Michigan’s emergency-manager law continues to undercut locally elected officials and benefit private corporations. Public Act 4, supported by Governor Rick Snyder and state Republicans, allows the Governor to appoint a single person to control a financially struggling city.
Mother Jones reports that Governor Snyder placed Louis Schimmel in charge of Pontiac, a city of roughly 60,000, last September. In less than six months Schimmel fired or outsourced nearly all city employees and departments, stripped city council of their powers and placed city properties up for sale. He even threatened to layoff the entire fire department.
Supporters say the law is needed to address the financial crisis affecting cities around the state as it “allows for a more efficient and nimble response.”
Critics point to the unprecedented power provided to the emergency-managers. They only report to the Governor, and unlike city council members they do not face the voters.
Asked by radio station WJR if the emergency-manager law hands power over to a “dictator,” Schimmel sighed, “I guess I’m the tyrant in Pontiac, then, if that’s the way it is.”
Pontiac joins Benton Harbor, Flint, Ecorse and a handful of school districts to be appointed an emergency-manager. Other cities worry they might be next. Highland Park Mayor DeAndre Windom recently put together a team of financial advisers to avoid the potential appointment of an emergency-manager. On the other hand, the local school district dropped its lawsuit to prevent the takeover.
A total of 48 school districts find themselves on the Michigan Department of Education’s watch list and an emergency manager could soon be in control.
Detroit may even be in the Governor’s sights. The city’s school district already has an emergency manager and the current mayor, Dave Bing, is trying to confront the issue before Governor Snyder steps in to “help.”
Upset citizens launched a petition drive to repeal Public Act 4 and could eclipse the 200,000 mark by the end of the month.
A coalition seeking to overturn Michigan’s law giving more power to state-appointed emergency managers said Monday it plans to turn in petition signatures at the end of the month to put the law on hold and force a vote on it.
The Stand Up for Democracy coalition needs to collect roughly 161,300 valid voter signatures to get the issue on the November ballot. It said it has collected more than 200,000 signatures so far and plans to turn them in Feb. 29 for state officials to verify.
“The fact of the matter is we really can’t wait anymore,” said Brandon Jessup, the chairman of Michigan Forward and a member of the coalition seeking to overturn Public Act 4 of 2011. “We’re doing great with the campaign and we want to move on to the next step.”
For more on the mentality of Pontiac’s city manager please consider reading the rest of the Mother Jones article. The details of Schimmel’s connections to free-market think tanks, the Koch brothers and ALEC are essential to the motivation behind emergency-managers. Also be sure to check out the great work being done by Eclectablog.
Photo by TFHall313