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Rick Snyder Gives Clues To Final Detroit Consent Agreement At Town Hall Meeting

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) gave some clues as to what a final financial agreement between the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan might look like during a town hall event at Wayne County Community College on Wednesday.

Detroit will run out of cash in May, and city and state officials are rushing to come to an agreement to right the city's finances after a state-appointed financial review team on Monday declared a "severe financial emergency." The governor has said he would like to see a formal consent agreement, which would bring some state oversight to city finances, signed by Friday.

Detroit officials -- including City Council President Charles Pugh and Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis -- have said they oppose a consent agreement in favor of a less-stringent financial stability agreement. But Snyder seemed confident that a consent agreement would be signed, saying the "process is at 90-something percentile."

"A couple of paragraphs need to be added," he said, noting he's still waiting for appendices that offer concrete timetables and deliverables. He said he would only sign an agreement that includes a plan for financial stability, responsibility and accountability, as well as real measures for implementation.

An early draft consent agreement by the state included an all-powerful nine-member financial advisory board -- a provision that caused Mayor Dave Bing to balk. Snyder didn't mention the status of a board system, but said officials have agreed that a chief financial officer is necessary.

Snyder dodged questions on tangible state financing for Detroit, but he suggested a few possibilities for direct state help to the city on the operations and management side.

He again recommended that the city lease Belle Isle to the state, which would run the city park as a state park.

"The goal here isn't to strip the city of assets," he said. "It's how can we take over operating costs and make it work?"

He also said Michigan could help Detroit with grant management and administration.

"We have too many problems with grants in terms of misuse of funds or lack of fully using funds that are available," he said. "Too much of that is going on."

Snyder avoided drawing lines in the sand or pushing hard-fast rules of a possible agreement, but he repeated his dissatisfaction with recently-negotiated concessions between the city and its public-sector unions.

The governor said he "believe[s] in collective bargaining," but indicated he wouldn't sign any agreement that includes the union contracts as they stand now.

But city unions don't seem likely to take further concessions.

Phyllis McMillon, president of Local 542, attended the town hall meeting and said she was frustrated with the state's position.

"The union spent long hard hours" bargaining concessions, she said. "It's genocide. They're trying to kill off the unions, to dissolve union rights and voters' rights. It's an attack on the unions."

Under Michigan's emergency manager law, Snyder has until April 5 to come to an agreement with the city or he could choose to appoint an emergency manager. An emergency manager would have unilateral power to break union contracts, fire elected officials, and sell or lease city assets.

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