Council President Charles Pugh said Tuesday that he's trying to to set up a meeting with incoming emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)
Detroit — City Council members on Tuesday said they expect to maintain a salary and assume a prominent role in city operations after an emergency manager arrives in Detroit next week.
President Charles Pugh says he's working to set up a meeting with Kevyn Orr, the Washington, D.C., bankruptcy attorney appointed Thursday by Gov. Rick Snyder. Pugh said Orr's full-time job will be debt restructuring and he should let council take on other daily tasks and decisions.
"There's so much for us to do and so much he can't do," Pugh said, noting Orr will be busy with pensions, healthcare and labor restructuring. "He's not going to have time. He should just leave that to us."
When asked if he believed Orr would withhold council members' salaries, Pugh said "I don't think so."
President Pro Tem Gary Brown echoed Pugh's position, saying he also believes council will remain relevant.
"He hasn't taken any power away. I thought I heard him say that he wanted a partnership with the mayor and council to make the decisions that needed to be made. We are way ahead of ourselves with this takeaway," Brown said of the concerns voiced by residents and some fellow council members.
"I suspect that he will remove any voting items that have to do with financial issues, settlements, contracts, but the council will still have authority over policy within the city of Detroit. At least that's the way I think it will shape out."
"I'm just ready to move forward and get these financial issues behind us so that we can let Mr. Orr get back to Washington, D.C., as soon as possible," Brown added. "I look forward to working with him."
Meanwhile, during Tuesday's meeting, residents continued to press the panel to pursue legal action against a state takeover. The meeting was likely council's last formal session, before Orr comes in.
"The dictator is coming: Kevyn Orr imposed by Snyder. Detroit doesn't need Kevyn Orr," said resident Valerie Glenn of Free Detroit No Consent, who then encouraged citizens to call council offices and "tell them to sue against the un-American takeover."
"Continue to stand strong. Do not consent. Continue to resist," Glenn said.
Pugh and Brown, as well as members Kenneth Cockrel Jr., James Tate, Saunteel Jenkins and Brenda Jones, were present for Tuesday's meeting. Kwame Kenyatta, JoAnn Watson and Andre Spivey were absent.
The panel last week argued at an appeals hearing in Lansing that the appointment was "premature" and advocated instead for an expanded consent agreement. The panel also considered a potential court challenge to the appointment but ultimately decided against it.
Kathy Montgomery of Detroit told council Tuesday to "reverse your decision not to challenge the appointment in the courts."
"We elected you to represent us," said Montgomery, 64. "I am angry like so many thousands of other residents in Detroit. Angry that our governor and mayor decided we need an emergency manager for the city of Detroit. We must oppose them. They are not working for the benefit of the citizens of Detroit.
"Please obtain a court injunction to stop the installment of the emergency manager."
Council member Jones Tuesday said she still believes the emergency manager law is unconstitutional.
"The citizens have still spoken out," Jones said. "They wish that this body will not just throw in the towel. I will not throw in the towel."
Jones added "we are still here as council."
"The new law indicates that the emergency manager shall — not can, not will or might — shall eliminate council and mayor's salary upon the law becoming effective."
Jones said she intends to continue to represent the citizens.
"I know that it has been said we are waiting to see what our role will be," she said. "I don't know what kind of role we can have. I feel that we're just sitting here as a symbolic symbol right now."
Jenkins added: "As a body, we need to figure out what our role is and what it's going to be and we need to fight to maintain whatever that role is. I prefer to do real work rather than go through the motions."
Orr, a Washington, D.C., lawyer of the firm Jones Day, guided Chrysler through its 2009 bankruptcy and is a University of Michigan Law School graduate.
Council members have said they are eager to speak with Orr and officials from the state to carve out their role under emergency management.
Glenn on Tuesday also pointed to an online petition to President Barack Obama's administration seeking to "stop emergency managers, protect voting rights and help spur our local economy."
The petition, created March 1, has 1,525 signatures. The goal, the online petition says, is to collect 100,000 by March 31.