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Maintaining the "Status Quo" in Flint

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s Emergency Financial Manager says his job hasn’t changed, despite Tuesday’s vote to repeal Michigan’s controversial Emergency Manager law.

Flint voters strongly supported repealing the law. Their city is among those that have complained the most about the draconian measures the law permitted state appointees to take.

Ed Kurtz took over as Flint’s emergency financial manager after the law was suspended earlier this year.  So he’s had less power to reduce Flint’s spending than his predecessor.  Kurtz says Tuesday’s vote effectively leaves the “status quo” in place in Flint. He says his focus is on not worsening the city’s debt.

“We’re only four months into a fiscal year where our hope is to come out of it with a balanced budget at the end of the year.” says Kurtz, who plans to leave his post in Flint next June.

Kurtz says Flint is still facing a financial emergency, with 17 million dollars of debt.

There’s something else that this week’s election isn’t changing in Flint.  The city’s drug enforcement policy is staying the same.

Flint city leaders say they plan to ignore a vote Tuesday by city residents to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

Supporters of the ballot measure say allowing people over the age of 19 to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana would free up Flint’s overburdened police department to focus on violent crime.

But city leaders describe Tuesday’s vote as “symbolic”, insisting it does not “decriminalize” pot in the city of Flint.

Public Safety Chief Alvern Lock says his department will continue to write tickets for misdemeanor marijuana possession.    The tickets can result in a fine of up to $500 or 90 days in jail.

“We’re still police officers. And we are still empowered to enforce the laws of the state of Michigan and the United States,” says Lock. 

The marijuana ballot measure passed by about the same percentage Tuesday as a property tax increase that will generate about five million dollars for Flint’s beleaguered police and fire departments.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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