FLINT-The people of Flint voted to end the decade-long tenure of Mayor Woodrow Stanley March 5 over a $30-million deficit (now estimated at $38 million), high unemployment, and a crumbling infrastructure, all blamed on Stanley. But it was the Flint City Council that blocked his efforts to privatize and to deploy a portion of the city pension fund surplus to pay other obligations.
In the fall of 2001, Mayor Stanley opened bidding from private contractors to provide refuse collection and disposal in the city, and invited city employees who collected refuse for Flint to competitively bid for the contract. Despite being granted some competitive advantages, the bid city employees submitted was the third highest of the four submitted. When Stanley recommended privatization to the Flint city council, it voted 9-0 against.
Stanley helped Flint avoid receivership last summer and worked out a plan with the state of Michigan for reducing the city's deficit. He even openly discussed privatization of such things as the city golf courses, building inspections, and the demolition of derelict housing.
Now that the mayor has been removed from his position, what might alternative leadership propose for solving the city's problems? More taxes-Flint new mayor will take over with a terrible lesson clearly in mind: Don't try to shrink the size of municipal government. Since higher taxes are often the path of least resistance, they will probably be offered as the short-term solution to Flint's woes. This will only make matters worse, which is why state appointment of an Emergency Financial Manager for Flint is becoming more and more likely.
Editor's Note: As MPR went to press the Flint city council voted 9-0 against privatizing the Flint IMA Sports Arena for $500,000 plus $3.5 million in renovations over the next ten years. To the city council's great credit the offer was rejected in part because there were no competing bidders invited to make offers on the property. The council appears willing to entertain future privatization attempts, provided the bidding process is opened up to other interested parties. Attempts at privatizing this arena, in some fashion, have been made since 1999, when the owner of a semi-pro hockey team, the Flint Generals, offered to manage the building. The 1999 deal would have meant an extra $250,000 annually to city coffers, plus 25 percent of all new revenues exceeding $1.9 million.