One of the problems with everything going haywire at once is the possibility of letting a really, really important thing go unnoticed. While we've all been looking at Wisconsin, Michigan could actually be facing worse, and more draconian measures intended not only to break unions, but the public schools, municipal governments and much, much more.
The Michigan Martial Law Act of 2011 is fast-tracking right onto Governor Rick Snyder's desk just in time to take center stage after the fact. Despite large protests in Lansing, it's getting very little press while the Wisconsin conflict continues.
According to the law, which has already been approved in the House, the governor will be able to declare “financial emergency” in towns or school districts and appoint someone to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, and eliminate services.
Under the law whole cities or school districts could be eliminated without any public participation or oversight, and amendments designed to provide minimal safeguards and public involvement were voted down.
An amendment to require Emergency Managers to hold monthly public meetings to let people know how they are governing was rejected by Senate Republicans, along with proposals to cap Emergency Manager compensation and require that those appointed to run school districts have some background in education.
It shouldn't come as any surprise that Detroit is one of the targeted cities. And while I wouldn't dare say it's race-motivated without some evidence beyond the obvious observation that Detroit is where Kwame Kilpatrick
is was mayor, Dave Bing is mayor, and is a city where over 80% of the population is black. No, I wouldn't suggest it's racially motivated at all, but then again...
[Republican State Senator] Brandenburg said several urban areas of the state, especially Detroit, are in “bad shape” and will need a state-appointed emergency financial manager, or EMF, who can impose strong medicine.
“He has to have the backbone, he has to have the power, to null and void a contract,” Brandenburg said.
The senator also rejected claims by Democrats that the bill will destroy Michigan’s long history of local control by allowing the EMF to remove top administrators and elected officials, put millage increases on the ballot, lay off employees, slash services, and merge the city or school district with a neighboring government entity. Brandenburg said the EMFs will be deployed in communities that need “financial martial law.”
“Local control? I’ll tell you what, I think that in a lot of these places there is no control,” he said
This law will give this Republican administration in Michigan the right to overturn the will of the people by tossing their elected officials out and moving the "backboned ones" in.
Michigan happens to be the home state of the DeVos family (of Amway fame), who has spent millions via their non-profit foundation to set up urban schools for privatization. Like Wisconsin, Rick Snyder received millions from the Republican Governors' Association and the Chamber of Commerce for his run in 2010. And like Wisconsin, Rick Snyder received plenty of extra help from corporate interests, from insurance companies to chemical companies to financial companies.
The coordinated efforts across these many states makes me wonder if they're violating RICO statutes. If ever there was an example of racketeering, it's what the US Chamber, Koch Industries, the Republican Governors' Association and corporate interests are doing in these states. While they railroad people everywhere, the stench of their arrogance rises like the odor of dead fish on the beach.