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We the people of Detroit support Crittendon’s legal action over men in masks

By Patrick Geans-Ali

This week we’re looking at EJ Principle No. 10, which “considers governmental acts of environmental injustice a violation of international law, the Universal Declaration On Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Genocide.”

If only local governments listened to their citizens, there would be no need to appeal to the rule of higher law — whether it’s city, state, federal, international or divine. It’s not an easy job but somebody has got to do it. One of the few public officials up to the task on behalf of the citizens of Detroit is Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon.

Of course in these Orwellian times, she has jeopardized her position by doing so. Still, that’s precisely what it takes to stand up for just causes in a world where ignorance of the law is strength, economic slavery is freedom and the halls of justice are places where justice is denied.

All laws are subject to the people enforcing them. When it comes to people, you never know if what is presented to you is what it appears. If we are to distinguish between those who believe in a society ruled by laws or a society ruled by men, sorting through these masks to reach the mark that every direct action campaign must seems to be the task at hand.

The brilliance of Crittendon’s suit is it understands that a successful direct action requires you reach the mark — the mark being that person, place or thing that can ultimately make a decision. In this case, it seems the majority of the Detroit City Council, the mayor, the state legislature and the governor are only capable of making decisions that promote the interests of their corporate paymasters. Crittendon’s legal action is an attempt to appeal to something that should be above politics. That is the standing law.

For having the audacity to try and achieve Bing’s oft-stated goal of getting Detroit back on “sound financial footing,” Crittendon was asked to resign. When she stood her ground and refused, Bing then declared that he will no longer use the city’s legal counsel in favor of the same private law firm that helped broker the controversial Consent Agreement aiming to bolster implementation of the recent judicial ruling against emergency manager law, Public Act 4, with an unelected, non-Detroit board to manage the city’s affairs.

Crittendon filed the suit to force the state of Michigan to honor an existing revenue-sharing agreement. That action declared the Consent Agreement to be null and void because standing law states that the city of Detroit can’t do business with any entity currently in violation of their obligations to the city.

According to the revenue-sharing agreement between the city and the state, some people estimate the state owes the city of Detroit upwards of $200 million. That’s approximately enough to pay off the city’s current debt to banks and avoid this looming financial catastrophe we’ve all heard so much about.

After all, the state suddenly finds itself with billions of dollars in surplus revenue. I’m guessing much of that is due to the current revival of the auto industry in Detroit. Why wouldn’t the state live up to its obligation to share a portion of that revenue, save the state’s most important city and preserve democracy?

These were the questions asked by everyday Detroiters at two recent meetings with local officials. As Lila Cabil of the Rosa Parks Institute likes to say: “It’s important that we ask, ‘Who’s the we?’ Often the ‘we’ in these meeting rooms are not representative of the average citizens.” In this case, I really believe that those who showed up to support Crittendon are the “we.”

But when ordinary Detroiters showed up to support Crittendon’s plan, Bing exited stage left, saying the meeting had deteriorated into “a circus.” A few days later, he had his own impromptu but well-orchestrated dog-and-pony show. It would have made Barnum & Bailey blush. The lower decks were packed with Bing staff and supporters before the “we” arrived on the usual CP time we’re accustomed to. Of course, Bing’s ring masters understand this tactic and took questions from the Detroit Incinerator’s Brownsfield Tax Credit Hearings back in November.

Even the only two City Council members who bothered to show up were seated up in the peanut gallery with the rest of the common folk. Can you imagine?

As an objective observer, it seems counterintuitive that Bing would support to the bitter end a course that would strip him of all his duly elected authority as mayor. In addition, it rewards hundreds of public servants who supported his campaign with pink slips. The lucky others who survive the axe are rewarded with the demolition of all their hard-fought union protections and voting rights.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, the 1 percenters — the financial paymasters who run the country and have co-opted both sides of our political system — would also benefit if Crittendon’s action succeeds. After all, the city’s debt is owed to the banks. Surely, they want their money. It would be a win-win situation for everyone. Right?

Wrong. Their support of the EM law and Consent Agreement and attack on Crittendon betray the fact that getting the city out of debt is of little or no concern to them. The banks make a lot of money by keeping governments in debt, and they have no intention of letting Detroit off the hook based on Crittendon’s legal technicality. They’d much rather stick to their plan to commandeer the city’s long-coveted resources and continue to collect interest on the debt.

When Bing was presented with these questions, he said Gov. Rick Snyder claims he’s not legally obligated to live up to the revenue-sharing agreement signed by the previous governor. So why bother?

I’m no attorney. Neither is Bing. Crittendon, however, is. I would think she’s offering the mayor a sound, reasonable alternative to preserving the city by destroying it.

Maybe Snyder is right. With the way our courts operate these days, who knows? I do know that because a quarter of a million citizens put their name on a petition, Public Act 4 is now up for a referendum in November. They were told it couldn’t be done. It’s a good thing those “we’s” don’t regard Bing and Snyder’s opinion any more than Crittendon.

Having the state live up to its legally binding obligations to the city is worth fighting for. That is especially so when the alternative amounts to a complete abandonment of every principle that has made our society great. It’s also worth noting that the supporters of the EM law don’t hesitate to try every legal trick in the book to get their way. Take a bogus claim about font size, for example. Why are our elected officials so averse to trying all options on behalf of the 99 percent?

This city can and will revive itself but it’s becoming increasingly clear that in order to do so, we will have to appeal to higher authority. If the state won’t hear, then maybe the federal courts will. If the feds won’t, there are laws granting inalienable rights that supersede them too. The process starts with each of us and true public servants like Crittendon.

Contact Patrick Geans Ali at

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