Conference on State Austerity and Local Fiscal Stress: Evidence from Wisconsin, Michigan, and New York

Woman holding microphone and speaking to an audience.
Karen Majewski represented the city of Hamtramck, Michigan, at the Conference on State Austerity and Local Fiscal Stress. William Staffeld / AAP
Woman gesturing and speaking to an audience.
Yunji Kim (Ph.D. CRP '17) represented the University of Wisconsin–Madison at the conference. William Staffeld / AAP
Woman addressing an audience with panel members in the background.
Community organizer Clair McClinton of Flint, Michigan, speaking during the panel discussion, "Austerity, Michigan Cities, and the Future." William Staffeld / AAP
People sitting at a table speaking to an audience.
Students from the Department of City and Regional Planning lead a discussion on emergency management in Michigan cities. William Staffeld / AAP
Woman with microphone speaking to panel and audience members.
Community members respond to issues during the student-led emergency management presentation. William Staffeld / AAP
profiles of Wisconsin, Michigan, and New York states
The Graphics for the Conference on State Austerity and Local Fiscal Stress. graphic / provided


Five years ago, the state of Michigan passed Public Act 436 to address fiscal stress in local government. The emergency managers appointed through this law assume most of the powers of locally elected officials to rebalance the checkbooks of struggling cities, counties, and school districts. But do these emergency managers really solve fiscal crises? The Michigan experiment in fiscal austerity is nowhere better demonstrated than in Flint, where the egregious missteps of public authorities contaminated the drinking water of thousands with lead and copper.

This conference examines the implications of Michigan's emergency manager law — for Michigan cities and for cities across the U.S. Speakers will discuss the impact of emergency management on local governance and the democratic process and consider the future of austerity on cities in Michigan and across the U.S. Planners and local officials are encouraged to engage in this discussion to reflect on strategies to best address fiscal crisis in American cities, keeping in mind the civic, economic, and social equity issues that lie just underneath the balance sheet.

This all-day conference is free and open to the public.

The event is sponsored by the Russell Van Nest Black Lectureship Fund, Cornell Community and Regional Development Institute, Engaged Cornell, the Fiscal Policy Institute, the New York State Conference of Mayors, and the Association of Towns of the State of New York.


Claire McClinton

Claire McClinton is a United Automobile Workers retiree born and raised in Flint, Michigan, who has been a leading community activist throughout the Flint water crisis.



Lindsey Smith

Lindsey Smith is Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter, having worked in both west and southeast Michigan, and has covered stories of emergency management in cities and school districts extensively.


Karen Majewski

Karen Majewski is the mayor of Hamtramck, a diverse city neighboring Detroit, and the vice president of the Michigan Municipal League. She has extensive experience in emergency management.


Yunji Kim

Yunji Kim (Ph.D. CRP '17) is an assistant professor in the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture at University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW) and an extension specialist in the Local Government Center at UW–Extension.


9:30–10 a.m.
Continental Breakfast

10–10:15 a.m.

  • Professor Mildred Warner

10:15–11:30 a.m.
Emergency Management in Michigan Cities

11:30–11:40 a.m.
Stressed Out!

  • Kenneth McLaurin, Jr.

11:40 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

12:20–2:10 p.m.
Colloquium: Austerity, Michigan Cities, and the Future

  • Yunji Kim (Ph.D. CRP '17), University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Lindsey Smith, West Michigan reporter, Michigan Radio
  • Karen Majewski, Mayor, City of Hamtramck
  • Claire McClinton, Flint community organizer

2:10–3:30 p.m.
Creative Responses to Stress in New York and Lessons from Other States

  • Professor Mildred Warner

3:30–4 p.m.
Panel Discussion: Next Steps for Local Governments

  • Barbara Van Epps, New York State Conference of Mayors
  • Chris Anderson, Association of Towns of the State of New York
  • Ron Deutsch, Fiscal Policy Institute

4 p.m.
Closing Reception