Home > Politics, Trends > Michigan: Detroit Public Teachers Laid Off; Benton Harbor Local Government Taken Over By Emergency Managers

Michigan: Detroit Public Teachers Laid Off; Benton Harbor Local Government Taken Over By Emergency Managers

April 28, 2011

Did you hear about this on the nightly news? Probably not. America, your government structures are under attack. It is time to get involved and time to act.

PR Watch reported last week: The week of April 10-16 saw the layoff of every public school teacher in Detroit, and the initial fruition of the highly-contested bill that allows emergency financial managers to have unconditional control over a city in a financial emergency. The city of Benton Harbor, Michigan, declared to be in a financial emergency by Governor Rick Snyder, now knows that, according the Snyder, the voter’s voice doesn’t really matter anymore.

Joseph Harris, the city’s new Emergency Financial Manager (EFM), dismantled the entire government, only allowing city boards and commissions to call a meeting to order, approve of meeting minutes and adjourn a meeting.

The law that allows Harris to “exercise any power or authority of any office, employee, department, board, commission, or similar entity of the City, whether elected or appointed,” was passed in March after the urging of Governor Snyder, and despite thousands of protesters who came to the Lansing capitol throughout February and March.

The Michigan AFL-CIO released a press release in response to Benton Harbor: “This is sad news for democracy in Michigan. It comes after the announcement of Robert Bobb in Detroit ordering layoff of every single public school teacher in the Detroit Public School system,” says Mark Gaffney, President of Michigan AFL-CIO. “With the stripping of all power of duly elected officials in Benton harbor and the attack on Detroit school teachers, we can now see the true nature of the Emergency Manager system.”

Here is a transcript of how this went down in Benton Harbor: Appalling!

Emergency Financial Manager, Joe Harris:

“The EFM order, an “order” or directive, has the force of law. It is the same as a resolution or an ordinance so you’re running the city. You are the mayor. You are the Commission. You have taken over from them so just in case you’re wondering why they don’t like you too much. You’ve taken that authority away from them and they will challenge you every step of the way and they will try to use the community, try to get the community against you. By the way, I’m having a town hall meeting tonight at six o’clock and we’re going to talk about public safety and we have to keep the community aware of what’s going on. I have a newsletter that I get out every two or three weeks. We’ve got that because we can’t get it out through the commission meetings. They’re not going to let me talk and they’re going to berate me at the commission meetings so I don’t attend them.”

“There was a comment made earlier, and just for your information, the ONLY place in the Act that requires that you do something in consultation with the Commission is when you prepare your annual financial report. You don’t have to do ANYTHING with these guys. And, I would love to, but I know — I know the individuals and I know what their motives are and the fact of the matter is anything I do they’re going to try to undermine me. So the fact of the matter is, the City Manager is now gone — I am the City Manager. I replaced the Finance Director. So I’m the Finance Director and the City Manager. I am the Mayor and I am the Commission and I don’t need them. All I need is the expertise. And that’s why Mario is providing Human Resources and payroll for me. I’ve got Plante & Moran helping with the Accounting. I’ve got Miller Canfield working with us on the labor issues, with real estate, with regard to — really P.A. 72 issues — “What can I do, what can’t I do?” — Understanding how far I can go before I’ve crossed the line.”

“So, I’ve laid off twenty-five people. I’ve laid off nine police officers. I’ve laid off four fireman. I’ve haven’t’ done that yet but this Friday — after the townhall meeting. Oh, they know it’s comin’! They know it’s comin’! And I’ve laid off four EPW — I had nine major equipment or heavy equipment operators but only five pieces of heavy equipment. So, I laid off four EPW workers. I laid off Human Resources and payroll because we outsourced that. My assessor retired so we didn’t replace him.”

“But, long story short, besides the…one hundred and fifty thousand dollars from the rubbish contract — one and half million dollars — take those twenty-five people and just say an average compensation, total compensation of sixty thousand — You’ve got one and half million there. So, I lost two million dollars I’ve pretty much offset that already. Because I’ve already, I saved a hundred thousand dollars on insurance, four hundred fifty thousand, put it out for bid, three hundred and fifty-six thousand this year. The rubbish, the telephone — AT&T just would not cooperate. That’s okay, they’ve got competition so Quest is now in providing the telephone service.”

“So, I just wanted to wind up by just giving you some things that … and, by the way, you’ve already heard all of this but I can’t over-emphasize the fact that you need to read the charter, you need to read the collective bargaining agreements — the CBA. You’ve gotta know what you can do and what you can’t do. And I found so many holes in the fire — the police is tight — in the fire collective bargaining agreement, they don’t have a leg to stand on. The fact of the matter is we’ve got them where we want ’em! ”

Source: Electablog – http://www.eclectablog.com/2011/04/benton-harbor-is-city-weve-failed.html

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