Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Entire MI city stripped of democratic rights

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is building an army of emergency financial managers to take over municipalities across the state. About 400 financial professionals, lawyers and others have started classes in Lansing on topics like "Dealing with the Unionized Workforce." Bloomberg quotes the training participants, and what they have to say is frightening:
"It enables qualified professionals to walk around cities and towns in Michigan and say, 'How can I help?'" said Michael Imber, a principal in Grant Thornton LLP’s corporate advisory and restructuring services group.
“A SWAT team is an OK way to look at this,” said Michigan State University's Eric Scorsone, an economist who helped organize the class with the turnaround association.
Corporate stooge Snyder signed a law in March giving power to emergency managers to take over Michigan schools and communities and abrogate union contracts. Now, these trainees will be taking over the jobs of Michigan's elected leaders.

Already, the impact has been felt in places like Benton Harbor, where an emergency financial manager appointed by Snyder has taken charge and issued an order taking away all powers of the city’s elected officials. DailyKos reports Joseph Harris, the financial manager, fired people on the Planning Commission and the Brownfield Development Commission in Benton Harbor and replaced them with his own picks. These commissions deal with real estate development and permits.

Real estate development is a big issue in Benton Harbor, a town that is 85 percent African American and has an average per capita annual income of $10,235. The residents of the town don't have much. Whirlpool pulled out its last manufacturing plant in March, taking all the jobs with it. What they do have is a nice waterfront community park.

Whirlpool has now decided to build Harbor Shores, a $500 million golf course and residential development, on the land where the park is part of a "public-private partnership" (translation: corporations looting the government) that will only help the wealthy visiting public, not the poor resident public.

The emergency financial manager bill was sponsored by Al Pscholka, the former aid to Rep. Fred Upton, a Whirlpool heir. Pscholka "represents" an area that includes Benton Harbor and is a former vice-president of a development company responsible for building Harbor Shores.

Benton Harbor's residents can't complain to the state because their park falls under local jurisdiction, and they can't complain to local leaders because they don't have any! What they have are emergency financial managers who have a stake in building a golf course. And since when does building a golf course constitute a financial emergency?

The residents of Benton Harbor won't be spending any time teeing off. An annual family pass to Harbor Shores costs $5,000, half the yearly income for a family in Benton Harbor.

There's a rally in Benton Harbor tomorrow to protest this shameful attack on working people. Here's the link to the event.