Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Detroit Free Press' Latest Hand-Wringing Over The EFM Law

The Detroit Free Press is calling for revisions to Michigan's EFM law for a problem that doesn't exist. Given how the Freep is rather gainst both the EFM law and the potential for it to be applied in Detroit, they're looking for any chance to knock it.

Editorial: Time to fine-tune state's emergency manager law

The recent flap over how Pontiac receives and administers federal HUD funds suggests an opportunity to tweak the state's emergency manager law for the better -- something Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature should have on their 2012 agenda.

The dispute arose when Pontiac's emergency manager decided to turn management of the city's HUD funds over to Oakland County officials. His reasoning was sound: Pontiac has a record of wasting the funds so badly that the federal government was threatening to withhold them; Oakland County has a stellar record of managing these funds, and was willing to take control.

The problem was that shifting control entirely to the county would mean a reduction in funds designated for Pontiac; HUD funding is determined largely by poverty rates, and the county's overall rate is far lower than Pontiac's.
In other words, the elected officials and management of Pontiac that the Freep so adores are so inept that they couldn't be trusted to manage federal funds properly.

So a management improvement would have diluted the program's benefit to Pontiac's citizens in the city.

That's a failing of the emergency manager law. Because the managers are brought in (typically from outside the troubled community) and given the charge simply of restoring fiscal health, they can sometimes be insensitive to, or even dismissive of, the long-term interests of the cities they are trying to shepherd to solvency.
How is the incompetence of the local bureaucrats and officials that caused the EFm to be appointed inthe first place a problem with the EFM law?

On top of that, the Freep in its editorial then points out everything worked out just fine:
Pontiac, the situation was abated when members of the Oakland County Commission and U.S. Rep Gary Peters insisted that another way be found. In the end, manager Lou Schimmel agreed that having Oakland County manage the funds but not take full authority over the program was worth a try because it would preserve funding levels. Federal HUD officials have also agreed.

But this was an ad hoc intervention by the elected officials. Could the law be tweaked to require more input from elected officials?
In other words, the law functioned fine, others pointed out some options to the EFM and he agreed to it. So what's the need for a tweak?

They then undercut their call for such a change in the very next paragraph:

Clearly, you wouldn't want to force a manager to deal with officials who had helped create the fiscal emergency, but could other officeholders -- from county-level positions or Congress -- be involved?

It is well worth the governor and Legislature's time to consider that. Opposition to the emergency manager law has become organized and fierce. And while the aim of overturning the law outright may be misguided, some of the criticisms leveled against it are valid.

A case of much ado about nothing, now isn't it? The stated problem was fully and effectively solved under the existing law.

With no real need for such a change, The Freep, without much clarity in the editorial, seems to want the law to require consultation and perhaps a sign-off from other elected officials to force an EFM to do what the officials want. In other words create a new barrier and method to stymie effective decision-making by an EFM so that political interests, likely the same political interests that caused the problems requiring the appointment of an EFM in the first place, can bring pressure on the EFM.

Hardly a useful idea but simply a new opportunity and avenue for the entrenched interests that created the problem to preserve their positions and stop actions of the EFM that have to be taken to get the city out of the mess but will disrupt their cozy feather beds while doing so.

No comments: