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    In examining the effectiveness of Michigan's Emergency Financial Manager Law, one city to look at in detail is Pontiac. On March 19, 2009, the Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board appointed Fred Leeb as the EFM (Emergency Financial Manager). Then in 2011, Rick Snyder appointed Louis Schimmel to be the new EM under Public Act 4, Snyder's revised version of the law.

    When Public Act 4 was put up for referendum in August of this year, the Board appointed Schimmel as EFM under the original law. However, the city council sought to remove the position of EFM, believing that the referendum suspended both the old and new form of the law (as reported by MLive). The six member council voted unanimously to remove Schimmel, but Pontiac Mayor Leon Jukowski vetoed their measure. Jukowski had long advocated for an EFM and was disappointed by the council's special meeting, saying that "it's going to demonstrate to the governor's office that we're completely incapable of governing ourselves...the City Council has acted in an unlawful manner, in my opinion". This tension between the council and the mayor (who serves as an advisor to the EFM) has been noticed by residents of the city, who feel that the EFM diminishes their participation and involvement in the decision-making process.

    The decisions that the EFM have made during the past few years have had a large impact on Pontiac. An Emergency Manager Report released on December 31st, 2011 details the initiatives and policies implemented by Schimmel in his first three months on the job. One of these policies was to shift responsibility for firefighting services to the Charter Township of Waterford, which saves three million dollars a year (according to the manager's report). A press release from the Michigan Township Association describes the move as a success, saying that "This is a new era in the state where more townships are providing services to cities. It shows great fiscal responsibility by both units of government"(as quoted in the Waterford Township release). Measures such as this one show why having an Emergency Manager can be a good thing, because without his authority in getting something like this done, it might not have happened so quickly or effectively. The fact that it was able to come to pass in such a short timeframe and with such support from both fire unions shows is a great example of how the community can get behind an EM's plan and stories like this are the reason why the EM law was created. Where problems come up, however, is when the expansive powers of the Emergency Manager interfere with policies that the council feels strongly about, as Schimmel made "dramatic moves to balance the city budget" without the council's approval, according to the Detroit Free Press. They believe that this violates the democratic process, as they were elected to do a job that they no longer have the authority to do.

    http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2012/08/pontiac_city_council_attempts.html

    http://www.pontiac.mi.us/pdf/Emergency%20Manager%20Report%2012-31-12.pdf

    http://www.mrgmi.com/WaterfordTownship_Release-F.pdf

    http://www.freep.com/article/20120813/NEWS03/120813077/Pontiac-city-council-votes-to-reclaim-power-over-emergency-manager

     

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    The Michigan Policy Network is a student-led public education and research program to report and organize news and information about the political process surrounding Michigan state policy issues. It is run out of the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, with participation by students from the College of Social Science, the College of Communication, and James Madison College. 

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    Meet your Policy Fellow: Michael Raley

    Michael Raley is a fourth year Sociology and Public Administration/Public Policy student at Michigan State University. He is especially interested in the public policy, politics, and sociology of urban space, as well as transportation systems and public transit. A native of the Grand Rapids area, Michael is currently an intern in the office of State Representative Roy Schmidt, who represents the west and northeast sides of the city. He also aspires to pursue a career in urban and regional planning, and hopes to attend graduate school for such a course of study.