PETITIONS, POLITICS — BY JOSH SAGER ON MAY 15, 2012 2:00 AM
Sign the Petition: http://forcechange.com/20933/protect-local-democracy-in-michigan/
Target: Michigan State Legislature
Goal: Stop Governor Snyder of Michigan from giving unelected bureaucrats absolute control over entire cities.
In the past several years, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has massively expanded the powers and authority of state-appointed “emergency financial managers”, as well as expanded their use in cities across Michigan. Under Michigan state law, an emergency financial manager is a bureaucrat who is appointed over a city or school system when a state of financial emergency is declared. These managers not only have wide-ranging powers, ranging from nullifying union contracts to selling off city resources, but are able to unilaterally overrule decisions made by elected officials from the city which they are appointed to.
In cities where emergency financial managers are appointed, local democracy is completely nullified by the state. City official – who were duly elected by their constituency – have all of their authority, powers and responsibility taken from them and given to the appointed manager. There is no legal recourse to usurp the authority of an emergency financial manager, nor is there a method by which the citizens living in a city run by an emergency manger can restore their elected officials. For all intents and purposes, democracy is suspended in cities where the state has appointed an emergency manager.
During an interview with a local radio station, Lou Scimmel, the emergency manager controlling the city of Pontiac, described his role as emergency manager by referring to himself as “the tyrant in Pontiac”.
Over half a dozen Michigan cities (including Flint, Pontiac, and Benton Harbor) are currently under the absolute control of unelected officials. The voter in these cities has had the most basic level of their electoral decisions taken from them (or at least rendered irrelevant), and has no recourse. Democracy is a core value of our country, not a luxury that must be suspended when economic times are tough.
Unfortunately, a recent signature campaign to put this law up for repeal failed due to the paperwork being rejected because the heading font was too small. While a mere formality, this problem caused a state panel to reject the campaign intended to put the emergency financial manager law on the ballot next year to face a citizen’s repeal.
Regardless of whether or not one lives in Michigan, this is a vital issue for all of us to pay attention to. Democracy is a core American value, and no American should stand idle when the voting rights of fellow citizens are being trampled upon by a state. Local democracy must be restored in Michigan, and the emergency financial manager law must be repealed. The Michigan state legislature is able to pass legislation which will repeal the current emergency financial manager law and restore democracy to Michigan cities. Sign this petition to demand the complete repeal of the Michigan emergency manager law, thus restoring power to the locally elected officials as well as preventing further takeovers of cities across Michigan.
Dear Michigan State Legislature,
As you are probably aware, several cities in your state have been put under the unilateral authority of an emergency financial manager. While the intent of the emergency manager law may have been good, the result has been the complete degradation of local democracy in the cities which have been taken over.
The local democratic process in cities where there is an emergency manager has become largely irrelevant. Elections are still performed, yet the results are meaningless, as the elected officials have essentially no power. Without the electoral process, there is no accountability in the government and there exists a huge potential for corruption. As the recent citizen’s repeal failed to get onto the ballot (not due to a lack of signatures, but rather a font-size problem), it appears that the state legislature is the most effective way to repeal this egregious law.
The repeal of the emergency financial manager law should not be a partisan issue. Democrats and liberal have shown concern about this law because cities with high numbers of poor and minority citizens are the targets of state takeover, as well as the fact that emergency financial managers are able to dissolve union contracts. Republicans and conservatives believe in a small government and local control over politics rather than centralized power; the idea of an emergency financial manager epitomizes the ideas of a big government and the centralization of power, thus those on the right wing should not oppose repeal of this law. The repeal of this law is a place where true bipartisan agreement can occur, and real change can be achieved.
I, along with everybody else who has signed this letter, implore you in the Michigan legislature to immediately consider the repeal of the emergency financial manager law. Please protect the democratic process in your state and reject the idea that democracy is simply a luxury to be enjoyed when there are no serious problems to solve.
[Your Name Here]