Saturday, March 31, 2012

Conyers: Proposed Consent Agreement Inconsistent With Our Values

(DETROIT) – Today, Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released the following statement in response to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s new proposed consent agreement between the State of Michigan and the City of Detroit.  Last week, Representatives Conyers, Hansen Clarke, and Gary Peters sent a letter to Governor Snyder requesting his administration to explain its position and to provide documentation detailing the reasoning behind its position on several key legal provisions currently being considered as part of a proposed consent agreement between the state and the City of Detroit.  The letter requested the Snyder Administration to provide a response prior to taking any further legal action concerning the matters discussed in the letter.  The Governor’s office has yet to respond to the request.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
                “I appreciate efforts to find common ground in terms of resolving Detroit’s financial crisis, but cannot support any approach which does not create a true and viable partnership between the State and its most important city,” said Rep. Conyers.  “I remain concerned that the State is forcing the City into a one-sided consent agreement that violates our values and principals and does not adequately respond to Detroit’s financial problems or lack of adequate services.  Based on the latest draft and reports, I would note the following initial concerns:

1.            No Response from Governor to Congressional Inquiries – On March 22, Hansen Clarke, Gary Peters and I wrote the Governor asking for important oversight information concerning voting rights act issues, collective bargaining rights, the Open Meetings Act, the impact of certification of the voter referendum on the EM law;  and the State’s ability to appropriately oversee emergency managers and consent agreements.  I would have hoped that with the State pressing for an agreement, they would have responded to our letter, but as of yet we have received nothing.

2.            Ignoring Voters’ Will – Thirty days after the more than 226,00 voters filed petitions on seeking a vote on the Emergency Manager Law in November, the Snyder Administration has not fully reviewed or certified the petitions.  If certified, this will suspend the EM Law.  The State should expeditiously review the petitions before forcing a one-sided consent decree on the City.

3.            Lack of Specific State Assistance – Although the proposed consent agreement provides for various forms of “technical assistance” and promised facilitation of refinancing, days away from a possible cash shortfall, we have yet to see any firm or tangible financial commitments from the State.  Even these incredibly modest suggestions are subject to further agreement by Lansing and the proposed consent agreement contains no enforcement mechanism for these provisions.  This is in contrast to the situation in virtually every other major city facing financial crisis, including New York City, Cleveland, and Philadelphia.  Given the more than $200 million in unmet revenue sharing promises, this is a glaring and harmful omission.

4.            Attack on Collective Bargaining Rights – The proposed Consent Agreement continues the Snyder Administration’s unlawful and unfair attempt to end collective bargaining rights for municipal employees.  Instead of allowing the City and its unions to negotiate in good faith, as they have done thus far, the proposed consent agreement continues to ask only one stakeholder – the unions – to reopen negotiations to make further sacrifice and to jettison their pension rights, their right to seek safe workplaces and to protect against outsourcing of public services, among other things.

5.            Preventing Outside Parties from Protecting Their Legal Rights in Court – Although the latest permutation of the consent agreement no longer contains the specific punitive actions that prior version did, section 6.1 of the draft continues to unfairly treat the City as being in possible default for actions by union employees, potentially including lawsuits challenging the EM Law or any consent agreement.”   

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