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State takeovers have failed the people

By Charles Brown

The state of Michigan’s takeovers of cities and school districts in whatever form have been very harmful to the public’s interests. Back when it was self-governing, the Detroit Public School District had about a $90 million surplus before it was taken over by Gov. Engler over a decade ago. When the state left them, DPS had a deficit of tens of millions. Now, after two emergency managers, the deficit from Engler’s mismanagement remains. Dozens of schools have been closed and charter schools have taken much of the funding. The students are worse off than before the state started taking over. It seems to be more than incompetence on the part of the state. It is as if the state is purposely trying to destroy education for Detroit’s children.

Emergency managers were appointed between 2000 and 2002 by Republican Gov. John Engler in the cities of Hamtramck, Flint and Highland Park to prevent them from declaring bankruptcy. All eventually left, but all three cities are back in the red. Highland Park’s city services have been cut significantly. The failure of the state takeover is illustrated by the fact that last fall, DTE, which runs the public lighting system under privatization, removed 1,400 of a total of 1,900 street lamps as a way to cut its monthly costs.

Benton Harbor had an emergency manager appointed in 2011. Since then the city operating deficit, as well as the list of unpaid payable and pension plan deficits, has increased significantly.

In Detroit, the takeover is that Gov. Rick Snyder has really been running the city since the winter of 2012 and especially since the Consent Agreement. It is Snyder who can’t or won’t turn Detroit’s finances around. The most important evidence of this is that with the threat of imposing an emergency manager, Snyder ordered Mayor Bing to negotiate concessions with the city unions; Bing did and the unions gave tens of millions of dollars in concessions. Then Snyder told Bing not to accept the concessions he had ordered Bing to negotiate. Those concessions would have “turned Detroit’s finances around” substantially. Snyder has been controlling the city since the Consent Agreement and even before by threatening an emergency manager. Thus, any lack of progress is Snyder’s responsibility. It is clear that Snyder had not improved Detroit’s finances on purpose so that he could institute an emergency manager to control Detroit’s bankruptcy, minimize the forgiveness of Wall Street bond debts, and put the burden on city workers’ wages, benefits and pensions. He is perpetrating a fraud on the people of Detroit.

Conclusion: State of Michigan takeovers of cities and school districts have done more harm than good to the public’s health, safety and welfare, which in America is the only purpose of state government — to protect and preserve. The state’s only excuse for the takeovers is to serve these public purposes, so it should cease and desist from the takeovers. The state’s takeover actions and laws violate the fundamental American liberty of the right not to be taxed without the right to elect those who steward one’s tax money in the government coffers. This is one of the main American liberties our American troops defend. The state takeovers are profoundly anti-American.

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