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“This legislation is an end-run around the last constitutional step left to our citizens to stop bad legislation passed by the Legislature, that being the petition initiative,” state Sen. Glenn Anderson, a Democrat from Westland, said in a statement. “This action by the Republican-controlled Senate and House ignores the will of the people and subverts their right to place the emergency financial manager legislation before a vote of the people.”

The possibility has put Detroit Mayor Dave Bing in a tough position. He has attempted to negotiate with the city’s 48 employee unions. He has asked for concessions in wages and benefits to stop the state takeover. The City Council last week approved 10 percent pay cuts for the few nonunion city workers.

The mayor is also in the process of laying off about 1,000 city employees, a painful process for city police, firefighters and bus drivers along with many from the white-collar ranks. If spending is not stemmed, the city faces a budget shortfall by April and could not cover payroll and essential city services.

Former Mayor Dennis Archer, speaking on WJR-AM radio’s Frank Beckmann show Dec. 19, says union pension and retiree health care costs have been the 100-pound weight on the city for many years. Detroit, he added, cannot keep up the heavy payment burden, and he called on the current council and government to find their own solutions now on these legacy costs, something he thinks can keep the state away from Detroit’s door.

Mr. Roberts, the former treasurer, however, calls it not just a Detroit problem, but an issue that affects everyone in the state. He dubs Mr. Bing’s efforts “sincere,” but says if an emergency manager is ultimately put in place, “the single biggest loser would have to be the mayor.”

He compared the city’s legacy woes with what ultimately sunk General Motors Corp. into bankruptcy protection - a move that ultimately gave the company a chance to turn its fortunes around.

“I think everyone here is trying to walk a little gingerly because they know every step is fraught with difficulties,” he said. “The union could take a step that says we disagree and we understand and will come to work and sue you in court. Or, the other step is they say we disagree and are not showing up. That is a serious issue.”

He said he hopes Detroit’s leaders will use the little bit of time they now have to work on a mutual solution, but he is not optimistic.

“I think ultimately an [emergency financial manager] is going to have to be appointed,” he said. “Some people in Detroit already support [the move], and that is not the same ones who necessarily show up for mass rallies.”