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Rick Snyder Racist? Plans To Take Over Benton Harbor

June 7, 2011

Sure it can be justified by all the mainly white male Republicans in Michigan, the Old White Men’s Club, but it still smacks of racism that the majority white male Senate and white male governor of Michigan “take over” the predominantly black city of Benton Harbor.  News reports quote the new financial manager as believing people will appreciate what he has done,  but the financial manager says that the elected officials, whose authority he recently stripped (and most of them black), seem unwilling to cooperate, go figure.

Residents in Benton Harbor feel that an example is being made of their town, without any method for them to speak out against it, because the EMF has refused to allow city meetings without his consent, and “strangely,” no public venues have been opened:

The impoverished former industrial town of Benton Harbor has become a flashpoint in the controversy over the new law that allows the governor to appoint Emergency Managers with virtually unlimited authority over local governments.

On Thursday the state-appointed Emergency Manager Joe Harris used the expanded powers granted by the new law to issue an order banning the city commission from taking any action without his written permission.

Benton Harbor City Commissioner Juanita Henry says her constituents are angry and looking for help, but without the power to hold meetings the city commission can’t even provide an official venue for citizens to ask questions and get answers.

“They are using Benton Harbor as a test case,“ Henry said. “If they have disenfranchised the people so badly they just don’t respond to anything, they can do this all over the country.”

Community activist Rev. Edward Pinkney said that many Benton Harbor residents only learned that their city government had been sacked by reading about it in the paper days later.

Though home to the corporate headquarters of appliance giant Whirlpool, the city lost its last manufacturing plant this year, almost half the population lives below the poverty line and the public lakefront has been privatized as part of a luxury golf development backed by the Whirlpool corporation.

Part of the EMF’s plan to cut the budget includes “cross training” police and fire departments, so that he can cut the fire department out all together and thereby save money.  Sadly enough, the only proof of failure that will come from this venture will be shown in loss of lives should a big fire break out, or fires and riots.  Still, the EMF believes this is the best way to balance the budget.

With this type of plan in place, it’s no wonder that the next step is to plan for a recall election, and the people of Benton Harbor are already working to accomplish this.  It would be foolish to underestimate the power of such a force, because as it stands now, the people of Benton Harbor are left with no official voice except a recall election.

Locals in Benton Harbor said they will work to repeal their state Rep. Al Pscholka, who sponsored the bill, as well as State Sen. John Proos and Gov. Rick Snyder who also approved it.

A group called Heartland Revolution is planning to rally at the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce and march to City Hall on Wednesday, April 27th to protest the takeover of the city.

The total suspension of power for local officials has brought Benton Harbor’s situation into focus for other Michigan communities, where people now worry that growing budget problems could mean that they will face similar loss of assets and control.

“I have been in touch with people all over the state via e-mail, face to face and Facebook … this is a hot
topic all over the place and our community FB page A Referendum to Reject PA 4 has quickly quadrupled in size in just the last 24 hours as we have reposted the link with our different contacts,“ said Traverse City activist Betsy Coffia. “I think Benton Harbor really shook some folks up.”

Coffia said that repeal advocates are talking with legal experts about how to draft official language for a petition.

According to information from the Secretary of State website, in order to have a referendum on a newly enacted law petitioners must gather signatures from 161,305 people — five percent of the number that voted in the last gubernatorial election.

The signatures must be submitted within 90 days of the end of the legislative session in which the bill was passed. If the group manages to gather enough certified signatures, the Emergency Manager law would be automatically suspended until a repeal vote can be held on the next general election date.

Because the EMF has removed the voice of Benton Harbor that could be directed through positive and municipal channels, he has instigated the beginnings of his own removal from office, and at a yearly salary of roughly $132,000, it appears as though this push to cut out all elected officials and run roughshod over the locals, the poor, the minority, is a good paying job.

Which is worse, not allowing collective bargaining or removing the rights of the people to elect their leaders?  Wasn’t this same racist argument of the white crowd “knowing better” used to deny slaves a vote, used to deny women the right to elect their leaders?

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