March 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Snyder: Not ready to 'draw line in the sand' on Detroit turnaround plan


Detroit— Although he's impatient with progress on Detroit's turnaround plan, Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday he is not ready to "draw a line in the sand" by threatening an emergency manager if a deal isn't reached soon.

But Snyder told The Detroit News during an interview Wednesday afternoon that he will "do my fiduciary duty" to make sure Detroiters get the best services possible if negotiations over a financial agreement aren't done by April 5.

Snyder's comments come as the Detroit City Council will begin combing through the fiscal stabilization agreement Thursday afternoon. Council members are expected to receive a copy of the agreement Thursday morning and will delve into the document at a session set for 4:10 p.m.

"I don't want an emergency manager. I've been pretty clear about that," Snyder told The News, adding that he would rather not throw down a "gauntlet" because he still believes the city and state can work together.

"What I'm very clear on and I think I've been clear from Day 1 is, I was hired by the citizens of Detroit and the citizens of Michigan to make sure they get the best services possible and they have a bright future. And I will do my fiduciary duty."

The governor said he is holding town hall meetings and open discussions with Detroiters to quell some of the growing concerns among some in the city that the state wants to control Detroit. And he'd like to see some of the racial hostilities abate to help the city grow.

"Unfortunately there (has) been a lot of history of racial issues and such and we have to be open and honest about that," he said. "But as a practical matter, a lot of this … is to come together and have a real dialogue."

Because Detroit is in crisis, people need to act with urgency, he said, to bring solutions to the table. The governor said Detroit for too long has talked about plans with poor follow-through.

"Let's start showing success, because then if you show success, it brings more success," Snyder said. "It's much easier to talk to the Legislature, to talk to the private sector, to talk to anyone to say this isn't a continuation of 40-50 years of decline. This is exciting. That's where we need to get."

The governor said he wants to make sure plans are in place to carry out real reform before the state offers up money to the city.

"It's not about more plans and spending money," Snyder said. "It's about action items that make a difference and positive difference in citizens' lives. We shouldn't focus now on the discussion of simply being written more checks. It's not about spending, it's about results."

The state, he said, is helping the city refinance the $137 million bonds that were approved by the City Council Tuesday. "I don't view that as insignificant help," the governor said.

Conflict over turning the city around, he said, is not going to encourage anyone to come back to Detroit. He campaigned in the city during his gubernatorial election when others questioned why a Republican would because he wants to "show I care about the citizens of Detroit."

"I really care about the city and its citizens here," he said. "And I really want to see it come back."

Earlier in the day, Snyder told a town hall audience his goal is not to run the city of Detroit, but to be "a supportive partner" to get the cash-strapped city back on its feet.

Snyder said he wants city leaders to deliver "very specific ideas that have timelines and deliverables" as the state and city continue to negotiate a financial agreement.

The governor said he wants to see, for example, proposals for a public lighting authority; a regional transit authority and a lease agreement under which the state could run Belle Isle as a state park.

The governor stressed an agreement needs to be done soon.

"There isn't a lot of good reason why this wasn't done some time ago," he said. "I'm impatient. As a practical matter, I think the citizens are impatient. They want action."

Snyder was speaking at Wayne County Community College's downtown campus in Detroit as part of the Global Conservation Speaker series. The event was hosted by radio host Mildred Gaddis of WCHB-AM (1200) and Bankole Thompson of the Michigan Chronicle newspaper.

Snyder said three critical issues need to be addressed: financial stability in the city; getting better services to residents; and growing the city of Detroit to stem population loss.

"It's about growing the city and having it be a great place," he said. "How do we keep Detroiters here because they're excited to be here?"

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“There isn’t a lot of good reason why this wasn’t done some time ago,” he said. “I’m impatient. As a practical matter, I think the citizens are impatient. They want action.” / Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News
Phyllis McMillion, President of local 542 AFSCMC. (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)