Emergency Management or Republican Takeover? When Michigan Turns Red

Dec 10 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

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The Great Lakes State of Michigan has long been a “swing state” of sorts for many years; we regularly switch from being a “Blue State” to a “Red State”, and the state as a whole is generally more right of center. Despite voting for President Barack Obama overwhelming in 2008 and having a Democratic governor from 2002 through 2010, Michigan simultaneously has passed several right-wing initiatives and elected a seemingly moderate Republican governor in the 2010 election.

Some of the less progressive laws that have been passed or enhanced in the past few years include voting against marriage equality, turning back the medical marijuana law and shutting down all medical marijuana clinics, and most recently, denying health insurance coverage to domestic partners who are public employees. Former governor Jennifer Granholm successfully led Michigan to provide health insurance for domestic partners (gay or straight), but that set of benefits was one of the first to be reversed by the present Republican-led legislature.

Of all of the Republican-led reversals of liberal and progressive initiatives, the one that is causing the most angst recently is the “Emergency Manager” legislation, or Public Act 72, which was first passed in 1990. Public Act 72 authorizes the state to intervene in units of local government that experience “financial emergencies.” Emergency managers have already been placed in the cities of Benton Harbor, Inkster, and Pontiac, Michigan, as well as in the Detroit Public Schools.

The Republican-led House and Senate recently passed legislation that allows the state to intervene earlier as the State deems. The City of Detroit, which is very close to running out of cash to run the city, has been notified that the State will begin the process of appointing an Emergency Manager with expanded powers to take control of the City and the City government. This imminent process is causing much consternation in the city, the state, and even on the national media, with Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC both reporting on the possibility of one-half of the African-American population in Michigan being governed under an Emergency Manager.

The main worries are that the Emergency Manager will 1) void all recent election results by removing all City elected officials, 2) void all City union contracts, 3) suspend or eliminate all City pension payouts, and 4) privatize most or all City services. Is that what could possibly happen in the City of Detroit in the next few months?

The current Republican governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, is very aware of the pressure on him not to intervene in the economic dealings of the City of Detroit. Mr. Snyder has written a “explanatory document” posted on the State of Michigan website that seeks to dispel any “misconceptions” about the Emergency Manager Act. At first glance, it seems as if the EM will be put in place only to protect the citizens of Detroit.

But on closer reading, one notices that the governor can appoint an EM if local officials do not “take the steps necessary to prevent a financial emergency.”  The governor and his appointed staff are the determiners of those “steps”.

Stay tuned: Governor Rick Snyder has already started the process of appointing an Emergency Manager for the City of Detroit. Dave Bing, the mayor of Detroit, and the Detroit City Council, the legislative body of the City, are working hard to avoid a state takeover.

We will be watching closely what the governor of Michigan does next. We will be watching very closely.

 

 

 

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