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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Late Great State of Michigan

Maybe this story has passed you by, but if you live in Michigan, you need to get up to speed. Folks in other states, you should also take heed, because you could be next.

Except for Rachel Maddow, most reporters have either ignored this nightmare or focused only on parts of it, such as the threat to collective bargaining, leaving basic issues untouched. Finally, however, a voice of reason from Traverse City has called the new law by its rightful name, so if you’re anywhere in northern Michigan, pick up the current copy of Northern Express and read Stephen Tuttle’s take on Michigan’s newest and possible worst law in history. Bless Steve’s heart! Tuttle gets to the heart of the matter. This is indeed, as he calls it, a coup d’├ętat, taking power away not only from voting, taxpaying, law-abiding citizens but also from their local elected officials. Government is not a corporation, should not be run like a corporation, and should not be run by corporations, but the people of Michigan may be waking up too late on this one.

The hostile take-over didn’t happen overnight. The question is, can it be turned around? And if so, how? Our State Supreme Court has long been on the side of monied interests, and I don’t look to them to see the unconstitutionality of this law. The problem with Michigan’s Supreme Court go way beyond which party is in power, too. Partisanship and favor-owing are the problem.

If you can’t get your hands on an Express, here’s another quick overview of the story on the new Michigan law. And for those with time and interest, here’s the Michigan House bill passed February 23 that led to the new law.

(My attempts to access Public Acts 4 and 7, created by these house bills, “did not return a result.” The search engine speculates that the act may be too new to have been added into the database as yet. What do you suppose is the holdup?)

When is your local government in trouble with the state? Read Section 12 carefully, noting that only one (1) of the triggering difficulties need be present for the state to review. The diagnosis is then “probable financial stress,” and if you’re stressed, obviously someone else needs to step in. Forget elections, forget self-governance. What are the powers of the Emergency Manager? See Section 19.

So far, most of the reporting on Michigan’s new law has focused on the danger to collective bargaining rights. There’s a hell of a lot more at stake. Is it “paranoia” to be worried?

(1) “He doesn’t mean us. He means Detroit.” Law is law, friends. It doesn’t name names, and it applies across the board. No exceptions. If we wait to worry until the review lands on our doorstep, we deserve what we get.

(2) “He just wants to motivate towns and school districts to get their acts together, and if they do that they don’t need to worry.” Budget cuts at the state level will have effects at the local level. A town or school district may not be financially stressed at the moment, but—look out! The floor could drop out from under us tomorrow.

(3) “Crisis calls for crisis management.” When a crisis is over, the law will still be in place, and the governor’s budget priorities will still have a great deal to do with who the sacrificial lambs will be. Getting rid of an Emergency Financial Manager once one has been put in place may turn out to be next to impossible

(4) “He only wants what’s best for Michigan.” So you would trust to the benevolence of someone with dictatorial powers, trust that person to be “on your side”? How many people in Third World countries have tried that?

We're supposed to govern ourselves. Or is that too hard? Would we rather close our eyes and be led backwards? Just so it would be clear where to point the finger of blame?


Gerry said...

Well, the People, in our collective wisdom, have elected a Governor whose whole life has been spent in the maximization of corporate executive benefit to the detriment of practically everyone else. Why on earth should we be surprised at the result? I figure this is pretty much how a bright-eyed forward-thinking country always becomes a third world backwater. So long as we insist on thinking of ourselves as exceptions, we will march on to our fate.

Deborah said... will bring you to the current issue. I found Tuttle's article online.

P. J. Grath said...

Thank you, Deborah. Here’s the link:

Gerry, I don’t think even his whole Party knew how far Snyder was prepared to go. Local Republicans don’t like this any better than local Democrats. Loss of local control? Who wants that?

Want to know more? Already know that you want this law repealed? Here's the schedule of public events for our area in the coming days:

Town Hall meeting on this subject Thursday, 3/31, Traverse City Library, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Rally on Front Street, Traverse City, across from Horizon Books, Saturday, 4/2, noon-3 p.m.

April 5 at the Hagerrty Center, 7:15 E. Front St., 6:30-8:30 p.m., State Senator Howard Walker and State Representative Wayne Schmidt will hold a Town Hall meeting on the Emergency Financial Managers law.

Dawn said...

Scary and thought provoking all at the same time.

P. J. Grath said...

"Scary" is why we need to pay attention and deal with it.