DETROIT — According to a survey commissioned by Business Leaders for Michigan in May, the majority of Michigan voters in cities with Emergency Managers do not like the idea of having an EM but many acknowledge improvements in the services of their municipality.
“While the residents of the four cities with Emergency Managers may not like having an EM, the majority of residents in every case are optimistic about their city’s future and strongly prefer an EM to bankruptcy courts,” said Doug Rothwell, President and CEO, Business Leaders for Michigan. “In fact, residents in these communities overwhelmingly believe that their city budget is better managed under the EM than by their city council.”
Residents of all four cities with EMs were asked if their city was on the right or wrong track. The survey found that this is only true of Benton Harbor residents. In Benton Harbor, 48% of residents responded positively when asked about management under the EM, citing better public safety, garbage pickup, and management of the city. 34.5% believe the city is on the wrong track.
But residents of all four cities are optimistic about their city’s future. When asked if things in their city would get better, worse, or stay about the same in the next year, all four cities were optimistic about their future, with Benton Harbor residents being the most optimistic. An overall average of 41% of residents who participated in the survey stated they believe that things will improve within the year. 19% believe that their situation will worsen, while about 31% say that things will probably stay the same.
Residents were also asked that if an Emergency Financial Manager had not been appointed for their city, did they think things in the city would have been better, worse, or stayed the same? In no city do respondents believe things would have improved had an Emergency Manager not been appointed. An average of 42% said that without the EM, things would have been worse, while only 17% said that things would have been better. An average of 32% stated that the situation would have remained the same with or without the EM.
The majority in Benton Harbor, Ecorse, and Pontiac residents believe that things would have worsened without the appointment of the EFM and the majority of Flint believe the situation would not have changed.
“It’s not a surprise that Emergency Managers are met with resistance, as they are making tough and often unpopular decisions to bring city budgets in line with the dollars in hand,” said Rothwell. “This survey illustrates that residents in some communities can see the benefits of having an EM in place as it relates to the services they receive and the overall management of their city.”
Interestingly, by overwhelming margins, residents in all four cities would rather have an EM than to have their city go into bankruptcy in the courts.
If an Emergency Financial Manager had not been appointed, the city would have been forced to declare bankruptcy and the city’s assets would have been sold off by the courts to pay the city’s debts. Knowing that, almost 18% would prefer that their city go into bankruptcy, but no less than an average of 64% would rather that the city have an Emergency Financial Manager.
Even those who disapprove of their EMs support the appointment of a financial manager when bankruptcy is the alternative. By a margin of 37.4%-31.7%, respondents who disapprove of their Emergency Manager chose an EM appointment over bankruptcy, but 22.8% of these respondents simply could not decide.
Finally, the survey asked who managed the city’s budget better: the city council or the EM. In Flint and Pontiac — where the Emergency Manager is very unpopular – respondents choose the Emergency Manager over their city council. In Benton Harbor and Ecorse, the Emergency Manager is seen as significantly more effective at managing the budget than the city council. An average of 42% of the overall residents preferred the EM as opposed to only 19% who preferred the council. 17% believe that neither the council nor the EM have effectively managed the city’s budget.
The telephone survey of 800 registered voters was conducted by the Glengariff Group Inc, in the Michigan cities of Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Flint and Pontiac – all cities in Michigan that have an Emergency Financial Manager. The complete survey and crosstabs can be found at: http://www.businessleadersformichigan.com/research-reports/