Benton Harbor, Michigan's city government was shut down yesterday by the state Emergency Financial Manager. Elected officials in that city are now limited to calling a meeting, adjourning a meeting, and approving minutes of a meeting. Beyond that, they can do nothing.
This is a complete disenfranchisement of an entire community, an entire large city in my state. The voters are now denied the ability to be governed by the people they elected in a democratic election.
This is nothing short of an abridgment of democracy in raw form.
I will have more as this develops. I can only assume a lawsuit will be forthcoming. The news is so fresh it has not yet hit the major news outlets.
Interesting statistic: Benton Harbor is 92.4% African American with an annual median household income of $17,471 with 42.6% of the population below the poverty line. St. Joseph, the next city south of Benton Harbor on the shores of Lake Michigan and just on the other side of the Paw Paw River is 90.3% white with an annual median household income of $37,032.
All of Detroit's public school teachers were told they would receive layoff notices yesterday, along with the 250 school administrators.
"I fully intend to use the authority that was granted," Bobb said, referring to a new law that gives emergency managers the authority to modify -- or terminate -- collective bargaining agreements. It was the first time Bobb had publicly indicated he intends to use the expanded authority.
Robert Bobb is the Detroit EFM. His latest action sparked a protest calling for his ouster.
Detroit's demographics: 82% African-American, 12% white, median household income $26,098 in 2009, down from $29,506 in 2000.
In February, Bobb converted 41 of the district's schools into charter schools, after ordering half of all the district's schools shut down. Class sizes in Detroit are now 60 students in some schools.
In Wisconsin, Scott Walker is working to break unions by stripping their right to bargain. In Michigan, Rick Snyder is working to break unions by staging a coup of city governments in the name of fiscal "crisis", and then breaking the union contracts. But strangely, Michigan's efforts thus far appear to be focused on cities with high percentages of poor and minority populations. Other cities in Michigan are struggling with budget problems too, and yet only Detroit and Benton Harbor are the targets of Emergency Fiscal Managers?
Michigan's population overall has declined over the last 10 years at a steep rate. Without jobs, people are leaving the state to look elsewhere. Those declines affect school districts across the state, not only in Benton Harbor and Detroit. Yet these are the two cities that are the first targets for totalitarian state control.
Detroit in particular has been targeted as a school voucher program city, largely due to the unrelenting efforts of the Michigan-based DeVos family. Breaking the unions opens the door for private, for-profit Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) to enter the district and take over schools. This is, I believe, Snyder's ultimate goal.
First take over the city because of a "crisis". Break the contracts. Bring in outside for-profit organizations to run charter schools. Then call yourself an "innovator".