The consent agreement, also known as the Financial Stability Agreement, between the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan is undergoing a debate that should have taken place before it was signed into law. This debate today occurs on the streets of Detroit and partly in the local syndicated media and behind closed doors at the city and state government offices.
This past week, and especially on Monday June 11th, The Detroit Free Press and their editorial board has relentlessly attacked the city of Detroit’s corporation counsel Kristal Crittenden. These attacks were personal and unwarranted and show a lack of respect for the citizens of Detroit, a lack of respect for the city offices and a lack of respect for the rule of law. The Free Press has been pressing a position that originates from a right wing perspective on how to change government. The editorial board has tried to frame the position of corporate counsel as that of a lawyer with the city as the client. However their definition of city is mayor and maybe city council. This is not how this office works nor how government works. Just as the attorney general of the state or the country, works for the executive branch, the position may include actions that involve disagreements with the executive branch. In the state of Michigan, the attorney general may issue an opinion that overrules legislation that is desired by the governor, yet the governor cannot ethically or legally order the state’s attorney to only issue opinions agreeable to the political position of the governor.
The Free Press has repeated the claim that the city could do worse financially if the lawsuit is not dropped. This is a threat, not an argument for not filing the lawsuit. There are many factors that would create a financial problem and many more that can address financial problems. This is a myopic view of the world. There should be better intelligence from an editorial board. The mayor and his administration is in charge of the city’s finances. They have not issued a statement on the condition of Detroit’s financials. On June 12th, the council’s analyst stated that the city’s claims were contradictory to the data that exists. The evidence shows that without any additional incoming cash, the city will make it through the end of this fiscal year. A two week window. Bing is in charge of the financials and Dave Bing can end this impass legally and ethically without issuing an order to drop the lawsuit.
The Free Press correctly points out that the charter defines the powers within the corporation counsels office. They incorrectly interpret this to mean that the office is at the whim of the mayor or council. This was identified when the charter was modified. The new charter was endorsed by the syndicated media. The corporation counsel always provided an analysis of all pending legislation before implemented. This occurred in this case. The Free Press should be criticizing the city council. They wrote the consent agreement. The council was told before the vote that these violations existed and did nothing. Did the council violate the charter?
The Free Press presents an emotional argument as to why they want Krystal Crittenden to drop the lawsuit. The arguments are not based on how the city works or what the charter says. It’s the same as yelling into someone’s ear until they go away. The Free Press is trying to make this go away without examining the issues, the parties involved or the law itself. The agenda of the Free Press and those hoping for a more right wing shift in city government includes a wish that no one will realize what has occurred and what rights citizens have lost until its too late.