Stephen Henderson: A few weeks ago, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans came to brief the Free Press editorial board on the county’s fiscal situation. And after he left, I said it had been like déjà vu – the exact same issues outlined with the same urgency, as former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing had done with the board back in early 2012.
Unpaid pension liabilities. Declining tax base with too little opportunity to expand or re-grow. Over-spending in departments where cuts would do serious damage to critical services.
The county’s $50 million annual shortfall is snarled with a $5.4 billion unmet pension liability that could easily be the predicate for the same solution that befell Detroit: bankruptcy.
Evans, a former sheriff and Detroit police chief, says he can fix it without that kind of drastic action. He says if county officials work together, and make smart but deep cuts, the country’s finances can be salvaged.
For several weeks now he has been working with his team of advisers on a turnaround plan, and now he’s ready to begin filling the community in on the way forward, in a series of town hall-style meetings all over the county.
Stephen speaks with Executive Evans about his plan to push the county toward stability in the future.
“I can see light at the end of the tunnel. Is it going to be painful? Yes, it is going to be painful. Can we continue to provide services to Wayne County residents in a reasonable way? Yes, we can,” says County Executive Evans, “Can we survive this and get to better times, where hopefully we can put most of this behind us? I think we can, and we can do it without an emergency manager, or bankruptcy, if we have a team approach to it.”