From the Michigan Messenger:
The impoverished former industrial town of Benton Harbor has become a flashpoint in the controversy over the new law that allows the governor to appoint Emergency Managers with virtually unlimited authority over local governments.
On Thursday the state-appointed Emergency Manager Joe Harris used the expanded powers granted by the new law to issue an order banning the city commission from taking any action without his written permission.
Benton Harbor City Commissioner Juanita Henry says her constituents are angry and looking for help, but without the power to hold meetings the city commission canâ€™t even provide an official venue for citizens to ask questions and get answers.
â€œThey are using Benton Harbor as a test case,â€œ Henry said. â€œIf they have disenfranchised the people so badly they just donâ€™t respond to anything, they can do this all over the country.â€
According to the article, Benton Harbor is home to the corporate headquarters of Whirlpool. However, the last manufacturing plant shut down earlier this year, and half the population lives below the poverty line. And the city is broke. Last year Gov. Jennifer Granholm approved a state takeover of the city’s finances because the city couldn’t make payroll. But this year, the new Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled legislature passed a law that gives the emergency manager dictatorial powers. This is from the Michigan Messenger, March 11 —
Under the law whole cities or school districts could be eliminated without any public participation or oversight, and amendments designed to provide minimal safeguards and public involvement were voted down.
An amendment to require Emergency Managers to hold monthly public meetings to let people know how they are governing was rejected by Senate Republicans, along with proposals to cap Emergency Manager compensation and require that those appointed to run school districts have some background in education.
Back to the current situation — instead of trying to help Benton Harbor get back on its feet, it appears the state is determined to loot what’s left of it to benefit the corporate overlords. For example, a city park was privatized and is being turned into a luxury golf course.
Then the appointed city manager tried to cut the fire department. The city commission was able to stop that, but now the city commission has, in effect, been dissolved. So if you live in Benton Harbor and your house catches fire, maybe the Whirlpool executives at the golf course will send over a few buckets of ice cubes.
Detroit is also under Snyder martial law, and emergency manager Robert Bobb (do they call him Bob Bobb?) has just laid off all of the city’s teachers. All of them. Every one. E.D. Kain writes,
Bobb has said he will take advantage of the new Financial Martial Law known as Public Act 4 to â€œunilaterally modifyâ€ the districtâ€™s collective bargaining agreement with the Federation of Teachers.
Get this —
So who is Robert Bobb?
It turns out, heâ€™s a recent graduate of the Broad Foundationâ€™s Superintendent Academy. The Broad Foundation, along with the Kellogg Foundation, pays Bobb $145,000 a year on top of his $280,000 government salary. For those of you not familiar with Broad, it is one of the leading foundations promoting school choice and privatization across the country. One might almost think that paying a public official hundreds of thousands of dollars a year might amount to nothing short of bribery, especially given the very specific agenda of a foundation like the Broad Foundation. …
… This is nothing short of a coordinated effort between the billionaire foundations pushing school reform and Tea Party conservatives intent on slashing benefits and ending collective bargaining rights. Public schools are under assault by the forces of privatization, and public school teachers face benefit and salary cuts while the very rich are promised tax cuts. Similar efforts are underway in Florida and Wisconsin.
Basically, a bunch of Republicans took control of the legislature, voted themselves dictatorial powers, and now the state is being run by an oligarchy. And they’re doing it in the name of liberty.
On the plus side, the campaign to recall Gov. Snyder is underway.
Also in the Michigan Messenger — a Michigan state senator has introduced a budget proposal that would deny funds for new clothes for children in foster care. Instead, for their clothing allowance foster children will be given gift cards that can be used only in second-hand shops like Goodwill.
Elsewhere — rich people want you to take pity on them.