At first glance, City Councilmember Anam Miah’s recent proposed resolution to undo everything the former emergency manager looks like a huge overreach.
In his resolution, he wants to “repair the wrongs inflicted upon The City of Hamtramck by the appointed State Emergency Manager and Treasury Department under the Governor’s direction.”
But if you read between the lines, what you realize is that Miah is expressing a lot of anguish and frustration about how the state and Emergency Manager Cathy Square went about fixing Hamtramck’s financial crisis.
Before Square was appointed to the job as EM, a majority on the then-sitting city council asked for the state to intervene. The thinking then was the EM law would allow tweaking some labor contracts with or without the city’s union workforces’ cooperation.
That was something the council couldn’t do, by law, on its own.
And the council also wanted a $2 million loan from the state to shore up its pension fund.
City officials thought they were going to be partners in this process. Instead, they were pushed aside, ignored and left out of the decision-making process.
They were rarely even told about new hires in the administration. Eventually councilmembers fought back and became critical of Square, but really no one was listening, no one in Republican-led Lansing at least.
Square did get changes in labor contracts without having to force the issue, but she held the ultimate trump card if union members didn’t agree to modifications. She also received a $2 million emergency loan, something the state repeatedly refused to give the city prior to Square being appointed.
When Square left, she left behind final directives that will still keep city council out of the decision-making process and concentrate power with the newly-hired city manager and the financial advisory board that is also overlooking financial decisions here.
There is a lot of good the emergency manager law can provide, but there is also a lot it takes away from a community’s right to have a democratic government.
We understand Miah’s anguish, and it’s something that needs to be fine-tuned and turned into a document that can be presented to the state. But his initial resolution speaks volumes about the emasculation of the democratic process.
And that’s something all of us should be outraged about.