Michigan activists claim enough signatures for ‘emergency managers’ recall

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 10:31 EDT
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A statue called "The Spirit of Detroit," wearing a Pistons NBA jersey in 2005. Photo: Flickr user femaletrumpet02.
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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.

So far there are emergency managers in the cities of Flint, Ecorse, Benton Harbor and Pontiac. The state has also appointed officials to oversee the Detroit and Highland Park school districts.

One example of the emergency managers’ power: a Benton Harbor public radio station was recently shut down by an emergency manager, and its equipment was put up for sale on auction website eBay.

The city of Detroit, as well, faces the possibility of getting an emergency manager, but Gov. Snyder said Tuesday that he did not want the state to take over the city. The governor has assigned a group to review Detroit’s finances and make a recommendation as to what the state should do to help, and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has made avoiding an emergency manager his top priority.

The governor’s review group is expected to render a decision at the end of the month, but voters could potentially nullify that if the “Stand Up 4 Democracy” group has their petition signatures verified by then. Activists hope their ballot initiative will force the law to be placed on hold pending a vote by the citizens in November.

The emergency managers law was also facing a legal challenge, and Gov. Snyder has asked the state’s Supreme Court to hear the case as soon as possible.

The video below was broadcast by MSNBC on Friday, Feb. 10, 2012.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Photo: Flickr user femaletrumpet02.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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