Groups and cities gear up to challenge emergency manager legislation
Published: June 29, 2011
An estimated 2,000 volunteers will be circulating petitions in the coming months. Slightly more than 161,000 valid signatures are needed to get the question of repealing the law — known formally as Public Act 4 — in front of voters. Although they have until the spring of next year to achieve that goal, organizers intend to have the petitions delivered to the Secretary of State by as early as September.
That timing is important, says spokesman Greg Bowens, because if the requisite number of signatures are collected and validated, a stay is placed on the law until voters can have their say. In other words, implementation of Snyder's plan to take away the power of local elected officials will have to be put on hold.
The effort, which is receiving financial backing from organized labor, features the coming together of various constituencies — from progressive activists to teachers and municipal employees to faith-based groups. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH organization is also involved.
Bowens, in an attempt to put the issue into perspective, asked News Hits to imagine what the reaction would be if the U.S. Congress passed, and the president signed, a law declaring that any state unable to achieve a balanced budget and control its debt would have its legislature disbanded and its governor removed from office, with an appointed manager put in place to run the state as he pleased.
"People would go crazy," says Bowens. "There would be a civil war."
But it's just that sort of usurpation that Snyder and the Legislature are trying to impose on Michigan. "It is a naked power grab," asserts Bowens.
So naked, he says, that the repeal effort is even attracting the support of some on the far right who are philosophically opposed to the sort of expansion of government power that this law represents.
In the past, it has been communities that are largely poor and composed primarily of people of color that have had emergency financial managers imposed on them. But now, with communities of all types feeling the financial hardships that were caused not by mismanagement but a nationwide economic crisis, everyone is at risk.
With Wall Street's largely unregulated manipulations leading to the collapse of the housing market, local budgets dependent on property taxes have been decimated by the tsunami of foreclosures that has been under way for years. That, coupled with cuts in revenue sharing from the state, has even once well-to-do communities facing the risk of takeover.
Which has brought us to a point where some fundamental questions need to be answered.
Are we going to stand by and watch the essential principles of our democracy eviscerated in order to, as Bowens says, protect a credit score? Or are we going to rise up and give Snyder a much-needed lesson in how democracy really works?
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