Monday, December 12, 2011

Emergency Managers coming to a city near you

I make no pretense of journalistic neutrality; I have a dog in this fight, ME an American citizen, resident of Michigan, The Great Lakes State. Proud granddaughter of a U.S. Navy Chief who served his country before and during WWII. Daughter of a woman who worked all her life to acquire medical benefits in the state of Michigan to sustain her in her retirement; those benefits are in jeopardy.

The Emergency Managers, unelected officials tasked by Governor Snyder, have the power to assume control of any city or school district in Michigan so deemed near insolvency, regardless of plans in action to resolve financial problems. Those powers granted to the Emergency mangers include but are not limited to; disbanding city councils, hog-tying the hands of city managers, mayors and other officials charged with the well-being of their respective municipalities and re-negotiating or nullifying any contract.

For those of you pressed for time, Rachel Maddow lays it out succinctly in her video piece entitled Michigan Emergency Managers: the most under-reported story of the year. For the rest of you, I got off my soapbox for most of this article and behaved as a journalist should.

First on the block: Benton Harbor.

In MCL 141.1501 the act spells out the whys and wherefores of the Emergency Managers act revised, 2011. Joseph L. Harris was appointed to Benton Harbor, Berrien County Michigan. WJSM reported the following on April 15, 2011 of Harris's actions the previous evening;
"Harris had issued an order on Thursday stating that the elected leadership of the city may no longer hold votes on any matter, other than to start a meeting, adjourn a meeting, and approve a meeting's minutes. Issuing such an order is allowed under Michigan's recently updated emergency financial manager law, and this is the first time an EM has actually used that authority. Harris could also suspend the city commission altogether, but he told us previously that he wasn't planning to take that step."

The apparent reason Harris did not take the next step is outlined in the Emergency Manager City of Benton Harbor Berrien County Michigan order no.: 11-32 which details Harris' re-writing of the Benton Harbor city charter.

Next on the block: Flint

Chris Savage (aka Eclectablog) reported on December 6th, 2011 the following;
I said that he was “essentially firing the the Mayor and City Council”. This is 100% true. He cancelled all future City Council meetings until further notice, eliminated their benefits and stopped paying them. That’s firing the city government, no matter how you slice it.

Those actions taken by the Flint Emergency
Manger Michael Brown are what field crisis mangers like to call "escalation."

Pontiac acquired Emergency Manager Lou Schimmel in September. He previously served in the same capacity in Hamtramck and Ecorse. One of his questionable actions was to outsource policing to Oakland County.

And then there is Detroit

Detroit Public schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts took over in May, 2011. This sets the precedent in real time, of putting every public teacher and employee, in jeopardy of loosing their job. It also puts the retirement packages of every current and former school system employee in jeopardy as well. Remember the Emergency Manager has the ability to re-negotiate or nullify existing contracts, including those of retirees. In that light, let us look at a financial fact regarding the cost to the taxpayers of the state of Michigan.

Parents have been concerned for their children's safety for years in Detroit; however Emergency Manager Roy Robers has no such concerns. According to a report by channel 7 Action News (ABC) reporter Ross Jones on December 8, 2011:
"For the first eight months of the year, district police officers racked up more than $80,000 just in overtime to protect Roberts and his predecessor Robert Bobb. Bobb left the district earlier this year.

Roberts’ two guard routinely work long nights that sometimes stretch into the next morning. They even provide weekend protection. On a Saturday in October, one guard’s day started at 7 AM, and didn’t end until 12 hours later. He wasn’t alone. Roberts’ second security guard was working that Saturday, too. He didn’t leave until 12:30 the next morning—logging almost 17 hours of overtime."

U.S. House Representative John Conyers has finally weighed in. According to David Shepardson/ Detroit News Washington Bureau who filed a report two days ago, Conyers asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review the constitutionality of the Emergency Mangers. From the article by Shepardson:
"Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter Dec. 1 to Holder asking him to review whether the state's emergency manager law is constitutional and to intervene, if necessary, to block it. '(Holder) told me he got the letter and he's going to act on it.'"

And finally, Mayor Dave Bing who has been tasked with cleaning up the mess former Mayors Colman Young and Kwame Kilpatrick made of the already ailing city of Detroit;
"I didn't come into this position to be an emergency manger. I was voted in to be mayor, but I do think the team that we have, including myself, are the best team that we can put in city government to get us out of this situation today." Johnathan Oosting, MLIVE Friday December 9, 2011

As an independent journalist, I will continue to beat the drum for public awareness and direct action on this issue until those Occupiers in Michigan: Lansing, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Midland, Bay City, Saginaw, Clair, St Ignace, Mackinaw City, Escanaba, Monroe, Detroit, Jackson, Ann Arbor, Muskegon, Lake Shore, St Joseph, Grayling, Alpena and my hometown of Rochester wake UP and stand UP to Gov. Snyder to say NO! to the existing Emergency Managers as well as all future plans to preserve any type of EM in this state.

To the rest of the country:
Pay attention, you will see this again and again and again unless you stand UP.
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Comment from the old site:
11:36 am Friday December 9. 2011
As I was writing the above summary of the Emergency Managers in Michigan, Michigan Radio published the following regarding Muskegon Heights Board of Education:
"The Muskegon Heights School Board plans to take the unusual step of asking for a state takeover. And they say they want Marios Demetriou, a Deputy Superintendent at the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, to be the person who servers as their emergency manager."

Unusual to be sure. Muskegon Heights will be only the second public school system in Michigan to have an Emergency Manager. There is no guarantee an Emergency Manager will be appointed, certainly not right away. Moreover, there is quite a few classes prospective Emergency Mangers must pass in order to qualify for hiring status. Read about the education requirements at:,4643,7-123-1593_3507_5914_44075-224313--RSS,00.html

Read the rest of the article here:

More to come . . . to be sure.

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