Thursday, April 05, 2012

Detroit City Council Approves the Consent Decree

The City Council approved a consent decree between the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan, which is intended to stabilize the City's finances and lay the groundwork for improving services from our local government. While this agreement isn't perfect, I believe that it is a small step forward. The next challenge will be to use this to improve the quality of life for residents and businesses in Detroit.

After this controversial vote, City Council Member James Tate posted a statement explaining his vote on his Facebook page. I thought that it was one of the best statements of its nature in years. Therefore, I wanted to post it again below in its entirety.

Council Member James Tate
There has been no shortage of complex issues presented to the Detroit City Council since my first day in office in January 2010. With every vote, there are members of the community who support my decision and there are those who do not agree. Each vote I cast affects thousands of lives and I do not take that responsibility lightly.

Today I voted on an issue that is arguably one of the most important in the history of Detroit. It was also one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever had to make in my life. To avoid having the City I love fall under the control of an Emergency Manager (EM), I cast my vote for the City to enter into a Financial Stability Agreement/Consent Agreement (Agreement) with the State of Michigan. There were no “good” available options. Consent Agreement. Emergency Manager. Bankruptcy. Doing nothing is not a viable option.

This Agreement is not perfect. While I am not a proponent of Public Act 4, in my view, this Agreement provides the least destructive alternative to bankruptcy or an EM. There are no guarantees that the Agreement will be successful. The only sure thing in this process is that if there is no consent agreement in place by April 5th, by law, the Governor is free to appoint an EM, who has free reign over all decisions regarding City assets. No checks or balances.

The approved Agreement restructures our city government and encourages fiscal responsibility through a system of accountability. If elected officials fail to act on certain reforms designed to improve the overall quality of life for residents, the Agreement prescribes remedies. The Agreement allows our elected officials to continue to run the city, but with additional oversight to ensure that the plans they develop are executed. It also allows our elected officials to be the buffer against a mass selling off of our city assets.

Over the years, our city leaders have overspent the designated budget and delivered poor city services to our exhausted and shrinking taxpayer base. This has led to the present – out of cash and facing payless paydays for our employees. The fiscal issues that our city faces today did not leap up out of nowhere over the past two and a half years. They are structural and have been brewing for decades they have now reached the breaking point.

We can’t simply keep asking ourselves what past leaders would do, as some have suggested. The solutions to our challenges must emerge from current officeholders in order to confront and overcome them. As a lifetime Detroiter, I care deeply about this City, but change is necessary if our City is to regain its footing on a global platform. People will move to Detroit and expand their families here and businesses will invest in this City when they are assured of a high quality of life and the City’s potential for growth. Increased growth translates into more tax dollars. More tax dollars means better funding for City services.

I completely understand that my decision and my vote will be controversial and may have political ramifications, but I did not run for public office to become a lifelong politician. I ran to make a difference. My goal coming into office was to do my best to ensure that when I leave, I have left the City in a better position than it was when I came into office. With this Agreement, I still believe it is possible for that to occur and I will continue to work everyday, doing my part to make it happen.
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