MLive Media Group: Vote yes on Michigan's Proposal 1 to retain best tool to fix cities in financial crisis
MLive Media Group urges a "yes" vote on Proposal 1 because it will ensure the wisest use of scarce taxpayer money.
The ballot proposal’s central question is what the state of Michigan should do when a city, county, township or school district is in such disastrous financial shape that it faces a crippling bankruptcy.
We believe the state owes it to its citizens -- in affected government units and elsewhere in the state -- to use every tool possible to get these local governments back on their feet and avoid the lasting financial mayhem of bankruptcy, a reneging on the unit’s promise to investors.
Therefore, we support Proposal 1 because it keeps in place Public Act 4 of 2011, which gives emergency financial managers broad powers to get the job done and then get out.
The act has been triggered when local governments are unwilling or unable to make the hard choices needed to match expenses with incoming revenue, which is the most basic of government functions.
Opponents of Proposal 1 argue the state should make do with the previous emergency manager law, which did not include the more sweeping powers of Public Act 4 (including the power to break or renegotiate contracts with public employees).
We disagree. While we’d prefer contracts that have been agreed to by both sides be respected, these are situations where all other options have been exhausted.
The old law doesn’t have enough teeth, especially when it is clear that these contracts were the cause of the government units’ structural deficit problems.
Leaders of local government units who consistently cannot live within their means are letting down those who elected them and deserve to be temporarily relieved of their power over the purse, harsh as that is.
No one likes to see such a loss of local control, and there is one sure-fire way for elected leaders to prevent it: Make the difficult decisions needed to keep the unit solvent while delivering needed services to residents.
Of course, that is easier said than done in these challenging times with our economy not producing revenue for governments like it has in the past.
We understand that, and we strongly believe our state cannot be successful in the future without successful central cities and urban school districts. However, declining property values and the flight of high-income residents to the suburbs over the many decades have put these government units most at risk of state takeover.
These are incredibly challenging and complex issues to solve with no easy answers. Public Act 4 is the best tool we have right now to fix these problems, but we challenge the state to continue to look for new ways to fix the core problems and some day get us beyond the necessity of addressing the troubling symptoms.
In the meantime, vote "yes" on Proposal 1.
This endorsement is the opinion of the editorial board of MLive Media Group, the parent company of MLive.com. The board is made up of the company's executive leadership, content directors and editors who oversee the 10 local markets that make up MLive Media Group.