Those are the two choices facing Hamtramck. Gov. Jennifer Granholm doesn’t want Hamtramck to file for bankruptcy because it would likely open the floodgate for hundreds of other financially distressed communities in the state to do the same.
Hamtramck officials don’t want a loan, saying it only puts off the city’s underlying financial problems. The main problem is that our city employee union contracts cost too much money.
One thing that needs immediate change is providing employees with a less expensive health insurance coverage. The city’s unions have refused to budge on that or make significant changes in their contract. Yes, the firefighters did agree to a wage freeze, but that’s a mere drop in the bucket.
We don’t mean to harp on employees, but if the community wants to keep its own police and fire departments, then concessions must be made.
The police officers’ unions have pointed out that through their efforts, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been saved through grants and special programs. Yes, that’s great, and the officers deserve credit.
But guess what?
Despite all that extra income, the city is STILL broke. It’s doesn’t matter how much money the cops brought in because the city still can’t afford them.
Since Gov. Granholm doesn’t want to take leadership in this she decided instead to let incoming Gov.-Elect Rick Snyder wrestle with it.
By all indications, Snyder is going to be more receptive to allow Hamtramck to file for bankruptcy. He has already said that public employees are going to have to accept sacrifices. We read that to mean that public employees are going to have to accept less expensive benefits, and possibly even see some benefits go away.
Times have changed in Michigan. A number of public employees refuse to recognize this new reality. We are no longer a wealthy state, buoyed by major car manufacturing. The tax revenue has dried up. As a state, we are broke.
If public employees don’t like this reality, we suggest they look elsewhere for employment. It’s not pretty out there.
Like it or not, Hamtramck is leading the way in how the state is going to deal with this issue. If city employees want to keep their jobs, albeit with some major changes to their benefits, it would be best to help avoid bankruptcy and agree now to concessions.