Ivacko: Michigan state legislature should make emergency manager reform a top priority

March 15, 2017

An op-ed by CLOSUP program manager, Tom Ivacko (MPP '93), was published by the Detroit Free Press on March 11. In "Fixing EM law should be legislators' top priority," Ivacko makes the case that Michigan's laws regarding the appointment of emergency managers (EMs) are in dire need of reform, and that such reforms are exactly what the people of Michigan expect from state government.

"When Michigan’s citizens were allowed a voice, they overturned the previous version of the law in a 2012 referendum," he adds. "Today there is widespread agreement among state and local policy leaders that the current law needs reform. There is even significant agreement on particular types of reforms needed."

Ivacko points to reviews conducted by three major state panels--the Flint Water Advisory Task Force, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, and a bipartisan select joint committee of the state Legislature--in the aftermath of the Flint water crisis as providing a blueprint for needed reforms.

As Ivacko notes, current laws give emergency managers nearly all decision-making authority usually granted to local elected officials without being accountable to voters.

"These are two key reform targets in the view of local leaders," he says. "Overall, 76 percent believe EMs should be required to consider input of local elected officials before making important decisions, including 74 percent of Republican leaders and 82 percent of Democrats. In addition, 71 percent overall (67 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats) believe EMs should be required to consider citizen input."

"Lansing has shown it can move quickly to enact significant reform, including when it rushed the current EM law through a lame-duck legislative session just weeks after voters overturned its predecessor," Ivacko goes on to say. He ends with one question, "What can possibly justify the lack of action now?"

Tom Ivacko (MPP ‘93) is program manager of CLOSUP, the Ford School’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, and oversees the center’s Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), which surveys local leaders about a variety of policy issues and collects factual information of relevance to citizens and policymakers. Launched in 2009, the MPPS is conducted in partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties, the Michigan Municipal League, and the Michigan Townships Association.