Michigan may step in to take over Detroit

DETROIT — The idea is extreme, even in a city accustomed to fighting for survival: Should the state of Michigan step in to run Detroit?

The governor has taken steps in that direction, proposing an unprecedented move that could give an appointed manager virtually unchecked power to gut union contracts, cut employee health insurance and slash services.

City leaders bristle at the notion, and Mayor Dave Bing said, “This is our city. Detroit needs to be run by Detroiters.”

If a takeover happens, Detroit would be the largest American city ever taken over by a state. Michigan has seized control of smaller struggling cities, but Detroit was always off-limits.

That changed this week when Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration said it would begin a review of Detroit’s precarious finances.

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If the governor concludes that the city’s economic situation constitutes an emergency, he could dispatch a manager who could push the mayor and City Council to the sidelines.

It’s not clear how everyday services such as trash pickup and bus routes would be affected, but the fixer’s mission would be clear: Do whatever it takes to stop the bleeding.

Bing, a Democrat, said Detroit doesn’t need the help. He insisted that the city is reducing a $150 million budget deficit and easing cash-flow problems on its own.

“We know what needs to be done, and we stand ready to do it,” an indignant Bing said.

The financial review will begin Tuesday and might last up to 90 days, meaning a takeover could be under way by the end of February.

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