Michigan Fights Real “Big Government,” Heads to Repeal EFM Law

2011 was a big year for citizens amassing enormous numbers of signatures in order to undo injustice – see Ohio’s 1.3 million names to repeal Senate Bill 5 as the prime example. Driving the citizen outrage in neighboring Michigan is Public Act 4 of 2011, more commonly known as the Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) Law.

Governor Rick Snyder and his allies in the legislature all ran in 2010 on the principles of “small government,” but once in office pushed the most “big government” policies possible. PA 4 allowed the state to strip away local control from cities and towns and hand the reins over to an Emergency Financial Manager – appointed by Gov. Snyder.

Now, thanks to the tireless work of Michigan organizers, PA 4 could join SB 5 on the scrap heap of history:

President AFSCME Council 25 Al Garrett, who has been instrumental in the petition drive to suspend Public Act 4, announced the campaign has gathered “in excess of 170,000″ signatures.

He said the petitioners are looking to Jan. 18 as the day to take their petitions to Lansing. They hope to gather more than the required number — just shy of 162,000 — in order to ensure enough valid signatures.

Garrett finished with a fiery speech to get out the petition drive:

“Stand up, look the man in the eye and say, ‘Not on my watch,’” he said.

“Our mothers and fathers fought all of the right of one thing: self determination. It would be unacceptable and unnecessary for black folk in the city of Detroit, for white folk in Ann Arbor … to allow anybody that was elected by chance to dictate what happens in their community.”

Under the EFM law, managers have made unilateral decisions that fly in the face of the wishes of the residents of the municipalities they are allegedly trying to fix. Just one example: In Pontiac, Michigan, EFM Michael Stampfler canceled a union contract for police dispatchers last June; now, he is giving Pontiac firefighters the choice of merging with the neighboring town’s fire department or losing their jobs outright.

In Benton Harbor, one of Michigan’s poorest cities, EFM Joseph Harris came under a great deal of scrutiny after disrespectful comments about the city’s residents were caught on tape.  When Working America canvassers came to Benton Harbor, we found enormous dissatisfaction with the situation. Residents couldn’t understand why Governor Snyder was giving them a false choice – dictatorship or dysfunction? 85 percent of people we talked to became members of Working America during our canvass there.

The possibility of an EFM in Detroit is the last straw for many Michganders. Hundreds of citizens, labor leaders, and lawmakers gathered Monday to protest the dictatorial threat.

So will this undemocratic, hugely unpopular policy be repealed in Michigan? Republican legislators are hoping not. That’s why they are “retooling” so that it will still be in effect even if a referendum makes it to the ballot. Seems that for the Michigan GOP, democracy is only okay if things go their way.

Photo by swskeptic on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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