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Plan B … we’re still waiting 

The meter’s still running on Detroit’s unbalanced budget.

Three months into the fiscal year, cuts and changes ordered by Detroit City Council in its overhaul of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s proposed budget have yet to be made.

And for every month the meter runs unchecked, the city creeps closer to receivership.

Metro Times reported in August that the city is going $15 million in the red for every month that millions of dollars in operating savings and new revenue streams fail to materialize.

Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings and Fire Commissioner Tyrone Scott recently announced some cuts to the police and fire departments in the form of a restructuring that cut only about $20 million of the $54 million ordered by council. If enacted, those cuts would have knocked the city’s monthly problem from $15 million to $13 million, says City Council fiscal analyst Irv Corley Jr.

But with an order from a Wayne County circuit judge enjoining the department from acting on some parts of the restructuring plan, it’s not clear how much savings the city will see.

Bottom line: Detroit’s in dire fiscal shape. Still.

Since City Council overhauled Kilpatrick’s budget, the administration supposedly has been working on a back-up plan. In June, mayoral spokesman James Canning told News Hits the mayor was aware that if certain budget items (like millions of dollars in union concessions) couldn’t be realized, there’d have to be a Plan B.

Three months later — still no details of Plan B.

Frustrated by attempts to get administration officials to show their cards, City Council on Friday issued subpoenas to bring Kilpatrick, Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams, Chief Financial Officer Sean Werdlow, Budget Director Roger Short and Bully-Cummings to the table, along with documents that would explain exactly how the city’s fiscal hole is going to be patched. (Those worthies were supposed to appear before City Council on Friday, but bowed out at the last minute.) The subpoenas were approved 5 to 1. Councilmember Lonnie Bates voted against; Council President Maryann Mahaffey and Councilmember Sharon McPhail weren’t there.

Mayoral spokesman Howard Hughey said Friday that the administration is deciding how to — or if it should — respond to the subpoenas. “We’re going to look at what they’re upset about, then we’re going to make the decision about how to respond at a later date.”

Councilmember Barbara-Rose Collins says that what the mayor’s doing just doesn’t make sense. “If he was a king, I’d say he was preparing to abdicate. But he’s not a king, so I don’t know what the hell he’s doing.”

Councilmember Sheila Cockrel calls the delay “stonewalling, or incompetence. Take your pick.”

Kilpatrick, Hughey says, is not putting off unpopular decisions until after the Nov. 8 election. “There are no political overtures. Politics do not play a part in that budget process.”

Good one, Howard.

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October 28, 2020

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