MLive article provides a platform for Emergency Financial Management Law supporters
Earlier today, MLive posted an article with the headline, “Gov. Snyder’s emergency manager law can change public-spending culture, Grand Rapids-area leaders say.”
The headline doesn’t make it clear how the states Emergency Financial Manager EFM) law will change public-spending culture, whether that is a benefit to communities or a detriment.
However, it is clear from the MLive article that it would be a benefit, at least that is the perspective provided. The reporter only provides to direct sources in the article, someone with the Grand Valley Metro Council (Michael DeVries) and the Mayor of Grand Rapids, George Heartwell.
Both Heartwell and DeVries endorse the Emergency Financial Manager law, because they believe it makes municipalities fiscally responsible. Heartwell is quoted as saying:
Where cities are not succeeding because they’ve been poorly managed or they’ve made commitments in previous generations of political leadership that they can’t hope to meet today, it may be that the financial manager is the only way that they can survive as a city. I look at the cities that are under financial management and I do not believe that any of those cities could have survived without the strong arm of a financial manager.
What Heartwell fails to acknowledge in his comments and what the MLive story fails to communicate is that the EMF law is not just about fiscal responsibility. Gov. Snyder made it clear what this law would do when he visited Grand Rapids in March of 2011 to announce the then proposed law. Snyder said the EMF law would reward municipalities that had “best practices” in three areas – accountability, service consolidation and employee compensation. Translated this means that municipalities that are willing to privatize services, consolidate with area governments and eliminate pensions and benefits from city employees would get funds from the state.
This is exactly what Grand Rapids has been doing in recent years as a response to poor financial management from the state. Grand Rapids has privatized some services, is constantly looking for ways to consolidate services with other area municipalities and has downsized its responsibility to city employees and retirees, by slashing health benefits and pensions.
The MLive article at the very end does acknowledge that there is significant opposition to the EMF law and that according to a recent poll most Michigan voters don’t like it.
Unfortunately, none of the Michigan voters who oppose the EMF law are sought out by MLive to provide a comment about why the law is bad for Michigan and bad for local municipalities. There has been plenty of resistance to this issue across the state, which is exactly why it is on the November ballot as Proposal 1. The fact that MLive did not use or seek out a perspective critical of the Emergency Financial Management law is revealing and demonstrates a clear bias.