For those of us who missed it, a resolution has passed the Michigan senate that allows the governor to declare a financial emergency for any municipality in the state and appoint a financial manager. The appointed manager then has broad powers to terminate any current contracts under force in that municipality, remove any elected officials and even dissolve the incorporation of the municipality in order to combine it with another.
Does that sound a little unreal? Further to that, the Michigan house has a similar bill granting the governor the same powers except that the financial manager does not have to be an individual, it can be a corporation.
So this means that no matter who was elected in any town or city in the state, the governor through the “financial manager” can remove them. Depending on the final version of the law, the financial manager could also be a corporation, like say, Dow Chemical which has quiet a few sites in Michigan.
This also means that union contracts can be cancelled, financial contracts and loans can be cancelled, private agreements with contractors can be cancelled. In short whole towns can be dissolved along with all of their obligations and re-allocated at the choice of the Governor. This includes eliminating school boards, redesigning school curriculums and eliminating sitting city councils
In theory it means that any taxes paid by the residents of a specific town for specific use can also be reallocated to any use the financial manager sees fit. The manager may also privatize any services or simply eliminate them, without any due process or recourse by the citizens.
This is being touted as an emergency powers tool due to the financial crisis, however there is no definition of what constitutes a municipality’s financial emergency, only “trigger events” such as missing a payroll. What a trusting bunch they are in Michigan. They really must think the world of their Governor. The only proposed amendment, to limit the salary of the financial manager, was narrowly defeated. That’s nice, isn’t it? That way, the poor be-trodden “Financial manager” who doesn’t seem to have a set term, will surely have enough to keep body and soul together.
I think my favorite quote from the Debate in the Michigan senate was that of Democrat Gretchen Whitmer of Lansing Michigan:
“This bill represents bigger government, more bureaucrats (and) less accountability and less transparency,” Whitmer said, sending up a cheer from opponents outside the chamber that could be heard on the Senate floor. “Where the heck is the tea party now?”
They’re right there with you Gretchen, right there with you.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2011