On Friday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced that Detroit would have an Emergency Financial Manager appointed . The New York Times reports:
“There is probably no city that is more financially challenged in the entire United States. If you look at the quality of services for citizens it’s ranked among the worst. So we went from the top to the bottom over the last 50 or 60 years,” Mr. Snyder told Detroiters in a town-hall-style meeting that was broadcast live on local television stations across the city.
“It’s time to say we should stop going downhill,” he said. “There have been many good people that have had many plans, many attempts to turn this around, they haven’t worked. The way I view it, today is a day to call all hands on deck.”
The controversial EM law allows for Gov. Snyder to unilaterally appoint whoever he wants to run a municipality however they see fit. Yes, there is a three person panel to approve his choice but that’s little more than a rubber stamp. The Emergency Manager has the unlimited power to break union contracts, cut public workers salaries and benefits, sell off public property, fire duly elected officials and even dissolve the municipality. In other words, the law establishes a king and the rights of his subjects are suspended en masse.
The people of Michigan saw this law in action and were appalled by the disregard for the citizenry so they held a referendum in November and overwhelmingly voted it down. Gov. Snyder and his Republican controlled legislator promptly reintroduced the law and passed it except now it can’t be put on a referendum. Because the GOP strongly believes in concepts like “freedom” and “the will of the people.”
Detroit is, indeed, a mess. It has a staggering deficit and has been a favorite Republican example of a “failed” city for decades. It’s possible that an EM can come in and balance the budget but it will only be by cutting services and salaries. Raising revenue will not come by way of increased taxes on the wealthy or corporations. In a city with high unemployment and poverty, theses cuts will be devastating. Is Michigan really a state that balances its budget on the backs of those least able to afford it and is assuming the powers of an unelected dictator the way to do it?
Not everyone is convinced:
Leaders of the local N.A.A.C.P. in Detroit vehemently denounced the notion. “This is anti-democratic, not needed, and it’s against everything that this nation was founded upon,” the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the local chapter, said in an interview. “For one individual to be able to wipe out the duties of our duly-elected officials, that’s more or less a dictatorship and it’s against everything that America is supposed to be about.”
As Detroit is, by far, the largest population center in Michigan, this presents an exciting opportunity for Republican to break the public unions. They’ve already rammed through so-called “right to work” laws which have been proven, repeatedly, to lower wages and eliminate benefits by neutering private sector unions. Another fun thing Emergency Managers get to do is loot the municipality they are Lord and Master of. For a prime example of this, here’s Rachel Maddow’s reporting on the theft of the Pontiac Dome: