Warning: You are about to enter the Twilight Zone.
Imagine, if you will, that you live in a state where a governor wields extraordinary power over its residents. Imagine, if you will, that your governor has the legal authority to appoint an “Emergency Manager” to oversee the local government in the town where you reside. Imagine that the monetary compensation for the Emergency Manager of your community has no cap. Imagine that your Emergency Manager declares that there’s a financial emergency in your town and then takes over control of it. Imagine that the Emergency Manager can break contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services—and can also fire duly elected public officials who serve your community. Imagine, if you will, that the Emergency Manager empowered by your governor to run your town has the right to dissolve your school district and to disincorporate your town. AND imagine that you and your fellow residents have no say about what is going on! Just imagine how you might feel if you lived in a state where that kind of thing was going on. Well, the people who live in Michigan may not have to imagine much longer.
Who, you might ask, will be responsible for transforming the state of Michigan into a Rod Serlingesque otherworldly undemocratic Twilight Zone right here in the United States? Why, Governor Rick Snyder and his bold band of Republican state legislators–that’s who. In January, Governor Snyder called for “Emergency Manager” legislation—and the Republican state legislators were more than happy to comply with his request.
This all seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? I’m not making it up. Karen Bouffard of The Detroit News reported the following: Legislation that would allow emergency financial managers to throw out union contracts and overrule elected officials in financially distressed municipalities and school districts was approved Wednesday by the state Senate. Similar legislation passed in the House in February, and the two chambers are working on a final version to send to Gov. Rick Snyder.
In an article published in The Michigan Messenger, Eartha Jane Melzer wrote:
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.
Critics say that Republicans are manipulating concerns about budget problems in order to consolidate power by undermining unions.
According to E. D. Kain: Snyder’s law gives the state government the power not only to break up unions, but to dissolve entire local governments and place appointed “Emergency Managers” in their stead. But that’s not all – whole cities could be eliminated if Emergency Managers and the governor choose to do so. And Snyder can fire elected officials unilaterally, without any input from voters. It doesn’t get much more anti-Democratic than that.
Mark Gaffney, Michigan State President of the AFL-CIO said: This is a takeover by the right wing and it’s an assault on democracy like I’ve never seen.
Do you agree with Mark Gaffney? Do you think what’s going on in Michigan is an assault on democracy?