Oh, Chris you say..you of all people are not given to hyperbole. This is true. But facts are facts. If I was a "am now" not the"has been" I am, I would sure want to get in front of this oncoming train.
The hard truth to be faced-a regional tax to bailout Detroit is coming through the back door.
If you are a ratepayer of the Detroit Water and Sewer System you will be paying for it. You will not be voting on it. You have no choice but to use water and sewer. The government will be imposing it. To me, this meets the standard definition of a tax.
As a water and sewer customer of the City of Detroit, you are an asset in Bankruptcy Court. You can provide years and years of revenue to satisfy creditors. You won't be paying for a new water pipe, you will paying for years of mistakes by Mayors and Council-people of the City of Detroit spending money on God knows what. This would meet the standard definition of a bailout.
As the Bankruptcy Court and the Emergency Manager attempt to find some satisfaction for the City of Detroit's creditors, the list of assets must be meager. No doubt that is why the DIA and the art was thrown on chopping block so quickly. It appears increasingly apparently that the customers of the Detroit Water and Sewer System are being eyed as the biggest asset and revenue generator the City of Detroit has.
It is indeed an important system. However annoyingly, it is water that people religiously repeat is the best water around*. Here is where 40% of the state's residents are on the hook to the City of Detroit, also more than 40% of the state jobs come from the companies in out-county Wayne and in Oakland and Macomb Counties....they rely on that sewer and water every day. Shut that off and you shut off Michigan. Pure and simple. Talk about a revenue stream. 'Hey creditors-we've got this solved.'
Yet it was the fate of the paintings that drew Lansing's eyes east. Don't get me wrong-I like the art too. But with an even year approaching, you would think the interests of the above named 40% of the state's residents and with our still fragile economy, that enormous number of jobs with their requisite employers might warrant more attention. Hundreds of millions in taxpayers fund are found for one issue-deafening silence for the other.
Despite all of the current objections, without a major changes in the current environment, things do not look good for the regional ratepayers of the DWSD. Whether it comes from a judge or Mr. Orr, the facts remain the same. The black hole that is the City of Detroit budget can in part be resolved by shifting those old bills and poor choices onto the reliable (and for the most part stuck right where they are) ratepayers of the region.
SO WHAT TO DO? Here is my thought on a bill to introduce ASAP and make a local legislator or two a hero!
It shall not be permissible as a result of a municipal bankruptcy or the appointment of a emergency financial manager to transfer municipal liabilities that do not relate directly to the management or operation of an existing utility system to the ratepayers or municipalities that system may serve.
|Legislation can bestow superpowers to people. See Sen. John Proos (left), statesmen like Richard McLellan (center), even regional leaders such as Paul Tait from SEMCOG (right)|
Let the lawyers and bill drafters do the magic. I am sure there are more artful and clearer ways to say this. If the idea isn't getting through, let me be clearer-don't transfer the years of mismanagement of the city into Detroit Water and Sewer Department via utility bills or through a new authority.
As for the politics, there was a slogan used on a revenue sharing gimmick Granholm pulled years ago that fits our current problems quite well, "No Shift and Shaft". Simple and very relevant to the argument.
Elected officials might very well be helpless as a judge or an Emergency Manager might just make these choices in the near future by decree. It would be a good idea for a local legislator to at least have a plan in hand.
|Work together to be twice as strong, just like Sens. Tonya Schuitmaker and Arlan Meekhof!|
So, Mr. and Mrs. Legislator. The angry calls will eventually be coming to your door. The typical GOP excuses of Detroit-bashing are not going to work here....this was an Emergency Manager appointed by...ahem...Rick Snyder. Even you Democrats-I know the pressure is always there for regionalism and solidarity. If I represented Dearborn, Warren or Royal Oak, I'd want people to know I did something about this. After all, those city governments haven't overspent and to my knowledge have managed this recession well.
It is likely some lawyers will say it won't work. I say try anyway. Put your legal counsels to work and get creative. Tell them to find a way to make it work.
There will be those that say this undermines negotiations. I call Bull...loney...:-) If anything, it is about time the cavalry came in to help boost the regional government leaders who have had a pretty lonely fight. Those 40% of the state's resident have more representatives in government than just the countywide elected officials that have been hammering away at this.
Let's pause in the action to consider a much better overall solution to everything discussed
There should have been a positive side to this situation, a wonderful opportunity to solve a long nagging problem. A truly regional system that is more representative of the large customer base, with new management and tackling long term problems. The problem is there is no openness in negotiation to transfer management in any form, just a desire for money.
This is what most people really want. A serious talk about actually fixing this, changing management and true regionalism. I have a feeling that is what Rick Snyder envisioned. What he has is someone attempting to bid it up to a maximum price while handing over as little in the way of concessions as possible. This is not a Wall Street high stakes deal-I think the man the Governor sent in there thinks it is.
Of course all of this hyperbole and politics could be tossed out the door right now. That would be the best thing for everyone. I am not a Detroit-hater and probably voted for every regional thing put in front of me in Lansing. What this needs is the personal hand of the Governor or one of wise men (or women) of the state right now...badly. I have a hard time believing that what is happening on the ground here is what the Snyder administration really believes is good policy. Bill Rustem...if you are out there....I know you wouldn't.
I'm a fan of what Team Snyder has accomplished. It is truly remarkable how much has been done so quickly. They certainly didn't asked to be handed the time bomb of Detroit bankruptcy. For what it is worth, let me offer this thought- this is a time bomb of anger being transferred from 700,000 people to 40% of the state's residents. Worse than that it is a wasted opportunity. For as long as I can remember the regional governance of this system has been an issue. This crisis presents an opportunity to actually solve that. Collectively, we are blowing it.
And we are back...
So you say... you work at Oakland County, is this their position? Hell no. If it was, they have about 25 million better ways of expressing it. They have well heeled lobbyists (truly...beautiful shoes) that could have this in the hopper and moving in days. This is just one "has-been" passing on an idea to some "are-nows".
I'd want my constituents to know I fought for them come-November on this one. The Detroit Regional Bailout Tax. I'd want a plan on that one.
*I have to get a certain something off my chest about this myth about the "best water anywhere". What is this magic Detroit water you ask? It is a straw in Lake Huron up by Port Huron somewhere. The sewer dumps out in Lake Huron, after treatment, in Southern Wayne I believe (lucky Monroe).
What is this magic the City of Detroit holds? The federal permits to do so.