Sunday, July 27, 2014

Citizen response by Terry Bankert , 235-1970, to Flint Blue Ribbon Report recommending a City Manager.

Terry Bankert’s response  to Flints “Blue Ribbon Committee on Governance”, the committee, Final Report  to  Mr. Darnell Earley, Emergency Manager City of Flint  July 2014” #flint
7/28/14 5 am.

cited as [1] Most comments of Terry Bankert Divorce Attorney 810-235-1970 are cited as [trb] Please share this article.

I am only an individual Flint Citizen with one vote, one voice. Please consider adding your voice  and your vote to the Flint Community Discussion on Charter Revision.  [trb]


"The findings will be presented to the council during its 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 28, meeting. Earley has asked residents to email him directly,    , with any comments they may have on the report".[2]

The Committee recommends that on the November Ballot the citizens vote to eliminate the Civil Service Commission and the Ombudsman's office. [trb]

I suggest you not do that . [trb]

These offices are currently not funded and can wait for the election of a Charter Commission to deliberate. 

The Committee also then recommends that  a yes or no vote “ Do you the voter want a Charter Commission “ to be placed on the November 2014 ballot. [trb]

I suggest you vote yes on this.[trb]

Not mentioned is the fact that in the November elections the candidates for the Charter Commission can be placed on the ballot.

If  this practice is followed at the same election also on the ballot will be a Charter Commission. The  highest vote candidates,1 per ward, could  be  elected to the commission. It has not been decided if this process will be used. Ask the EFM Earley

This Charter Commission Candidate election could all happen fast with little lead up time for Citizen candidate to the Flint Charter Commission.  Those with  moneyed support and advance knowledge are putting their campaigns together now.

Ask the EFM Earley , what he intends to do. Will the Candidates be on the ballot during the same election the yes or no vote is asked of the voters?

Ask the EFM if the voters vote down a Charter Commission will he prolong his rule of Flint?

I recall but am not certain that the Charter Commission candidacy requires a petition drive.  

Consider running for the Charter Commission or encouraging a friend  to run. Seek the support of any organization you belong  to  for help. Waiting will just allow the downtown and moneyed interest to get their candidates elected.

I suggest that  the community respond  by forming a number of  inclusive groups  to self educated and engage in the next steps of Change for Flint. Those steps  are the ones involving  the Voting Public.

I predict  events causing change will happen fast. 

Please call on me if I can help in any way.

COMMITTEE REPORT INTRODUCTION, this is not  comprehensive. The link above will allow  you to read the entire  document.

Mr Wesley [ Chairperson of Emergency Managers Committee on Governance in a letter to the Emergency Manager] said “Less than six months ago, you issued a charge to a group of 22 individuals to develop develop recommendations on how the City of Flint might strengthen its governance in order to avoid the possibility of a return to fiscal crisis.”
‘ [1]

‘We all came to the table willing to do the hard work of studying, learning, exploring, and debating the structures, policies and practices that helped Flint get to its current financial difficulties, and the changes that could help us prevent a return to that state.”[1] said Mr. Wesley.

“We made the determination early on in our process to operate by consensus, so the
recommendations contained in this report convey the carefully considered opinions of
the whole. Members of the Blue Ribbon Committee came to this process with different
perceptions and thoughts, and we took the time necessary to talk through points of
contention. While any of us could have drafted recommendations on our own, we feel
this process has enabled us to craft a report that is more balanced and well-rounded
than could have been achieved otherwise”.[1]said Mr. Wesley.

“After reviewing hundreds of pages of reports on municipal governance models and
financial practices, hearing from people with pertinent expertise from inside City Hall
and outside of the community, and holding three community workshops, we are
delivering our final report of recommendations to you.”[1]said Mr. Wesley.

These hundreds of pages of reports should be made available to the public.[trb]

“ We hope that it will prove a useful lens for understanding some of the complex governance challenges that Flint faces, as well as point a way forward for us to enjoy greater accountability and stability in our local government. It has been a pleasure to serve.” [1] pg 2 said Mr. Wesley.

Thank You for Your service Mr. Wesley and the committee. [trb]


From January 2014 through June 2014, the Flint Blue Ribbon Committee on Governance Reform met to  address the issue of changes to governance in the City of Flint, Michigan in response to the ongoing  fiscal crisis facing city government. [1]

The Committee deliberated in private often. [trb]

“The committee’s objective was to address changes in governance  that it believed would lead to improved long-term fiscal health and fiscal stability for city government.These recommendations reflect a consensus of the group.”[1]

A summary of the recommendations is as follows:[1]  My numbers.[trb] My comments [trb]

1. Shifting to a hybrid form of Council-Manager government with an elected Mayor and an appointed City Manager.[1]

I disagree. The we do not need a full time Mayor. What we need is a traditional City Manager system.[trb]

A reduction in City Council is suggested with no number offered. see [1] 

I suggest the membership of the Flint City Coucil be reduced to 5 .[trb]

In the 1974 Charter 2 year council terms were voted in raised later to four years.
The Committee  recommends that the terms of the city council be reduced to 2 years. see [1]

I agree the Flint City Council should be reduced to a 2 yr term [trb

 At the same time the committee recommends a mayors term to be four year. see [1]

I disagree. We do  not need a Mayor and in the hybrid version this position has been made to powerful and unaccountable to the rest of the Flint City Council. I sense the Committee holds the Current and past Flint City Councils in contempt and has drafted a document that strips the Flint City Council of meaningful power.[trb]

“In addition, [the committee], recommend”s that the elections be held in even-numbered  years. By holding elections to coincide with Presidential and gubernatorial cycles we hope Flint can boost voter turnout. “[1]  

This is incredibly naive as  a basis for making government better, elections during a partisan election makes these positions partisan.[trb]

What they are suggesting is that in an era of soft money and coordinated campaigns when my Democratic Party  is in full electoral mode they  will dangle the bait of municipal elections. I guarantee that it will be mainstream Democrats that will be  elected. [trb]

Please move the elections to the even numbered years!We will strip Uptown and the Genesee Regional Chamber and their rich backers of any future power in flint and return our City of Flint to the neighborhood and other traditional community leaders. [trb]

2.Reconsideration of the City Council system by a Charter Commission. [1]This step inescapably involves the public under state statute.  But only 3/4 of a loaf will go to the Charter Commission. Structural change like eliminating the strong Mayor and changing to a city manager form of government requires an elected charter commission. Why put the Civil Service and Ombudsman on the ballot now? Why  not wait for a Charter Commission? [trb]

I found the language quite misleading in the recommendation on the Ombudsman vote to be put on the ballot now. The office is currently not being funded and will not be in the near future. There is no reason not to wait for a Charter Commission to deliberate on this issue.[trb]  see [1]

The committee gave a recommendation to  vote by ward in the primary and city wide in the general .[1] 

This might reduce representation in some areas. Bad idea. [trb]

3.Ongoing training for all City Council members.[1] We already have memberships in the ational League of Cities and the Michigan Municipal League. Who will do this training? Michigan State would be a good pick.  What is needed is a politically neutral respected group like MSU to oversee leadership education programs and produce impact statements on proposed policy statement for the elected officials and public. [trb

4.City-appointed officials report to and are hired by the City Manager (with the exception of the City Attorney and City Clerk)[1] 

That is how a professional city manager works. There is no need for a Mayor except  to  call the president of the council by  mayor to guide policy between meeting of the city council and attend ceremonial events.[trb]

5.Elimination of the Civil Service Commission and removal from Charter of Ombudsman Office.[1] This is a topic for the Charter Commission. Why put these on the ballot before before we have a charter commission? [trb]

6.Adoption of multi-year budgeting, strategic planning and long-term financial forecasts.[1]
I agree.[trb]

The rationale for the change of government and the role of specific individuals will be
discussed in greater detail below. A summary of the positions of City Manager, Mayor, and City
Council members under the proposed government-form change is as follows:[1]

City Manager
Appointed by and reports to the elected City CouncilPage
9 [1]  I agree. [trb]

o Chosen through a nationwide search
ICMA Credentialed Manager designation recommended
Responsible for hiring, firing, and managing all city staff including the City Treasurer,
Assessor, and all department heads (with the exception of the City Attorney and City
Clerk) [1] and Ombudsman, I agree [trb]

o Selects department heads based on education and relevant experience [1] I agree [trb]
o Conducts annual performance reviews of department heads
Recommends candidates for City Attorney and City Clerk
Delivers annual budget message.[1] I  do not agree.the City Manager should have no involvement in the selection process of these two positions. [trb]

Full-time employee of the City of Flint (with appropriate fringe benefits)[1] I disagree [trb] No separation of powers no need for this position nor has there been one for  several years..[trb]
Runs city-wide as Mayor who will sit on the City Council
Acts as a policy leader and the ceremonial designee for the City of Flint
Sits as President of City Council, [1] Note the council is powerless it cannot appoint its own leadership.[trb]
Votes on council matters[1]The way this is configured it  relegates the Flint City Council to an advisory committee. Big business and big money can load up and deliver the election to a city wide mayoral candidate who appoints the committees for the council, and has a vote on the council. A council that cannot realistically ever fire the manager. Earley the EFM  phase City Manager has is making the City Manager in Flint politically bullet proof from the voters. Earley and Snyder serving Downtown have no plans to give up power. Powerful never does give up power we have to take it. [trb]

Delivers State of the City address annually

City Council
Part-time employees (without fringe benefits)[1]
o Not involved in day-to-day operations of City Hall[1]
Meets, deliberates potential policies, gathers information from citizens, and moves
forward on the passage of policies important to the city. [1] Who sets the budget if not the council. [trb]
Confirms appointments of City Manager, City Attorney and City Clerk by two-thirds
majority[1] This is a super majority. They cannot effectively remove those the hire.[trb


Long Term Sustainability- The Big Picture


This first category of recommendations relates to reforms designed to move the City of
Flint toward long-term fiscal sustainability.[1]


Form of Government

Under Flint’s current Charter, an elected council and mayor have responsibility for setting
policy. [1]  I agree, the Mayor has veto power. Will the Mayor in the hybrid system have veto power.[trb]

Under the current Charter  the Council sets the budget and the Mayor spends the tax money? [trb]

Under the strong-mayor form of government, the mayor also is charged with policy
implementation and managing the day-to-day operations through 21 appointees who serve at the
Mayor’s pleasure. [1] Within this alignment of personnel is the current position of City Administrator which was intended to be a city manager embedded into the Mayors office. The paradigms of good government and excellence in the management of local government were to be found here. [trb]

There are three challenges with this current system that contribute to
financial instability. They are: [1]

1. Reporting Structure: Once appointed, senior City officials, with the exception of the
Treasurer, Clerk, Assessor, and including the City Administrator (who has broad
responsibility for the daily oversight of a multi-million-dollar city budget) serve at the
pleasure of the Mayor and report only to the Council through the Mayor’s permission.[1] This was intended to remove the Mayors officials from the  influence of local politics by City Council meddling. What happened? Why will the same dynamic not affect the City Manager?[trb]

When the Mayor and Council do not have a smooth working relationship—which has
been often—the City Council may not have access to the timely information needed to
make effective policy choices and respond to changing economic realities.[1] The same dynamic  can happen in CIty Manager Cities. We should ask prior and current members of the Saginaw City Council.[trb]

While the Council does have the power to subpoena witnesses, including the City Administrator,
this is not an efficient way to obtain necessary information.[1] Yes it is, look at Congress.[trb]

2. Qualifications: There are no qualifications in the Charter that are required to serve as
any of the Mayoral appointees.[1] We relied on the City Council to keep the CIty Administrator professional which all councils failed .[trb]

Few of the appointees chosen since the current Charter was adopted in 1974 had the training and expertise in municipal finances that would have enabled them to foresee and respond to changes in Flint’s finances or manage the complicated budgeting and compliance procedures that must be in place. [1] Obviously none of them did.[trb]

On More than one occasion, mayors have appointed political friends or campaign managers to this key  position despite not having the skills needed to carry out the job. [1]

On every occasion the City Council did not demand professionalism in this position. Charters are pieces of paper is Flint Citizens that breath life into our local government.[trb]

3. Information: Because the City Administrator, department heads, and other mayoral
appointees serve solely at the pleasure of the Mayor, they may overlook financial
information or performance inadequacies that would be politically inconvenient. [1] 

City manager that survive by simple majority will suffer the same pressure. Managers like the hybrid with the protection of a super majority may adopt their friends agenda like Uptown for instance and cannot realistically  be removed. The Ombudsman's could not be removed except by super majority but that office had a fixed term. Possibly this hybrid  model must stand a simple majority confidence vote every four years. If they fail they are gone.[trb]

Naturally, employees may feel pressured to downplay sobering information or risk losing
their jobs. This prevents the public and City decision-makers from accurately
understanding the City’s financial position and making timely, informed choices.[1]

Flint has had a manager for a half dozen years or so an emergency manager to be specific. How effective have these managers been?[trb]

As such, we recommend that the City of Flint’s form of government be changed from the
current strong-mayor form of government, in which the mayor is ultimately responsible for the
day-to-day management of City Hall, to a hybrid form of government in which the Mayor is a
voting member of City Council; a City Manager appoints department heads and manages City
operations. [1]

I agree we should have a traditional City Manager but not this ill defined hybrid.[trb]

This will encourage greater collaboration between the Mayor and the City Council
and separate policy development (which is the purview of elected officials) and implementation
(to be carried out by a professional, competent, and trained staff). [1]

Nonsense. The Mayor without budget expenditure control and personnel that report to him will be ineffective , just like the incumbent is today. What is being described is a President of the City Council  being called Mayor with ceremonial responsibilities.[trb

Such a structure will enable the government to be run efficiently and effectively[1]. More will be required.[trb]

The Mayor would sit as the President of the City Council, voting on council matters, and
act as policy leader and ceremonial designee for the City of Flint. Rather than being selected by
City Council from among their members as is the case in many council-manager governments, [1] (This is a good system[trb]).....
we recommend a hybrid in which the Mayor runs for and is elected to that position by voters.
While the Mayor may have public events, meetings, and other duties that require attention
throughout the day, the rest of the Council will have a role that does not require involvement in
day-to-day operations.[1] I disagree [trb]

The City Council members’ responsibilities will be to meet, carefully
deliberate potential policies, gather information from citizens, and move forward on the passage
of policies important to the city.[1] I agree. [trb]

We recommend that the Mayor be a full-time employee of the  City of Flint (with appropriate fringe benefits) and Council members be part-time employees (without fringe benefits).[1]

I disagree.   The Mayor and council should receive  no compensation. The Council President /Mayor should receive a per diem for  City related travel and each member encouraged to attend meetings of state and national Municipal Government Associations. [trb

The Local Officials Compensation Commission is advised to consider
appropriate compensation for the roles of the elected officials. Council members’ compensation
should not be so high as to eclipse a desire for public service as the chief motivation for running
for the position. [1] pg 10

I disagree this body should be disbanded and no compensation offered to elected officials in Flint. [trb]

What do you think? Will you be active in the future charter revisions activities. Several of us are organizing and meeting. If you would like to participate let us know.


Terry Bankert

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