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Stand up for Democracy: Repeal the EM Law

By Atty. Herb Sanders

There are four good reasons to stand up for democracy by voting “no” on Proposal 1.

First, democracy is worth having on the local level because local people know what’s best for their communities. Proposal 1 stops local people from participating in their government. Every decision from policing to parking is in the hands of one person — a state bureaucrat.

We elect our neighbors to represent us and listen to our concerns when creating new laws. Unelected EMs replace and serve as mayor, city council, clerk, planning commission, zoning board, police commission, superintendent, library commission, school board and any previously elected or appointed public body. That is simply too much power for one person.

Second, Proposal 1 is the only law in the nation that leaves taxpayers holding the bag for bad finance deals. The law eliminates all risk normally associated with investing. In Allen Park the state encouraged and approved millions in bond loans for a movie production company touting it as a new way to create jobs. Then the industry went bust and the city found it difficult to pay its monthly note to the bank and keep critical services like police and fire. The state’s solution to this bad business deal it helped fashion? Recommend appointing an EM to cut police, fire and other services to residents to pay the bank.

Allen Park residents are not alone. Taxpayers are still paying for the millions spent building the Pontiac Silverdome, even though an EM sold the stadium to an international company for the price of a nice house. In Flint, people are paying a property tax on a bond deal for the Towers development an EM “sold” to a private developer for one dollar.

Third, Proposal 1 allows state officials to break contracts with local businesses and employees. EMs not only break collective bargaining agreements but business contracts as well. That local hardware store supplying new fencing for the park can have its contract shredded and bill unpaid. The neighborhood nursery with a mulch contract doesn’t stand a chance against a state-appointed EM who decides not to pay or honor the contract. Entire police departments have been disbanded. Fire departments have been closed. Under Proposal 1, a business or labor contract is worthless.

Fourth, Proposal 1 is a naked power grab set to gobble up 150 more communities across the state. That’s the number of cities, townships, villages and school districts that meet the criteria for a takeover. There is no cap on the number of communities that can be run from Lansing with little oversight. There is no local board to review spending and contracting. There is no legislative committee monitoring activities hundreds of miles away from Lansing. As a result, one EM wrote and cashed city checks. Another sold public property to a developer on the cheap and then tried to get a job with the company. Another reportedly gave no-bid contracts to friends. The potential for abuse with the 150 municipalities on the state list is huge.

We can stop that abuse from happening now. Stand up for democracy. Vote “no” on Proposal 1 and let’s work together to come up with real municipal finance reform that helps instead of hurts.

Atty. Herb Sanders is one of the lead attorneys for Stand Up for Democracy. The coalition seeks to repeal Public Act 4.

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