Susan Walsh, Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday that he's open to negotiating further with Detroit leaders about how best to restore the city's financial solvency as long as a counterproposal being drafted by Mayor Dave Bing and city council members gets the job done.
"I believe that's a constructive step and hopefully we'll hear back very quickly," Snyder told reporters in Lansing.
He warned, however, that the state is not going to step in with more money to help the city deal with a $197 million budget shortfall and its long-term legacy costs. Detroit leaders say they never got $200 million in revenue sharing funds cut by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm, but Snyder denies the state owes the money.
That didn't deter at least one councilman, Andre Spivey, from saying the state should give the beleaguered city money to help dig out of its financial hole.
"This is our biggest need at this moment and an absolute must for this city to move forward financially," he said. "I remain optimistic that the governor, treasurer, and Detroit city officials can come to an agreement over the next few days."
City Councilman Gary Brown, however, welcomed the consent agreement, saying in a statement that it provides the "teeth and the tools" to ensure the city won't run out of money in coming months.
Kirk Lewis, Bing's chief of staff, said meetings between the mayor's and council's staff would continue until a final counterproposal is drafted. No deadline has been set, although a financial review team has only until March 26 to either tell Snyder no financial emergency exists or recommend that a consent agreement or a financial manager be put in place.
Snyder has 10 days after he receives the team's report to make a decision. Further negotiations with Detroit leaders must happen quickly, he said.
Bing and other critics of the consent agreement Snyder has proposed say it gives a nine-member financial advisory board whose members would be appointed by state and city officials too much authority over the decisions made by the elected mayor and City Council. Bing tweeted several of his objections Thursday morning shortly after Snyder wrapped up his meeting with reporters.
"The agreement does not protect the city from the appointment of an emergency manager," the mayor said, adding that it "prevents me from choosing my own executive staff to implement restructuring. They are appointed and directed by the board."
Snyder strongly disagreed, saying the mayor and council "absolutely have power under the consent agreement — a lot of power."
Bing was at the White House on Thursday. He watched as President Barack Obama signed an executive order that will establish the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities and expand a program that already has created partnerships with federal agencies in Detroit and five other economically cities to spark economic development.
Harvey Hollins III, Snyder's urban initiatives director, said he understands why some Detroiters are suspicious of an unelected group of financial experts that would have so much say over the city's finances. But he expects many will come to see the consent agreement as a good idea.
"Residents are fearful of a takeover," Hollins said. "When we give them the information and we're able to walk through some of the scenarios, that's a different dialogue."
The Republican governor pointed to many initiatives he has unveiled to help Detroit that have nothing to do with finances, such as beefing up the number of state police troopers and assigning more of them to Detroit to combat crime.
He also wants to invest millions of dollars to provide job training for the chronically unemployed in Detroit, where unemployment hovers at 17.3 percent, and get a regional high-speed bus system in place.
"We're preparing a lot of good things to help the city," Snyder said. "This is not about fighting or having someone lose."
The governor, who leaves Saturday for a weeklong trade trip to Germany and Italy, said he plans to hold a series of town hall meetings with Detroit residents after he returns March 24.
Associated Press Writer Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.
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