Symposium examines 'Michigan in Transition'


The Journal of Law in Society (JLS) will host a symposium, “Michigan In Transition: The Restructuring of Governance Through Privatization and Corporatization,” on Friday, March 23 in Wayne State University Law School’s Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium.

This symposium, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., explores some of the major issues surrounding the social and economic trajectory of Detroit and other cities in Michigan, including a transformation occurring throughout the state — the restructuring of governance through privatization and corporatization.

The symposium also will address the issue of emergency managers, as well as whether this transition is desirable and how residents are affected.

Congressman Hansen Clarke will deliver the morning keynote address.

“The Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights is proud to partner with the Journal of Law in Society to address these critical issues,” said Peter Hammer, professor of law and director of the Keith Center. “Governance matters. The role of emergency managers for cities and the provision of essential services such as water and health care are not just economic issues. They are also civil rights issues and must be examined from a rights-based perspective.”

“Cities in Michigan are quickly transforming,” said JLS Symposium Director John Zervos. “If you have picked up a newspaper recently, you have read about emergency managers and you know that city services are being privatized. But what exactly does an emergency manager do and what is privatization? We are excited to look at these issues in this symposium.”

In addition to Clarke, eighteen experts from around the country will participate, including Professor Elliott Sclar, director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CSUD) at Columbia University, who will deliver the afternoon keynote.

The symposium will consist of three panels. The full symposium schedule is available at the end of this release.

The first panel will compare governance structure under the mayor-council and emergency manager systems of governance.

Michigan State University Extension specialist and economist Eric Scorsone will discuss the causes and consequences of economic stress in Michigan cities.

Former emergency manager of Pontiac Michael Stampfler will address corporate governance under the emergency manager, focusing on restructuring through hierarchical decision-
making and centralization of authority.

Detroit City Council Member Saunteel Jenkins will address governance under the mayor-council system and the importance of community input and deliberative democracy.

Linda Kaboolian of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, will focus on the value of unions, including working with unions for better service delivery.

The second panel will address the possible privatization of Detroit’s water and sewage system.

Environmental consultant and former assistant director at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Jim Ridgway will focus on how the current system functions.

Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch will present the suburban perspective on privatization. Shar Habibi of In the Public Interest will provide insight on competition, valuation and delivery under privatized systems.

Alex Beauchamp of Food and Water Watch will contribute with his grassroots expertise of water privatization in Atlanta and Chicago.

The third panel will address the privatization of health care focusing on the acquisition of the Detroit Medical Center by Vanguard Health Systems.

Marjorie Mitchell, executive director of the Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network (MichUHCAN), will talk about health care in Detroit. University of Michigan Professor of Law Peter Jacobson will compare health care governance under private and nonprofit models. Dr. Herman Gray of Children’s Hospital will address the Detroit Medical Center’s continued
commitment to charity care.

“A brief history of past Journal JLS symposia suggest a framework for our vision,” said Chelsea Zuzindlak, JLS editor-in-chief. “Following our 2010 symposium on Detroit as a post-industrial city and our 2011 symposium on the school-to-prison pipeline, it is clear that the Journal JLS is not just presenting problems in general terms. We are saying to the world: ‘Look at us [Detroit]. We are still here.’ And we have something to say about the solutions to the problems that plague not only our city, but also other urban regions in our nation and around the world.”

The symposium is free and open to the public.

Contact the Journal of Law in Society at (313) 993-4429 or with any questions.


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