Schuette, Orr obstruct scrutiny of PA 436
Emergency Managers and the color of money.
Published: May 5, 2014
As a result of this law, more than half of Michigan’s African-American population is living under emergency management, state-imposed consent decrees, or financial advisory boards (which are put in place, with a high degree of control over local decision-making after emergency managers leave office).
Whether the law is being applied equally, or is being used in a manner that discriminates on the basis of race and class is one of the issues the court is being asked to decide.
Taken all together, critics of PA 436 say there’s no doubt what the answer should be.
“The law is blatantly unconstitutional,” contends attorney Julie Hurwitz of the National Lawyers Guild, which is one of the representatives of plaintiffs in the case. At issue is an attack on due process, free speech issues, and the Voting Rights Act. The law, it is alleged in the suit seeking to have it overturned, even violates the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery.
“The stigma of PA 436 is that African-Americans are incapable of self-government,” says attorney Herb Sanders, another member of the team representing plaintiffs in the case. “I submit that the denial of the right to vote through the exercise and implementation of PA 436 is to impose the badge and incidents of slavery.”
For Murphy, though, none of those allegations represents a “plausible” issue. In that sense, he’s like a traffic cop at the scene of an accident, telling people to keep moving because there’s nothing for them to see.
Instead, Murphy argued, this is really just a monetary issue. If a city is on unstable financial ground, then the appointment of an EM to take control is both justifiable and legal.
“The analysis is based upon money, not the color of the community,” he said. “The only color we’re dealing with is green.”
Judge Steeh said he will decide soon whether to dismiss the case or allow it to move forward.
Curt Guyette is an investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan. His work, which focuses on Michigan’s emergency management law and open government, is funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation. You can find more of his reporting at aclumich.org/democracywatch. Contact him at 313-578-6834.
> Email Curt Guyette