Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has begun the process of taking over Benton Harbor, Michigan, inserting an Emergency Manager from his own team to take over the operations of the town. From a press release from the Michigan AFL-CIO:
In the wake of a bill that was signed into law with high objection from the people, as it was a bill that threatened local communities, schools, townships, and municipalities, the first order has been officially issued in Benton Harbor. Joseph L. Harris has used his emergency manager powers to “exercise any power or authority of any office, employee, department, board, commission, or similar entity of the City, whether elected or appointed.” In addition, the Emergency Manager has the power to supersede any officer or entity and the power to act on behalf of the city.
“This is sad news for democracy in Michigan. It comes after the announcement of Robert Bobb in Detroit ordering layoff of every single public school teacher in the Detroit Public School system,” says Mark Gaffney, President of Michigan AFL-CIO. “With the stripping of all power of duly elected officials in Benton harbor and the attack on Detroit school teachers, we can now see the true nature of the Emergency Manager system.”
This is a real life instance of taking away our fundamental rights. In fact, the only thing City Boards, Commissions, Authorities or other entities may do without the approval of an Emergency Manager is to:
1) Call a meeting to order
2) Approve of meeting minutes
3) Adjourn a meeting
Everything else is under the Emergency Manager’s control. These new powers are taking away the will and voice of the people by stripping away the rights of public officials elected by Michiganders. By exploiting the current crisis situation, these emergency managers are able to ascertain unreasonable rules to completely control a city. This is a true case of political over-reach, and will simply add to the hardships of an already suffering populace in Michigan.
Benton Harbor is in an extremely dire financial situation, with over 40 percent of its population under the federal poverty line, and a median household income of less than $18,000 a year. But is the solution to fixing its problems to effectively dismantle the entirety of its local government and replace it with a governor’s appointee? And is that the plan for the other 100 local governments also on the “fiscal watch” list?
Snyder’s move to reject local government and insert his own authority is one that is being closely monitored out in Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker is considering the same moves on some critical areas in his state.
Following the lead of Michigan GOP Governor Rick Snyder, Walker is said to be preparing a plan that would allow him to force local governments to submit to a financial stress test with an eye towards permitting the governor to take over municipalities that fail to meet with Walker’s approval.
According to the reports, should a locality’s financial position come up short, the Walker legislation would empower the governor to insert a financial manager of his choosing into local government with the ability to cancel union contracts, push aside duly elected local government officials and school board members and take control of Wisconsin cities and towns whenever he sees fit to do so.
Such a law would additionally give Walker unchallenged power to end municipal services of which he disapproves, including safety net assistance to those in need.
According to my sources, the plan is being written by the legal offices of Foley & Lardner, the largest law firm in the state, and is scheduled to be introduced to the legislature in May of this year.
With the election of numerous Republican governors in 2010, and a country still recovering from economic crisis, what is to stop all of the governors from simply declaring financial marshal law on struggling localities, and enforcing their own public policies onto them over the will of their elected officials?
Are these governors doing away with local government all together?