DETROIT STATE OF EMERGENCY
The following is a draft declaration penned by the organization Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management (D-REM)
Detroit has been plunged into a state of emergency. We exist under a siege of financial dispossession, massive unemployment, elimination of basic welfare supports, and suspension of democratic rights — all fostered by the bankers, the multinational corporations, the far right and the U.S. ruling class. We say to social justice advocates and others worldwide Detroit’s state of emergency calls for vigorous response.
Tens of thousands of people in our city face circumstances far below what might be considered normal. As the winter sets in, they will suffer hunger, homelessness, joblessness, illness without medical relief, and a total lack of support for themselves and their children.
We know who did this. Michigan Gov. Snyder and Wall Street have joined to strip the people of their homes, their pensions and their democratic rights as citizens. In imposing the illegal and unconstitutional emergency manager, they have preempted the leadership of the duly elected representatives of the people, leaving the citizens without constitutional or democratic safeguards. These same powers are accelerating the robbery of the city’s assets through privatization and other unethical financial and banking schemes. The model of dispossession being fashioned here in Detroit is being imported to communities of working class and poor people throughout the United States. The African American communities in Michigan have been particularly targeted.
We are living in a state of emergency.
Our grievances include the following human rights violations, illegalities and constitutional suspensions:
- Destruction of local democratic rights via emergency management imposed against the will of the people expressed by state-wide referendum
- Rigged Wall Street and corporate-dictated ‘restructuring’ of debt, government operations and public spaces and assets — including privatizing city lights and water
- Racial discrimination against Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Highland Park, Benton Harbor, Detroit Public Schools and other predominantly African American communities
- Widespread homelessness and foreclosures of homes because of predatory Wall Street speculation and injustice
- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s contrived economic crisis via cuts to revenue sharing and corporate taxes, while taxing pensions, attacking unions, stripping public infrastructure and otherwise depriving us of the means for decent lives and communities
- Dismantling our public schools by a series of state-imposed czars over a period of ten years
- Privatization of critical public institutions and services for private profit
- Elimination of decent educational and vocational opportunities for youth and others
- Elimination of pension rights and adequate, defined benefit retirement systems altogether
- Violation of rights of labor, collective bargaining and other fundamental human rights for the benefit of Governor Snyder’s unjust, undemocratic and unconstitutional program of dispossession
- Regional exploitation of Detroit based on race and class, as in the proposed ‘Detroit Future City’ plan, instead of productive regional collaboration based on respect and equity
- Eliminating transparency, fairness, openness, responsibility and accountability in public spheres, including the deliberate insertion of bogus funding and reorganization schemes into legislation in order to destroy rights of popular initiative and referendum — as in the new Emergency Manager and Wolf Hunting laws
- Corporate welfare for billionaires combined with brutal austerity for working people and the poor
- The incessant use of misrepresentations, exaggerations, lies and half-truths by Gov. Snyder and his corporate and political cronies, as well as most of the corporate mass media, to facilitate Detroit’s ‘restructuring’
- Forcing Detroit to pay a gang of rapacious corporate contractors tens of millions of dollars for ‘advising’ city government about how to do all this
Detroit’s financial crisis results from decades of revenue decline caused by redlining, housing discrimination and deindustrialization. Heavily subsidized and policy-driven suburban expansion decimated the city’s population and its tax base. A series of misguided and racist decisions by Wall Street bankers and regional corporate elites plunged the city into deep debt.
Over the past four decades, the devastating revenue shortfalls have led to a dangerous eroding of the quality of civic life in our city. As Detroiters and other concerned community, political, labor and business leaders, we are committed to making our city and the greater metropolitan area an example of the best of what urban America can be in the 21st century. In order to achieve our goals, we know everyone will have to shoulder their full responsibilities.
We must aggressively pursue both traditional and innovative, community-based economic development, so that community-based initiatives can enable neighborhood residents and small-scale entrepreneurs to produce for local needs.
We must immediately extricate the city from costly, predatory Wall Street deals. Then we must urgently raise revenue to fill the city’s $198 million budget shortfall.
We call for the following actions:
- Bank of America, UBS and other Wall Street firms must immediately terminate the toxic interests rate swaps that will cost the city as much as $350 million in penalties, without any further payment. Additionally, the banks should return any and all funds they have received illegally.
- The Michigan Legislature must immediately pass legislation making automatic payroll deduction and withholding mandatory for all people working in cities where there is a local income tax. Detroit currently loses $40-50 million in revenue per year without this measure.
- Michigan must immediately increase state revenue-sharing to support adequate quality of life in our cities and reimburse Detroit for all revenue lost.
- The city of Detroit, Wayne County, and the state of Michigan must cancel all corporate tax abatements granted as part of economic incentive programs.
In the long term, we activists in Detroit will envision and implement a comprehensive economic development plan through expanded democratic processes. In many areas of our city we are already creating sustainable, community-based economic initiatives that benefit Detroiters.
Gov. Snyder’s suspension of democratic rights is not a humane or viable response to our crisis. We call on our fellow human rights activist worldwide to lend your support, as we extend our solidarity to you who are involved in similar struggles.
D-REM wants input from citizens to complete the declaration. Contact them at detroitstateofemergency.org