February 21, 2013
By COREY WILLIAMS | Associated Press
The fiscal crisis plaguing Detroit is now in the hands of Michigan’s governor after a state-appointed review team determined the city was in a financial emergency with “no satisfactory plan” to resolve it.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has 30 days to decide if Detroit needs an emergency manager to take charge of its finances and spending, and come up with a new plan to get the city out of its financial mess.
After spending weeks looking at the city’s books, the independent review team released a report Tuesday saying Detroit’s deficit could have reached $900 million last fiscal year had it not borrowed enormous amounts of money. The city’s long-term liabilities, including underfunded pensions, are more than $14 billion.
The report also said the city’s bureaucratic structure makes it difficult to solve the financial problems.
Some fiscal experts believe the city's only way out may be municipal bankruptcy, but state Treasurer Andy Dillon said answers could be found if the city and state work together.
“It’s our hope at the state level that this is a partnership. It doesn’t have to be adversarial,” said Dillon, a member of the review team. “A lot of the ingredients for the turnaround of the city are in place. Now we just need to execute. I do believe strongly that Detroit is fixable.”
But over the last nine months, that relationship has been strained. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and the nine-member City Council entered into a consent agreement with Snyder in April that allowed some state oversight and help with Detroit’s finances — short of cash infusions — in return for certain fiscal reforms. However, the city often missed deadlines and benchmarks.
The ongoing cash crisis has threatened to leave the city, which has a current budget deficit of $327 million, without money to pay its workers or other bills. Dillon said the city has been running deficits since 2005, and masking over them with long-term borrowing.
“I stand with Detroiters and other stakeholders that the pace of change has been frustratingly slow,” said Gary Brown, City Council president pro-tem. “The political will has often not been there to make the necessary and bold fiscal reforms. ... Without a doubt we need the support and accountability that a State of Michigan partnership offers. We cannot address our legacy obligations alone.”
Under state law, Snyder has 30 days following the review team's finding to decide for himself whether there’s a financial emergency. Bing would have 10 days to request a hearing. The first-term governor could then revoke his decision or appoint an emergency manager.
The emergency manager would be responsible for overseeing all of the city's spending. Bing and the City Council would keep their jobs, but the manager would decide all financial matters. And only the manager would have the power to authorize the city to take the bankruptcy route.
James McTevia, president of a Michigan-based firm that specializes in turnaround management, said an emergency manager could halt the city’s borrowing, freeze debt and restructure finances, including voiding contracts.
“The checkbook needs to be taken from the politicians,” he said.
However, others said that even with an emergency manager, municipal bankruptcy may be the city’s only option.
“Is it imminent? Well, not tomorrow,” said Doug Bernstein, managing partner of the Banking, Bankruptcy and Creditors’ Rights Practice Group for Michigan-based Plunkett Cooney law firm. “You need to give a financial manager the opportunity to formulate a plan and let the plan have a chance to succeed or fail. It may not avoid a bankruptcy, but you don’t need to do a bankruptcy today.”
Bing said Tuesday's report shouldn’t have surprised anyone.
“My administration has been saying for the past four years that the city is under financial stress,” Bing said in an emailed statement. “If the governor decides to appoint an emergency financial manager, he or she, like my administration, is going to need resources — particularly in the form of cash and additional staff.”
Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said the governor will carefully review the team’s report.
“He won’t make a determination immediately, but sooner rather than later,” she said. “The governor believes that a strong and successful Detroit is key to Michigan’s continued comeback.”
If Snyder appoints an emergency manager, Detroit would be the sixth and largest city in Michigan to have one. The cities of Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Pontiac, Flint and Allen Park are currently under state oversight. School districts in Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights also have managers.
A new state law taking effect in late March gives local governments the chance to choose their own remedy when a review team finds a financial emergency exists. However, Detroit loses those options if an emergency manager is put in place before the new law goes into effect, said Department of Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton.
The six-member review team began looking closely at Detroit’s books in mid-December. Another team had done the same about 12 months earlier, but stopped short of declaring a financial emergency. That team’s findings eventually led to the consent agreement in April.
February 21, 2013
Bernette Johnson was sworn in Friday February 15 as the first black chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, less than four months after her colleagues resolved a dispute over whether she was entitled to the position.
Johnson took the oath of office during a brief ceremony a day after her predecessor, Catherine “Kitty” Kimball, formally retired. A public ceremony marking her investiture is scheduled for February 28 on the courthouse steps in the French Quarter.
“After serving for 10 years as a district trial judge, and then as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, I feel well-prepared for the tasks ahead as the chief administrative officer of the judicial system of the state,” Johnson said in a statement. “I am ready to serve, and excited about the challenges of this new position.”
Johnson filed a federal lawsuit in July 2012 after her colleagues said they would debate whether she or Justice Jeffrey Victory, who is white, had the seniority that entitled them to succeed Kimball.
U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan ruled in September that Johnson had more seniority, but stopped short of ordering the state’s highest court to name Johnson as Kimball’s successor.
The Louisiana Supreme Court ended the racially tinged power struggle in October, ruling that Johnson’s years of appointed service count when deciding which justice is “oldest in point of service” under the state constitution.
Voters elected Johnson in 1994 to the state appeals court, and she was assigned to the Supreme Court as part of settlement of an earlier lawsuit that claimed the system for electing justices diluted black voting strength and violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. She served an eighth Supreme Court district centered in New Orleans until the court reverted back to seven districts in 2000, when she was elected to the high court.
Victory joined the court in 1995, a year after Johnson, but said her years of appointed service shouldn’t count.
Johnson, Victory and a third judge who stood to be second-in-line if Victory’s argument prevailed were recused from debating the matter.
February 14, 2013
Key events in the expansive, ongoing manhunt for Christopher Dorner, the fired Los Angeles police officer suspected of killing three people — including a police officer in Southern California — and posting a manifesto on Facebook outlining plans to kill the families of those he says have wronged him, all times approximate:
— Sunday, Feb. 3: An assistant women’s college basketball coach and her fiancé are found shot to death in their car in Irvine, Calif. Police learn later the woman was the daughter of a retired Los Angeles police captain who represented Dorner in disciplinary hearings that resulted in his dismissal from the force.
— Monday, Feb. 4: Some of Dorner’s belongings, including police equipment, are found in a trash bin in suburban San Diego, linking him to Irvine killings.
— Wednesday, Feb. 6: Police announce finding Dorner's manifesto online.
— 10:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 6: A man matching Dorner’s description makes a failed attempt to steal a boat from a San Diego marina. An 81-year-old man on the vessel is tied up but otherwise unharmed.
— 1:30 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 7: LAPD officers, protecting a person named in the manifesto, chase a vehicle they believe is Dorner’s. One officer is grazed in the forehead by a bullet during a shootout, and the gunman flees.
A short time later, a shooter believed to be Dorner ambushes two Riverside police officers during a routine patrol. One officer is killed, and the other critically injured.
— 2:20 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 7: A shuttle bus driver turns in a wallet with an LAPD badge and a picture ID of Dorner to San Diego police. The wallet was found fewer than five miles from the boat, near San Diego International Airport.
— 5 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 7: LAPD officers guarding a manifesto target in the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance open fire on a truck they mistakenly believe to be Dorner's. A mother and daughter delivering the newspaper are injured.
A short time later, Torrance police are involved in a second shooting involving a different truck they also mistake for Dorner’s. Nobody is hurt.
— 8:35 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 7: Police find a burned-out pickup truck near the Big Bear ski area in the San Bernardino Mountains. Six hours later, authorities identify it as Dorner’s.
— 9:40 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 7: Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego is locked down after a Navy worker reports seeing someone who resembles Dorner. Military officials later said Dorner had indeed checked into a hotel on base earlier in the week — on Tuesday — but had left on Wednesday.
— 4 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7: Authorities search a Las Vegas-area home belonging to Dorner and leave with several boxes of items. They say no weapons were found but decline to disclose what was discovered.
— Friday, Feb. 8: Dozens of searchers hunt for Dorner in the freezing, snowy San Bernardino Mountains after losing his footprints near the site where the truck was found. Authorities search Dorner’s mother’s house in La Palma and collect 10 bags of evidence and also take five electronic items for examination. Police also search a storage locker in Buena Park.
— Saturday, Feb. 9: Helicopters equipped with heat-seeking technology resume search for Dorner in the mountains near Big Bear. Authorities reveal that weapons and camping gear were found in Dorner's burned truck.
— Sunday, Feb. 10: Authorities announce $1 million reward for information leading to Dorner’s arrest.
— Monday, Feb. 11: Riverside County prosecutors charge Dorner with murdering a police officer and the attempted murder of three other officers in a potential death penalty case. Authorities receive more than 700 tips since the reward was announced.
— 12:20 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 12: Police are summoned after a man resembling Dorner steals a purple Nissan in the San Bernardino Mountains. The vehicle is quickly spotted by California Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens on Highway 38. After briefly losing the suspect, the wardens see a white pickup truck driving toward them erratically and at a high rate of speed. Wardens say Dorner rolled down his window and opened fire as he drove past them in the opposite directions.
One of the wardens was able to get out and fire at the driver, who escaped on foot after crashing his truck.
— 12:40 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 12: State Fish and Wildlife wardens are involved in a shootout with the suspect. Two San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies are wounded in a second exchange of gunfire and are transported to Loma Linda Medical Center.
— 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 12: Police surround the cabin where the suspect is holed up and gunfire erupts before a blaze engulfs the structure and law enforcement officers wait for the fire to burn out.
— 4:50 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 12: A San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman confirms one of the two wounded deputies has died, and the other is in surgery and expected to survive.
— 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 12: A law enforcement officials tells the AP a charred body has been found in the rubble of the burned cabin. They don’t confirm the identity, although authorities earlier said they believed the man in the cabin was Dorner.
February 14, 2013
By Randall Chase and
Katie Zezima Associated Press
Jazz musician Donald Byrd, a leading hard-bop trumpeter of the 1950s who collaborated on dozens of albums with top artists of his time and later enjoyed commercial success with hit jazz-funk fusion records such as “Black Byrd,” has died. He was 80.
He died Feb. 4 in Delaware, according to Haley Funeral Directors in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Mich., which is handling arrangements. It didn’t have details on his death.
Byrd, who was also a pioneer in jazz education, attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit, played in military bands in the Air Force and moved to New York in 1955. The trumpeter, whose given name was Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II, rose to national prominence when he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers later that year, filling the seat in the bebop group held by his idol Clifford Brown.
He soon became one of the most in-demand trumpeters on the New York scene, playing with Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. He also began his recording career by leading sessions for Savoy and other labels.
In 1958, he signed an exclusive recording contract with the Blue Note label and formed a band with a fellow Detroit native, baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, making their label debut with the 1959 album “Off to the Races.” The band became one of the leading exponents of the hard-bop style, which evolved from bebop and blended in elements of R&B, soul and gospel music. A 1961 recording, “Free Form,” brought attention to a promising young pianist, Herbie Hancock.
In the 1960s, Byrd, who had received his master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, turned his attention to jazz education. He studied in Paris with composer Nadia Boulanger, became the first person to teach jazz at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and started the jazz studies department at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Byrd began moving toward a more commercial sound with the funk-jazz fusion album “Fancy Free” in 1969, taking a path followed by fellow trumpeters Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard. He teamed up with the Mizell brothers to release “Black Byrd” in 1973, a blend of jazz, R&B and funk that became Blue Note’s highest selling album at the time.
Jazz critics panned Byrd for deviating from the jazz mainstream, but he was unperturbed.
“I’m creative; I’m not re-creative,” Byrd told the Detroit Free Press in a 1999 interview. “I don’t follow what everybody else does.”
Byrd invited several of his best students at Howard to join a jazz-fusion group called the Blackbyrds that reached a mainstream audience with a sound heavy on R&B and rock influences. The band landed in the Top 10 on the R&B charts with the mid-'70s albums “Street Lady,” “Stepping Into Tomorrow” and “Place and Spaces.”
In 1982, Byrd, who also had a law degree, received his doctorate from New York’s Teachers College, Columbia University, and turned his attention from performing to education. Byrd, a longtime resident of Teaneck, N.J., was a distinguished scholar at William Paterson University and twice served as an artist-in-residence at Delaware State University.
Byrd didn’t have much training in mathematics but created a groundbreaking curriculum called Music + Math (equals) Art, in which he transformed notes into numbers to simultaneously teach music and math.
“I can take any series of numbers and turn it into music, from Bach to bebop, Herbie Hancock to hip-hop,” he told The Star-Ledger newspaper of Newark, N.J.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, he returned to playing hard-bop on several albums for the Landmark label, which also featured saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Joe Henderson.
He performed on Guru’s 1993 jazz-rap album, “Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1,” and his recordings were sampled on more than 100 hip-hop songs by such performers as Black Moon, Nas, Ludacris and A Tribe Called Quest.
In 2000, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized Byrd as a Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor.
Zezima reported from Trenton, N.J. Associated Press writer Charles J. Gans in New York contributed to this report.
February 14, 2013
City News Service
An admitted drug courier was sentenced this week to five years probation and ordered to pay $2,000 in fines for scheming to bribe ex- Transportation Security Administration agents at Los Angeles International Airport to help smuggle marijuana onto a flight. Charles “Smoke” Hicks, 24, of Culver City, acknowledged in a plea agreement working with Millage J. Peaks IV, a retired Los Angeles city fire chief’s son, who promised to pay $500 for each suitcase containing marijuana that cleared security at LAX, according to prosecutors. A second admitted pot courier, Andrew “Drew” Welter, 25, of Fontana, is expected to be sentenced April 8.
Peaks, 25, admitted to bribing former TSA employees Dianna Perez and Randy Littlefield to allow pounds of marijuana to pass undetected through the LAX screening process between November 2010 and October 2011. The marijuana was being flown from Los Angeles to Boston, according to court papers. Peaks was sentenced to a year in federal prison and ordered to pay a $6,000 fine. Littlefield, 29, of Paramount, was sentenced to eight months behind bars, and also ordered to serve three years of supervised release. Perez is scheduled to be sentenced March 25.