Saunteel Jenkins, the newly elected president of the Detroit City Council, says that despite the arrival of an emergency manager, the Detroit City Council, contrary to public opinion and perception, still has some legislative work to do.
Jenkins in an interview days after her ascension to the presidency of Detroit’s legislative body following the sudden disappearance of Charles Pugh, said the City Council is not sitting idly by, even as Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr tackles the budget and legacy costs.
Rather, the council, she said has been meeting to pass resolutions, ordinances and introducing zoning measures in the city as well as ratify or disapprove of contracts that become before the legislative table.
“I expect that this next five months are going to be challenging because we are working with less members than we started with,” Jenkins said. “So it is going to be challenging for all six of us. We do not only have to be council members but now we have less staff to work with with three cosolidated policy divisions.”
Jenkins said the council is now dealing with three departments: Fiscal Analysis, Research, and Development and Planning.
“We have reduced the number of staff and cut our administrative staff by half,” Jenkins said. “The council still has a role to play because we are writing and passing ordinance through our committees and passing or canceling city contracts. We are prviding the transparency in city government that you won’t get from the executive branch. Because anything related to council is dicsussed openly.”
Jenkins maintained that, “For me, the bottom line is we still took an oath and that was we would serve the city in the legislative. Fortunately, Kevyn Orr approved the council’s budget for the new fiscal year.”
Jenkins said if the city enters chapter 9 the council will still be in place. However, she hopes Orr is able to prevent a bankruptcy and she said the city cannot be solvent in 18 months when Orr leaves.
“Given the past practices that got us here in the first place, I certainly don’t think we would be financially solvent in 18 months,” Jenkins said.
“I do believe that a road map would be put in place for us to move toward financial solvency. The bigger question is, are we willing to elect people and hold them accountable?”