United against EM
By Shea Howell
Special to the Michigan Citizen
If Gov. Rick Snyder had any sense, he would find a way to back off from the decision to appoint an emergency financial manager for the city of Detroit. This is a manufactured financial emergency, created to justify seizing control of the city’s assets, breaking the power of democratic constituents and blunting the newly revised Detroit City Charter. It is based on bogus figures.
If Gov. Snyder was concerned about Detroit, he would pay attention to what the people have said at every opportunity. We do not want a state takeover. We do not want public assets turned over for private gain. We do not want to destroy the city for short-term financial fixes. We do not believe Lansing has the interests of the people of Detroit in mind. We want the state to live up to its financial obligations to the city. We want the state to respect local home rule and the sovereignty of cities.
Virtually no one in the city thinks an emergency manager is a good idea. In the last election, 82 percent of the people voted against this law. Only local corporate media, which flanked Gov. Snyder during the announcement of his plan, have endorsed this effort.
Detroit Congressional representative Gary Peters echoed the core objections of citizens. Emergency managers are undemocratic. They do not solve the problems of any city. In a forceful statement challenging the decision, Congressmen Peters said, “I fundamentally disagree with taking measures that disenfranchise the families I represent in Detroit. Having represented the city of Pontiac for years, I’ve seen the kind of damage that can occur when emergency managers sacrifice opportunities for long-term growth in order to achieve short-term budgetary goals. In practice, emergency managers in Michigan have consistently failed to address the systemic problems plaguing older urban areas like Detroit.”
Every candidate for mayor has rejected the idea. Here are their central concerns, in alphabetical order.
Tom Barrow said, “I am sickened by Michigan’s governor talk about my city and my people as if Detroit is the human dump of the state, as if real Detroiters are incapable of running our own city.” In the spirit of Frederick Douglass, Barrow said, “I call upon my fellow Detroiters, activists and citizens alike, to let’s meet to plan our actions to combat this abrogation of democracy. It may require civil disobedience in the name of all Americans who love freedom and democracy; it may require us to choose economic targets to boycott; strategic locations to disrupt; facilities to protect symbolically; and a plan of communication to our nation to show our outrage.”
Almost immediately following the report from the financial review team, Krystal Crittendon issued a detailed analysis, citing specific “omissions and inaccuracies.” Crittendon demonstrated how the debt numbers were inflated and there was no mention of money owed the city by businesses or by the state. She followed this analysis with an appeal to the mayor and City Council to appeal the governor’s findings. She said, “Detroit should join other cities around the state in fighting for economic and political sovereignty.”
Mike Duggan objected because he does not believe emergency financial managers can attract the kind of people necessary to create long-term financial stability. He thinks short-term decision-making could lead to “terrible” mistakes.
Lisa Howze, a former state legislator and a CPA, also offered a detailed analysis of the accounting failures. She indicted the failure of the state to live up to its responsibilities under the Consent Agreement to assist in local tax collection and the refusal of the state legislature to pass laws forcing businesses to collect local taxes.
Benny Napoleon said the decision was the “antithesis of democracy” and he thought the “numbers may be skewed.”
From the pragmatic to the philosophical, Detroiters are uniting in their commitment to creating a new, living democracy in the city.
Contact Grace Lee Boggs at firstname.lastname@example.org