’s first white “Mayor” since before Coleman A. Young, was not at the Council session and has been little in evidence at public events of late.
“We need contracts with operational turn-around firms to collaborate with the Auditor General’s office to examine challenges and overcome management and systems limitations, regulatory limitations, consolidation limitations, and labor limitations,” Bing added. He did not name the companies he had in mind or amounts for those contracts.
In response to a question from Councilwoman Brenda Jones, Bing said he wants a one-year renewal of the city’s contract with Ernst & Young, which first claimed the city was running out of money in a secret session with Council in Nov. 2011. Ernst & Young is being sued by the states of New York and New Jersey because it was the auditor for the Lehman Brothers before its disastrous collapse in 2008.
Bing also said he wants the Purchasing Ordinance revised to increase the limit on contracts the Council must approve, which currently are those over $25,000. That met with a favorable response from Pugh, who said, “Contract amounts for Council approval need to be WAY larger than $25,000.”
Bing told the Council he wants the Privatization Ordinance revised, despite last year’s Charter revision vote on a document which still includes the Ordinance, and despite the fact that the city has flagrantly flouted the ordinance for years, according to many union officials.
The Miller Canfield law firm, including Attorney Michael McGee, a co-author of PA 4, pushed for the Detroit “Financial Stability [Consent] Agreement” on behalf of Bing at the Council table, and later represented Bing in Ingham County Circuit Court when City of Detroit Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon challenged it.
Bing told the Council today that “renewing” contracts with Miller Canfield is also a priority. Some Council members said they would vote to do so only if Miller Canfield consults regularly with the Office of the Corporation Counsel, which must approve contracts with outside law firms. That Office has had the proposed contract with Miller Canfield under review since Oct. 16 according to Assistant Corporation Counsel Lewis Smith.
Bing also said he wants the Council to approve a resolution for a Public Lighting Authority which is on the table for tomorrow, despite the fact that it is currently held up by legislators. The plan for an Authority would get rid of half the street lights in Detroit. Click on PLA CC resolution and http://www.deadlinedetroit.com/articles/182/heard_about_the_plan_to_get_rid_of_half_of_detroit_s_street_lights
Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown said that if Bing gets all the proposed actions to the Council in one week, he feels confident they will be approved.