Monday, April 18, 2011

Detroit Mayor Asks God to Close Budget Gap

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
Detroit’s mayor Dave Bing was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying "I'm not afraid of an emergency financial manager being named . . . he or she almost becomes god and can do whatever is necessary to bring financial stability back." Bing could be anointed god of Detroit under Michigan’s Financial Martial Law legislation, which allows the Governor to declare any city or school district a failed state and impose a financial manager who has the authority to shred union contracts, fire everyone (and let some other god sort it out later.) Bing, a Democrat, has already slashed city workers' health care and pensions to close a $200 million city budget gap. However, he said that if city unions refuse to agree to rollbacks, the budget gap could reach $1.2 billion by 2015, setting up the unions as straw men to justify declaring financial martial law in Detroit.

Detroit Public Schools (DPS) has already been declared a failed state and has had its own financial manager, Robert Bobb, for several years now. Bobb has taken advantage of his god complex by sending out pink slips to every one of DPS’ 5,466 employees, according to the WSJ, including all of its teachers and 250 administrators. Reuters reports that Bobb has pledged to use his powers as financial manager to address the school districts $327 million budget hole, threatening to make unilateral changes to teacher contracts and abolish seniority rules. Bobb has already shut down dozens of Detroit schools and plans on closing dozens more or converting them to private charter schools.

Meanwhile, opposition has already begun, with at least twelve students and teachers occupying the Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant, parenting teens, to prevent it from being shut down, according to the Daily Censored. The protest was organized by the group By Any Means Necessary, which fears that the school will be converted to a charter school and cease to provide services for pregnant and parenting youth. Hundreds of others joined the protest outside, providing logistical support for those inside the school and attempting to block the police from entering. Eventually, though, the protesters were arrested for trespassing and taken to jail, including young mothers and their children. Police threatened to turn their children over to Child Protective Services. However, the children were eventually released back to the parents, all of whom were cited and released.

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