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Benton Harbor emergency manager strips power from all elected officials

April 16, 2011

(This article from Todd Heyward is re-posted from Michigan Messenger.)

The Emergency Financial Manager of the city of Benton Harbor has issued an order striping all city boards and commissions of all their authority to take any action.

The order, signed Thursday, limits the actions available to such bodies to calling a meeting to order, approving the minutes of meetings and adjourning a meeting. The bodies are prohibited under the act from taking any other action without the express authority of the Emergency Financial Manager, Joseph Harris.

Actions such as Harris’ are explicitly allowed under a newly approved law, which granted sweeping new powers to emergency financial managers. That legislation had drawn large protests, including attempts by some protesters to take over the state capitol building. The sit-in resulted in numerous arrests.

Harris’ move comes as Detroit Public Schools’ emergency financial manager Robert Bobb announced that he would use powers granted to him under the act to change union contracts.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Henry permalink
    April 16, 2011 9:27 pm

    That didn’t take long, did it?

  2. April 17, 2011 1:03 am

    The following is something that, surprisingly (to me), got blocked from two Facebook comment discussions of this event, including the comments section where this article was published through GRID and Jeff Smith. The jist of the first FB comment thread included an overall denial of the role of racism in these community take-overs (whether an African American is found to be overseer or not) from all sides of the discussion, pro or con.


    Oh BS… the communities facing take-over are largely filled with the remnant populations of those whose have been most negatively affected by a legacy of classism/racism, and a corporate greed (read: white guy supremacy) that does not wish to invest in the basic welfare of domestic populations enough to make sure that their urge for profit won’t supersede the basic civil and ethical requirement of preserving basic rights and agency due every person and at the core of what the Founders envisioned.

    These communities have been economically abandoned in a largely successful movement by the super rich (who are overwhelmingly Caucasian, by the way, and thereby imbued with the unfortunate and undeniable legacy of racism in this country. Undeniable.) to disenfranchise working people, the disabled and permanent poverty class, even further so they can enhance their profit position as the overall resource pool shrinks… and shrinks largely due to inept business management and a stubborn adherence to an economic model that is full of holes, based on bizarre myths of the possibility of permanent growth, and that has been proven to be built on the shaky and quivering ground of a sustained and ever larger class of have-nots… wrong wrong wrong.

    This is the economic model they hope will be helpful in rescuing these communities? It’s what has gotten these communities destitute in the first place!

    But then, racism/classism is tricky this way, and useful to the power elite in that they do not have to take any responsibility for their ineptitude. We have seen lately that they are more often REWARDED for it! They can go on to blame the residents for this predicament, residents who are largely made up of people who are quite successfully segregated from the power brokers, and largely not white. The elite do not have to listen, aren’t anywhere near enough to them to really hear. The fact that they cannot even imagine that the people in the communities they are disenfranchising might have the answers they seek to repair the damage the power brokers and their honky forbearers did is a completely alien idea.

    Nope. This is racismbraided with classis in the largest part and a power and resource grab … that Benton Harbor is to serve as the experimental first city in this new approach is telling.

    Although I will say that there is plenty of waterfront property there for gated communities, don’t you think?

  3. ben permalink
    April 17, 2011 11:21 am

    so what course will the city take to fight this? will they allow it to happen until a judge rules it illegal? They should tell them what they are doing is illegal and ignore the new emergency manager. Throw the emergency manager in the city jail.fight back!!!!
    if a law is unjust it is their civic duty to disobey it.

  4. Kevin Murphy permalink
    April 17, 2011 4:35 pm

    How would “conservatives” react to this if it was done by Democrats? It just shows they don’t really stand for anything. Where does all the Militia groups stand on this? I guess its o.k. if Republicans take our freedom away.

  5. Jim S permalink
    April 17, 2011 6:23 pm

    Murph, It’s already been done. Governor Granholm appointed emergency managers in Three Oaks (2008), Pontiac (2009), Ecorse (2009) and Benton Harbor (2010). All the new law does is better define when and how emergency managers can be appointed and what their actual function is. Let your search engine find “Michigan Public Act 72 (1990)” and you will also see that Governor Engler appointed emergency managers too.

  6. Jeff Smith permalink
    April 17, 2011 6:58 pm

    I would agree with Jim in the policy of Emergency Managers has been a bi-partisan policy in Michigan. The difference with what Snyder has implemented is the “incentives” portion for local municipalities, which includes consolidation, cutting government employee staff, cutting pensions and health benefits and push to privatize services. These “incentives are not only designed to break public sector unions, but diminish local democracy. Grand Rapids seems to agree with the Governor’s approach as it seeks to cut wages/benefits/pensions of workers, consolidate services and even privatize the water/sewage services.

  7. Kate Wheeler permalink
    April 17, 2011 8:59 pm

    I also think it is significant that under the new legislation, Emergency Financial Managers can overturn election results…and redraw boundaries of cities if they wish to do so. This is tantamount to redistricting without citizen input.

    Theoretically, this would allow a governor, through the agent of a EFM, to get rid of a mayor from another party…local government that opposes the sitting governor’s views…and create districts that will fall into line with the sitting governor’s party in the next election.

  8. May 21, 2011 4:21 pm

    Thanks for shirnag. What a pleasure to read!


  1. Benton Harbor emergency manager strips power from all elected officials (via Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy) « The Wobbly Goblin

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