Situations in Flint, Detroit look dire

Guest Editorial
Critics and supporters of Michigan’s emergency manager law spent the better part of this year arguing whether a city or school district should fall under outside control.

When it comes to two of Michigan’s largest cities, we might just find out what it will be like. On Tuesday, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing addressed the city’s spiraling financial troubles. One report says the city could be out of cash by April. In Flint, meanwhile, the City Council opted not to challenge that an outside manager take over the city’s finances. The appointment of an emergency manager seems inevitable.

These two cities’ situations illustrate, curiously, that fears about the emergency manager law are largely overblown. Detroit and Flint are dealing with fiscal catastrophes that few other cities are up against.

A lot is riding on what happens in these cities. A financial meltdown by either municipal
government would affect not just residents, but businesses and nearby communities that depend on healthy neighbors. If Detroit can’t afford to run the buses, or if Flint can pay the police, that has a regional — and maybe statewide — impact.

It is vital that Flint and Detroit balance their books. If that takes bringing in an outsider to run local government, so be it.