Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
Just a quick note about the media's new-found fascination with the idea of dissolving the city of Highland Park so that the regional water authority can assume its $26 million debt. Frankly, I find the coverage of this story rather humorous. Do people have any concept of how municipal corporations really work? In our federal system, the states are sovereign; municipalities are entirely creatures of the state. Even if a financial emergency is once again declared in Highland Park, a new emergency manager is appointed, and the city ultimately becomes a Chapter 9 debtor, no federal bankruptcy judge will have the authority to order the disincorporation and dissolution of the city. It would violate the 10th Amendment.
True, the Michigan Legislature could do one of these things:
1. Amend the relevant provisions of the Home Rule City Act, MCL 117.1 et seq., to allow for consolidation of the cities of Highland Park and Detroit without a vote of the electors in the affected areas. Otherwise, without such an amendment, any consolidation would require approval by the voters in both cities and would also require the convening of a new charter commission upon consolidation. MCL 117.6; MCL 117.15; see also Taliaferro v Genesee Co Bd of Super's, 354 Mich 49; 92 NW2d 319 (1958); or
2. Pass a local/special act consolidating the two cities. However, this would require a supermajority vote in each house of the Legislature and would still require a vote of the electors living in the affected areas. Const 1963, art 4, sec 29.
I acknowledge that under MCL 141.1552(1)(cc), an emergency manager is authorized to "disincorporate or dissolve the municipal government and assign its assets, debts, and liabilities as provided by law" with the governor's approval. But, as noted, there is currently no declared financial emergency and no emergency manager appointed in the city of Highland Park. Moreover, any municipal disincorporation/ dissolution pursuant to MCL 141.1552(1)(cc) would still require an affirmative vote of the electors of the city.
I don't think the Michigan Legislature will be in any big hurry to dissolve the city of Highland Park. I know of no reason why the present legislative majority in Lansing would be inclined to let the city of Highland Park evade its financial obligations. Nor is it likely that the current legislative majority would be willing to spread Highland Park's debt across the other communities in the water district (which includes Oakland and Macomb counties).
Maybe U.S. District Judge Sean Cox knows something that I don't. But I doubt it. In the end, all this talk of municipal dissolution just seems like a pie in the sky idea without any real legs.