FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Contact: Leigh Fifelski 517-999-3646

Politicians could decree class sizes, debt on taxpayers in dozens of communities

LANSING – Citizens and local officials today called on the state Senate to reject a plan to send so-called emergency financial managers into local communities, saying the proposal gives sweeping unilateral powers to unelected bureaucrats that would harm taxpayers and local communities.

“Deploying unelected financial managers with minimal experience or expertise is nothing more than a veiled attack on taxpayers across Michigan,” said Fred Miller, a county commissioner from Macomb County. “When people see this proposal under the full light of day, they will recognize it for what it is, a Lansing power grab that could gut our cities and schools and stick taxpayers with the tab for politicians’ bad decisions. This so-called ‘emergency financial manager’ proposal is anti-democratic and must be rejected.” 

Now before the Senate, the plan significantly expands the criteria that would trigger the deployment of a financial manager. While the Treasurer’s office has not said how many municipalities and school districts may be affected, observers estimate that dozens of local communities and districts could be targeted for takeovers. 

Under the plan, the State Treasurer would appoint emergency financial managers, who could include a community’s elected official if that official requests it. Once appointed, the emergency financial manager would have sweeping powers, including the ability to make unilateral decisions on local issues such as increasing class sizes in schools, shifting a community’s debt burden onto local taxpayers, privatizing all public services and operations, and abolish existing contracts. To qualify as an emergency financial manager, a candidate needs to undergo only two days of training and pay a fee.

“The emergency financial manager proposal is unwise, undemocratic and has no real mechanisms for holding unelected bureaucrats accountable for managing our cities and schools,” said Christina Kuo of Common Cause Michigan. “The best way to fix Michigan’s broken government is through real structural reforms. Instead, Lansing’s solution is to take power away from local citizens and give it to a person who learned how to run a local government after spending two days in a classroom.”

“Lansing politicians should be focusing on saving jobs and creating more jobs instead of putting more power into the hands of unelected appointees,” said Linda Teeter, Director of Michigan Citizens Action.   “The proposal, with the potential to privatize huge areas of public services, could instead eliminate good middle-class jobs for Michigan workers.”

for Michigan’s future, it must reject this dangerous proposal and support real reforms that ensure everyone shares in the sacrifice, not just our students.” 


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