This past weekend I took part in the Wayne County Fiscal Crisis Summit. The facts discussed were not necessarily surprising – we are all painfully aware of the problems plaguing our county, but the severity of the problem was thrown into stark relief when the facts were discussed in detail, and all at once. We often focus on one issue at a time – the pension fund, the decline in revenue sharing, etc., but when considered together the full magnitude of the forces leading to WayneCounty’s fiscal crisis are even more dire.
The state’s largest county is in “extreme fiscal stress” and could see a state financial review team to investigate the situation “at any time,” was the word from the former House Fiscal Agency Director Mitch Bean.
Contributing factors to the current financial crisis include a shrinking tax base, rising bond indebtedness, and rising pension costs. County leaders keep saying they are on the job and getting things done, but County residents I talk to want to know what and where has anything been done to address problems afflicting the county, and weighing us down as the rest of the State moves forward and rebounds from the Great Recession. We deserve leadership that will move our county into the future.
For too long our leaders have sat idly by while the situation worsens for the county. They have lamented the devaluation of property and the reduction in property tax revenue without effectively utilizing tools that are already at their disposal, nor trying to find creative solutions to these systemic problems. Whether this is due to incompetence, complacency or a lack of creativity, there is a clear need for change.
According to the latest MIRS poll, 77.8% of voters give a negative job rating to the County in handling the management of the County’s finances and budget. Nearly half those polled, 48.2%, believe that the CountyExecutive is most responsible for the County’s budget deficit.
I have taken time to consider WayneCounty’s fiscal situation. I have seen firsthand the perception of mismanagement viewed throughout the State, especially Lansing. Our U.S. President won’t be seen or photographed with WayneCounty leadership as evidenced by his last few visits. WayneCounty must realize and deal with the harsh reality that no one is going to come to our rescue. We must make the tough decisions now or the State will come in and do it for us.
I was a Wayne County Commissioner from 2001-2008 and know the county operations and budget process extensively. During my tenure as a commissioner I opposed many of the things we are reading about in the paper now.
Over the course of my two terms as a State Representative, representing Detroit and communities of WesternWayneCounty, I have built relationships and offered legislation that is key to WayneCounty’s survival. Besides an honored family history of public service, I am a lawyer and successful business owner with an MBA. I have been encouraged by friends and supporters to run for Wayne County Executive, and I feel that it is my responsibility to use my experience to help improve our county in any way that I can.
So I would like to announce today that with the help of supporters and concerned citizens, I am forming an exploratory committee to review the opportunity to run for Wayne County Executive.
State Representative Phil Cavanagh