Many don’t like having an EM but believe their city would be worse off without one and overwhelmingly prefer EM over bankruptcy court

According to a survey commissioned by Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM) in May, the majority of Michigan voters in cities with Emergency Managers (EM) 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 (EM) 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 only Benton Harbor residents believe their city is on the right track.  In Benton Harbor, the majority of residents responded positively when asked about management under the EM, citing better public safety, garbage pickup and management of the city.  Forty-eight percent of residents believe Benton Harbor is on the right track and 34.5 percent 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 the same in the next year, all four cities were optimistic about their future with Benton Harbor residents being the most optimistic about their future.

Q. And thinking ahead about the next year, do you think things in [BENTON HARBOR/ECORSE/FLINT/PONTIAC] will get better, get worse, or do you think things will stay about the same?

The majority in Benton Harbor, Ecorse and Pontiac residents believe that things would have worsened without the appointment of the EFM (45.5 percent, 49.5 percent and 39.0 percent, respectively) and the majority of Flint believe the situation would not have changed.  In no city do respondents believe things would have improved had an Emergency Manager not been appointed.

Q. If an Emergency Financial Manager had not been appointed for [BENTON HARBOR / ECORSE/ FLINT/ PONTIAC], do you think things in the city would be better, worse or would they have stayed the same?

“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. “While there is no silver bullet to helping our distressed cities, 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.

Q. If an Emergency Financial Manager had not been appointed for [BENTON HARBOR/ECORSE/FLINT/ PONTIAC], 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, would you prefer that your city go into bankruptcy or would you prefer that your city have an Emergency Financial Manager?  If neither, ask:  and what would be your solution?

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.  The chart below compares answers of those who approve, disapprove, or have no position on the appointment of an Emergency Manager v. the bankruptcy process for their city.

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.

Q. Who has done a better job of managing the city budget – city council or the emergency financial manager?

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 overall survey has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percent with a 95% level of confidence.  The survey results for each individual city have a margin of error of +/-6.8 percent with a 95% level of confidence.   The complete survey and crosstabs can be found at:

About Business Leaders for Michigan:

Business Leaders for Michigan ( is a private, non-profit executive leadership organization dedicated to making Michigan a “Top Ten” state for job and economic growth. The organization is composed exclusively of the chairpersons, chief executives or most senior executives of Michigan’s largest companies and universities, which provide over 320,000 jobs in Michigan, generate over $1 Trillion in annual revenue and serve over 135,000 students. The organization’s work is defined by the Michigan Turnaround Plan, a holistic, fact-based strategy to get Michigan’s economy back on track. Visit for more information.

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