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Fourth of July letter to EM Orr

Russ Bellant

Russ Bellant

By Russ Bellant

Kevyn Orr:

Today is the one day that we are to reflect on the meaning and historical significance of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. One of the self-evident truths expressed that day was that governments derive their legitimacy from the consent of the governed. That powerful concept means that any governance not established by the people is not legitimate.

That very concept is at the heart of the substantial meaning of the definition of what it means to be a citizen. At the time that powerful idea was asserted 237 years ago, people were not known as citizens but as subjects — subjected to the  arbitrary rule of kings, lords and their minions.

The principle of citizenship leveled all people from all stations in life to having equal rights and created a body politic where all authority was established through elections where all citizens were given theoretically equal voices. The Bill of Rights flowed as a necessity from the new concept of citizenship.

That the principle was weakened 14 years later and in epochs throughout American history to this day, does not give cause to discard the principle but to resolve to strengthen it. Without a concept of equal citizenship rights comes an assumption in the inequality of human beings and the belief that elites should subordinate the rights, power and dignity of the majority. It is very difficult for some, given the chance, to resist the seductions of power over others.

When this principle was asserted, the colonies were rules by viceroys appointed from afar by an executive, a king, that had the acquiescence of a legislature. After asserting certain principles, the Declaration asserted grievances from the king and his viceroys:

n“Taking away our charters.”

n“Altering fundamentally the forms of our governments.”

n“Declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.”

While no historical parallel is perfect, you will notice the correlation between the despotism that we defeated and the practice of emergency management today.

I address this to you because when you arrived in Detroit, you asserted the constitutionality of the emergency manager law. You said that because cities are creatures of the state, the state can impose EMs on them.

I believe that you are missing the historical fundamentals that people, not politicians and their viceroys, are the ultimate authority over governance at every level of taxation and decision making.

Further, Michigan voters established the Michigan Constitution after their elected Constitutional Convention delegates presented it to the people for a vote. One of those provisions was that citizens could reject legislation, such as the first EM law, PA 4.

Detroit and Michigan voters did so. The fact that the executive and legislative branches immediately resurrected the language of PA 4 in the present PA 436 says that the ultimately authority of the people as provided for in the Constitution was ignored. PA 436 is arguably illegitimate for that reason alone. I suggest looking at the grievances of 237 years ago, listed above, for some historical context.

Finally, when voters approved local taxes, they assumed that their constitutional rights to have the uses of the taxes decided by their elected representatives. The assumption of control of local voter-approved taxes by viceroys of the governor does not accord with the authority of the people or the limited constitutional powers of the governor.

Further, a number of articles and amendments of the U.S. Constitution are undermined by emergency management control, including meaningful voter rights.  The unequal application of this inherently unconstitutional law on certain communities ought to give all citizens of honorable intent reason to repudiate this degradation of the meaning of citizenship.

Russ Bellant

Citizen of Detroit

CC: Rick Snyder; Roy Roberts; Eric Holder, AG 

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