Do Michiganders have a right to local representation?

    Yesterday, I posted something here about the Emergency Financial Manager of Benton Harbor’s efforts to sell a community radio station for the paltry sum of $5,000. I saw the story as an illustration of the fact that, when it came right down to it, these Lansing-appointed replacements for our local elected officials didn’t really have good, sustainable plans for how to turn around the communities that they were being forced into. Their clear goal, I argued, wasn’t to facilitate the creation of new jobs, and salvage what could be salvaged, but to sell what could be sold, at fire sale prices, while gutting public services and breaking union contracts. And, the fact that, in the case of Benton Harbor, they were selling assest for as little as $5,000, it seemed to me, made it clear that they were trimming as close to the bone as one possibly could. (As someone noted, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw office supplies taken right off the desk of Benton Harbor’s City Clerk and put on Ebay next.) While I didn’t say that the Emergency Manager system was technically illegal, I did mention, as I had in the past, that the result, whether intended or not, was that many Michiganders no longer had the ability to vote for their own local representation. (Our friends at Eclectablog recently calculated that close to half of all black Michiganders now, thanks to this system, have been denied the opportunity to vote for local representation.) At any rate, the post triggered a number of comments on whether the Emergency Manager system is itself illegal, and I thought that I’d move one of the comments, left by Ypsi’s former City Planner, Richard Murphy, to the front page, in hopes that might generate some good discussion. Here it is.

    Not to throw gasoline on a fire–well, okay, kinda sorta for that purpose–but I’m curious to know where the “right” to have municipal government made up of officials elected by the local residents comes from, such that the Emergency Manager system would be “illegal”.

    Pretty sure it’s not in the US Constitution. Nor do I know that I’d call it any kind of natural right (though that would be an interesting question–would it mean that anybody who lives in an unincorporated area in states that have such thing is having their natural rights violated?).

    Also pretty sure it’s not in the State of Michigan Constitution. All that document says, to my knowledge, about local cities is The legislature shall provide by general laws for the incorporation of cities and villages. Such laws shall limit their rate of ad valorem property taxation for municipal purposes, and restrict the powers of cities and villages to borrow money and contract debts. Each city and village is granted power to levy other taxes for public purposes, subject to limitations and prohibitions provided by this constitution or by law., in Article VII, Sec. 21 — seems like that leaves it up to the legislature to determine how these incorporated cities and villages are managed.

    Finally, I’d note that a good many cities in Michigan are in fact already in the hands of appointed managers: under the council/manager form of government, the elected officials do not actually have control of the day-to-day operation of the city, or any ability to direct city employees — they appoint, not elect, a professional City Manager who handles all of that. How many people here are mortally morally offended by the presence of a City Manager, an appointed/unelected official, running our city? (Generally, this is considered a “progressive” system, in the classic sense of the term: reducing the opportunity for corruption in local government by insulating city staff from meddling elected councilmembers and placing them instead under the guidance of a professional.)

    I’m not trying to express either support nor disapproval of the Emergency Manager system–just to note that I can’t see any merit in arguments for the “right” to local elected government or that emergency managers are somehow “illegal”.

    Here’s my take on it… It may not be illegal, but it’s clearly wrong. Just like I know that it’s wrong for the federal government to hunt down and kill American citizens without trial, I know it’s wrong for the State to step in and unilaterally dispose of local community assets without the input of the citizenry. You can argue all you want, and post links to the Michigan constitution all day long – that doesn’t make it any more right. Michigan has turned its back on its middle class, and its poor, and those living in its aging urban communities, and now we’re being offered this false dilemmaShould we allow our cities to go bankrupt, or should we send in an Emergency Manager to ease us peacefully into death. I maintain there’s another solution – one that doesn’t involve cutting taxes on the rich to the tune of $1.65 billion dollars, and instructing our poor to spend the winter in tents.

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      22 Comments

      1. Posted February 15, 2012 at 7:16 am | Permalink

        The following comment was just left in a previous thread by Wobblie. I thought that I should repeat it here:

        Obviously EFM’s are legal. Does that mean that EFM’s are a legitimate expression of the popular will? I don’t remember a lively debate centered around new powers for EFM’s in the last governor election. If that was a key point of Snyder’s campaign, I missed it. Much like Walker in Wisconsin said nothing about his plans to eliminate collective bargaining in his election campaign.

        Most republican ultimately distrust democracy, that is why their argument is always, “there is nothing illegal in what we are doing” In the USA today, it is now legal to 1) assassinate citizens without due process 2) incarcerate people without any charges or due process, 3) ignore habeas corpus 4) Give artificial economic creations many of the same rights as humans 5) eliminate local city governments 6) allow unlimited corp. money to buy our elections.

        Does anyone believe that we would have voted for these measures? Or is it just our corrupt politicians who are bought and paid for by rich and powerful “people”, enacting these laws, so everything is nice and legal. Though slavery was legal in America, with every expansion of that institution, it lost more and more legitamacy, until the people rose in rebellion against it (see Bloody Kansas-the precursor to the civil war).

      2. Demetrius
        Posted February 15, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

        (I posted this comment on the previous thread, but it seems to fit better here.)

        Seems to me the Michigan Constitution is actually pretty vague about the issue of local governance. That said, nobody could argue that we don’t have a strong tradition of local control: Going back nearly to Statehood, every community from Detroit on down to the smallest township has had locally-elected representation. And, if put to a vote — which I hope will happen — it is hard to imagine that voters would want to overturn that.

        Meanwhile, attempting to compare a State-appointed “Emergency Manager” with having a city manager appointed by locally-elected officials is completely specious.

        The biggest difference is this: In a city like Ypsilanti, the City Manager is appointed by elected officials who represent 100% of the eligible voters — providing the potential for a relatively high degree of oversight and accountability. On the other hand, an “Emergency Manager” theoretically would be appointed by a Governor, for whom Ypsilanti residents would represent (at best) .0019% of his total electors.

        Frankly, I’ll take messy, fractious, amateur-led local democracy over having an unelected, unaccountable technocrat in charge of my community, any day.

      3. Demetrius
        Posted February 15, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

        On the debate about the “racial” aspect of this, I would also say this:

        Lately, whenever there is an article about the “Emergency Manager” legislation on any of the local or regional online news outlets, I’ve been struck by how often (and how quickly) the “comments” section takes on a ugly racial tone.

        For example, just yesterday, on AnnArbor.com, there was a very general editorial arguing that “Emergency Managers” were preferable to municipal bankruptcy for Michigan communities facing financial crisis — without any reference to any particular community, etc.: Yet, I can count on one hand the number of posts it took for commenters to pile on about “Detroit” and “those people,” and “a culture of corruption,” etc. And, I’ve similar (and worse) following similar articles and editorials from the Detroit News, Free Press, etc.

        Whether or not the “Emergency Manager” legislation was intended to be explicitly racist, it seems increasingly clear that there is a *very* racial aspect to much of the support for it.

        In fact, at times, it seems like many white suburbanites see it as a kind of “payback” for the excesses of Coleman Young and Kwame Kilpatrick, etc.

      4. Posted February 15, 2012 at 8:09 am | Permalink

        I was hoping to prompt us beyond the labels of “unelected”, illegal”, etc, to get a little refinement of what it is that is seen as wrong with the emergency manager system. So far, so good.

        As far as the discussion of the racial dimension, Demetrius, you seem to agree the fact that the EM legislation has supporters who are using racist arguments doesn’t make the legislation racist on its face — are you saying there’s an “as-applied” issue, or is it just that the EM legislation happens to affect cities with high poverty rates, which, not coincidentally, are a lot of the same cities with large minority populations?

        I think we can certainly find a “disparate impact” issue with the EM legislation, but it’s certainly not the cause of the disparate impact — we’ve spent decades creating and enforcing systems of segregation by race and income, and it’s going to take a lot more than repealing the EM legislation to fix that.

      5. Demetrius
        Posted February 15, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

        What I’m trying to say is that Governor Snyder and the Republicans in the legislature know that this issue is playing very well among a certain (significant) portion of their political base — essentially allowing them to demonstrate to these supporters that they are “sticking it” to Detroit (and other poor, largely-minority communities) — without it being technically, or explicitly racist.

        After all, overt political repression of racial minorities (poll taxes, literacy tests, etc.) are SO 20th Century. How much better (and more sophisticated) to cloak it all under the guise of “prudent fiscal management?”

      6. Edward
        Posted February 15, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        This really is our only alternative, seeing as how black people can’t govern themselves.

        (The above statement is sarcasm.)

      7. Meta
        Posted February 15, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        Mother Jones has an article up today on Pontiac’s EFM, Louis Schimmel.

        ……..Schimmel is also a former adjunct scholar and director of municipal finance at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank that shares his enthusiasm for privatizing public services. The center has received funding from the foundations of conservative billionaire Charles Koch, the Walton family, and Dick DeVos, the former CEO of Amway who ran as a Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2006.

        In 2005, Mackinac published an essay by Schimmel that called on Michigan’s Legislature to give emergency managers the power to impose contract changes on public-employee unions and “replace and take on the powers of the governing body.” When Republicans gained control over Lansing in 2010, Mackinac reprinted Schimmel’s article. Last March, the center celebrated when the Legislature implemented its prescriptions in Public Act 4.

        The Mackinac Center claims that Michigan could save $5.7 billion annually if public employees’ benefits were comparable to those of private-sector workers. Public-employee unions say cuts to public-sector jobs have only worsened the state’s economic woes with foreclosures and intensified reliance on state aid programs in cities like Flint, where the jobless rate was 17.5 percent at the end of 2011. “It’s an acceleration of the downward spiral,” says Brit Satchwell, president of the Ann Arbor Education Association, a teachers’ union. “Our goal is [to] outlaw government collective bargaining in Michigan,” wrote Mackinac’s legislative analyst in an email to a Republican state representative last summer. (The message was obtained by the liberal think tank Progress Michigan.)

        The Mackinac Center is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a clearinghouse for pro-business state legislation. (Its model bills have been linked to Arizona’s anti-immigration law and Wisconsin and Ohio’s collective bargaining bans.) James Hohman, the center’s assistant director of fiscal policy, was one of 40 private-sector representatives at an ALEC conference in December 2010 where, according to minutes from the closed-door meeting, participants hammered out model legislation that would align public- and private-sector pay and restructure state pensions. (Jonathan Williams, ALEC’s tax and fiscal policy director, did not respond to requests for comment.)

        Foundations affiliated with the Koch brothers have funded ALEC’s reports on state fiscal policy. The State Budget Reform Toolkit and Rich States, Poor States both echo elements of Michigan’s emergency-manager law, encouraging state legislators to target public employees and identify privatization opportunities. The most recent Toolkit report recommends that states create a “centralized, independent, decision-making body to manage privatization and government efficiency initiatives.” Michigan’s law grants far more sweeping powers to one appointee.

        Nearly one year after the passage of the emergency-manager law, its opponents are rallying to blunt its impact. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Detroit-based nonprofit Michigan Forward announced they’ve collected more than the required 160,000 signatures necessary to put the law up for referendum in November; they plan to deliver the signatures to the state on March 2.

        Democratic Rep. John Conyers has called on the Department of Justice to review the law in light of the Voting Rights Act and the contract clause of the Constitution. As the state treasurer’s office began a review of Detroit’s finances to determine whether the city is eligible for an emergency manager, Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow asked Gov. Snyder not to name any more emergency managers.

        The Detroit-based Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice has filed a lawsuit to block the law, claiming it violates the state constitution, including the home rule provision that defines residents’ rights to elect a local government. Tova Perlmutter, the law center’s director, says the suit isn’t just about Michigan: “If we win this case, it will give other state legislatures pause before pursuing similar laws.”

        The rest of the article can be found here-
        http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/michigan-emergency-manager-pontiac-detroit?mrefid=

      8. Busy Dying
        Posted February 15, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        Bingo.

        Thanks, Meta.

      9. K2
        Posted February 15, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Lots of things are legal. It’s apparently legal to lock someone up for years for selling pot, while letting investment bankers responsible for any number of crimes walk free (with bonuses). That doesn’t make it right.

      10. Redleg
        Posted February 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        One thing about a “hired” city manager: Do a shitty job and its at least possible to can his/her ass– Provided the electorate screams loud enough at their city officials. As for some EFM appointed by Rick the Slick, I feel even if the people scream until they’re blue in the face, all you’ll get is some folks passing out– With nothing changing, and powerless to do so….

      11. anonymous
        Posted February 15, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        While emergency managers may be legal, several courts have now found that the secret meetings during which it’s decided how they should be deployed, are in violation to the Open Meetings Act.

        My guess is that we’ll see the Open Meetings Act go away soon.

        Which will make everything nice and legal again.

        There are backroom deals being made by individuals who have long dreamed of breaking Michigan’s unions. It’s obvious that’s going on.

      12. Anonymatt
        Posted February 15, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

        Maybe if someone made some sort of entertaining documentary about local government in Michigan you’d understand it better.

      13. Meta
        Posted February 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        It looks like enough signatures have been collected to put the Emergency Manager Act on the ballot.

        Groups collecting petition signatures to force a vote on state appointed “emergency managers” that have been running several cities and school districts say they have done it: out of 161,300 needed, they’ve collected more than 200,000, according to The Associated Press.

        Activists in the state have taken to calling the emergency managers “local dictators” because of their sweeping powers. The law, signed by Gov. Rick Snyder (R), mandates that municipal entities facing bankruptcy be assigned a state appointed official who controls their budgets, ostensibly in an effort to fix the problems.

        Inasmuch as these managers have full charge of their assigned entities, they are empowered to cut public workers, slash services, sell off public infrastructure, cancel union contracts, overrule and even fire elected officials, and write all contracts as they see fit.

        http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/02/14/michigan-voters-recall-petition-emergency-managers-detroit/

      14. Meta
        Posted February 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        The Nation is taking notice as well.

        Everyone agrees that something must be done to “fix” Michigan’s struggling urban centers and school districts, although news of a $457 million surplus in early February prompted the state budget director to declare, “Things have turned.” But at what cost? In 2011 Governor Snyder stripped roughly $1 billion from statewide K-12 school funding and drastically reduced revenue sharing to municipalities. Combined with poor and sometimes corrupt leadership and frequently dysfunctional governments, these elements have brought Michigan cities to the brink of bankruptcy. Residents of the hardest-hit places have fled if they are able.

        The state’s first emergency managers—previously known as emergency financial managers—were appointed between 2000 and 2002 by Republican Governor John Engler in the cities of Hamtramck, Flint and Highland Park to prevent them from declaring bankruptcy. Although all eventually left when their job was done—the last in 2009—all three cities are back in the red. In January the Highland Park School District was assigned an EM. (That city—population 11,776—is 93.5 percent African-American.) Others followed, in Ecorse, Benton Harbor and Pontiac, as well as Detroit public schools.

        Under PA 4, EMs have proven to be a divisive solution. Outsourcing services to private companies and abolishing collective bargaining takes a page right out of the right-wing playbook: a 2011 report titled “101 Recommendations to Revitalize Michigan,” published by the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy, calls for ending “mandatory collective bargaining for government employees who already enjoy civil service protections.” Many are worried that EMs will hasten the gentrification of places like Benton Harbor, pushing out poor residents to make way for developers. In one of his first acts under PA 4, Joe Harris replaced nine people on the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and all nine members of the planning commission.

        Despite their relatively short history, EMs have a record of abusing their powers. This past summer Arthur Blackwell II, Highland Park’s former emergency financial manager, was ordered to repay more than $250,000 he paid himself. In Pontiac EFM Michael Stampfler outsourced the city’s wastewater treatment to United Water just months after the Justice Department announced a twenty-six-count indictment against the company for violating the Clean Water Act.

        Multiple efforts are under way to rid Michigan of PA 4. The first is a lawsuit brought in June 2011 by the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice and the Center for Constitutional Rights challenging the law under the state Constitution. Despite efforts by the Snyder administration to bypass the legal process and force the Republican-controlled state supreme court to hear the case immediately, the lawsuit is pending. Representative John Conyers is pursuing the issue through the Justice Department, arguing that the law’s impact on minority populations may violate the Voting Rights Act.

        But Michigan Republicans seem to be most concerned about a petition drive, organized by Michigan Forward, seeking a citizen referendum to overturn the law. As of mid-February the petition had more than 200,000 signatures, well over the number necessary to put the law on hold. The group plans to turn in the petitions on February 29. Since PA 4 replaced the law that created emergency financial managers, this could eliminate the positions in Michigan until the referendum is voted on in November.

        GOP lawmakers are discussing replacement legislation, with Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger warning about “the chaos that could ensue if the emergency manager law is suspended.” Since Michigan law prevents referendums on appropriations bills, PA 4 opponents fear that any such law will contain an appropriation to make it “referendum proof,” a tactic already used by the state GOP this year.

        The outcome of the citizen referendum and the constitutional challenges may well determine if laws like PA 4 remain unique to Michigan or become the national standard for dealing with impoverished urban areas. With the Indiana Senate having just passed an emergency manager bill of its own, we may be heading down that path.

        http://www.thenation.com/article/166297/scandal-michigans-emergency-managers

      15. Conan Smith
        Posted February 19, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

        Mark, your point about EM’s not being charged with developing sustainable strategies for a city’s turn-around is the most critical one to me. The long-term fiscal health of a city depends not on some quick-fix tricks like divesting assets or restructuring contracts, but on a community committing to a path to prosperity that may take decades to travel. The EM is decidedly not the individual to set that course — thank our lucky stars. Rather the EM’s optimal role is to right the ship — to come in, take (sometimes dramatic) corrective action to end a fiscal emergency and put the community back in a place where the threat of bankruptcy or insolvency isn’t a constant distraction.

        In my opinion, it’s when EM’s take their charge to mean more than that that we get the dictatorial exercise of power that people so rightfully fear. The decisions about systemic change in a community belong to the residents and the elected officials, and a good EM would be smart to recognize when the voice of the citizens should speak louder than whatever distant enabling legislation led them to that community in the first place.

      16. dragon
        Posted February 20, 2012 at 1:56 am | Permalink

        Why don’t you introduce yourself Conan Smith. Husband of state Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, boss of local know it all Murph.

        Mark, your point about EM’s not being charged with developing sustainable strategies for a city’s turn-around is the most critical one to me.

        That’s why i I have spent my time figuring out sustainable strategies for ypsi. But I will keep these sustainable strategies secret, hoping the citizens of Ypsi are stupid enough to believe my bullshit.

        The long-term fiscal health of a city depends not on some quick-fix tricks like divesting assets or restructuring contracts, but on a community committing to a path to prosperity that may take decades to travel.

        So you feel our pain? That’s nice.

        The EM is decidedly not the individual to set that course — thank our lucky stars.

        Conan Smith started things off. In addition to being the chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, he is the Executive Director of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, representing suburban cities that ring the metro Detroit area. Smith has gone on the record as generally in support of Public Act 4 saying:

        We absolutely need it.

        Rather the EM’s optimal role is to right the ship — to come in, take (sometimes dramatic) corrective action to end a fiscal emergency and put the community back in a place where the threat of bankruptcy or insolvency isn’t a constant distraction.

        What are these corrective actions? Please help us not be constantly distracted.

        In my opinion

        We know your opinion.

        “At the forefront of any emergency policy should be a respect for our democracy and a recognition that overriding a vote of the people is an act of last resort. Michigan citizens are also extraordinarily responsible individuals, rarely pointing the finger at another for their problems.”
        __
        But Mr Smith we are pointing the finger at business tax cuts of 1.6 billion while running a surplus.

        it’s when EM’s take their charge to mean more than that that we get the dictatorial exercise of power that people so rightfully fear.

        How can we prevent this?

        The decisions about systemic change in a community belong to the residents and the elected officials

        So why are you in favor of taking this right away from elected officials?

        and a good EM would be smart to recognize when the voice of the citizens should speak louder than whatever distant enabling legislation led them to that community in the first place.

        Are you also a stand up comedian?

      17. EOS
        Posted February 20, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        Conan,

        Have you paid back your unauthorized but reimbursed expenses yet?

      18. Demetrius
        Posted February 20, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

        I can’t believe I’m saying this … but I agree with Dragon.

        Trusting that unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats are going to listen to the “voice of the people,” is naive at best, and dangerous at worst.

        I’m becoming increasingly weary of “Vichy Democrats” who spend more time rationalizing and apologizing for the Republicans’ anti-urban, anti-worker, and anti-public education policies — than in developing and fighting for viable alternatives.

      19. Edward
        Posted February 20, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        Conan is a pragmatist. He’s working within the system. I believe his heart is in the right place, though, and he’s a good friend to have. The truth is, it’s going to take all of us working together to move things forward. And I appreciate the fact that he’s leaving comments here, unlike other elected officials. This is a good thing.

      20. Busy Dying
        Posted February 20, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        Conan,

        Thanks for your feedback (if this is, indeed, Conan).

        What you don’t mention–and it’s something at the bottom of local outrage about PA4–is the root cause of things like working-class public school systems “failing”: continued withdrawal of funding, thought, resources . . . in short: support.

        It’s like this: if you put a bandaid on a massive legwound, so that you can save sutures and gauze for your cronies, the person with the legwound is going to fail to thrive, to say the least. Then you want to send in a specialist to chastise the victim for his legwound, and to rummage around in drawers searching for other kinds of bandaids to put on it.

        It’s this fact–that Republicrats are more interested in material wealth than in human welfare–that the 99% have awakened to. Emergency Managers are a mistake, no matter what race / class you are, and no matter how much “tidying up” they appear to do. If you fail to take a stand on this issue, your base is eventually going to punish you at the polls (despite the fact that the Governor might hook you up with some sweet swag).

      21. Conan Smith
        Posted February 20, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

        Busy Dying, you’re absolutely right that the 30+ years of public policy that drained resources out of urban areas and essentially created the financial crisis that our cities on the edge (like Ypsi) now face is the real challenge. No EM’s going to really be able to save a city in this environment.

        I’d like to be able to point the finger exclusively at Republicans for the systemic disinvestment (and they have been more responsible than Dem’s, driving “reforms” to the revenue sharing formula, designing tax expenditure systems that push resources to exurban areas, leading the creation of infrastructure bonds that allow rural areas to have both high-quality roads and low taxes….I could go on) but the truth is that Democrats have been consistently complicit or worse. The Granholm administration, for example, with the support of a Democratically-controlled House slashed statutory revenue sharing to near meaningless amounts in order to fill holes in the state budget (a pass-the-buck strategy used by Engler before and Snyder after).

        Long diatribe…sorry. In short, state leaders haven’t taken care of cities the way they should. And they’re not likely to do an about-face and suddenly restore primacy to urban areas in the state’s investment strategies.

        So, if state funding or significant policy change is not forthcoming, what do you do in a community whose financial decisions no longer allow it to serve the basic needs of its residents? Do you let it fail? That’s one option…allow the decisions up and down the political hierarchy to run their course. But the consequences of a government’s collapse are simply too great. You have to have an emergency action policy.

        Now, my own approach to this is not that of this Legislature or those past. I do not believe that a singular hero can keep a city from insolvency. EFM, EM, whatever. I do agree that the State needs tools to ensure that a community is on the path to financial stability and that the leadership is held accountable to that outcome. Is take-over the ultimate action for consistent egregious behavior? Possibly. But we’ve yet to see a city — not Highland Park, Flint, Pontiac, Detroit, Hamtramck, Ecorse or Benton Harbor — where the local leaders were intransigent about financial reforms. Were some of them over their depth? Absolutely. But that is a time for mentorship, not dictatorship.

        About PA4 specifically….lots of people claim based on a handful of clipped quotes that I’m a proponent of the current emergency management system. I’m not. If you take the time to read the whole article (based on one short conversation with Ryan Stanton) that gave everyone the heebie-jeebies about me and the EM law, you’ll see that I’ve always thought it had huge problems.

        Michigan had an active Emergency Financial Manager law on the books (think Highland Park, Hamtramck, Benton Harbor, Ecorse and Detroit Schools) before PA4. That law had all the wrong-headed anti-democratic underpinnings that the current law does. Worse, it even failed to do the job it was designed for.

        PA4 made some serious and badly-needed improvements to that existing law. It raised the bar on overriding labor contracts. It allowed for earlier and softer State interventions. It permitted local elected officials to exercise some of the powers previously allowed only to an EFM. When I said, dragon, that we definitely needed it, that’s what I was talking about, and I meant it.

        PA4 also made some unnecessary and hideous politically-motivated changes. New managers have powers beyond addressing financial control, running to ordinances and even the existence of a community. The law goes too far — way too far — in empowering an individual in this way.

        Like many things that come from Lansing, PA4 has its good and bad sides. I think we’d be smarter as a state to only seat an Emergency Managers after a city has declared bankruptcy and craft a policy that focuses on how we provide elected officials (who are mostly lay-people) the support and resources they need to get their community back on track.

      22. dragon
        Posted February 21, 2012 at 2:02 am | Permalink

        Wow, replying to anonymous internet cranks. Props.

        When you point to articles that use the word ‘egregious’ to defend your position and use ‘hideous’ in this response one would wonder why you support such legislation.
        Why not use your platform to attack the cuts in statutory revenue sharing?
        Why do we have 700 million in cuts to education when we are running a surplus?

        1.6 billion in tax cuts plus 400 million surplus/ 9.88 million residents = 202.49 per person x 21,000 ypsi residents= 4.3 million.

        Why can’t we get liberals to defend local spending rather than efm austerity.

        Point to a business that has moved to Michigan because of the tax cuts, and provide evidence of the jobs that they have created.

        No EM’s going to really be able to save a city in this environment.
        Why didn’t you say this to begin with?

        About PA4 specifically….lots of people claim based on a handful of clipped quotes that I’m a proponent of the current emergency management system. I’m not. If you take the time to read the whole article (based on one short conversation with Ryan Stanton) that gave everyone the heebie-jeebies about me and the EM law, you’ll see that I’ve always thought it had huge problems.

        That’s the problem. You admit it has huge problems yet you are still a proponent of it. The ‘clipped’ quote are accurate.

        ___
        I would love it if you provided even one possible solution to cities like Ypsi that haven’t had local leaders that were “intransigent about financial reforms.”

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