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Critical Crossroads for Michigan's Emergency Manager Law

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This past Wednesday, Stand Up for Democracy delivered 50 boxes of petitions with more than 226,000 signatures to Lansing, seeking repeal of Michigan's draconian and anti-democratic emergency manager law. As I stated in an op-ed published yesterday in the Detroit Free Press, "Our state is at a legal and political crossroads." A report released last week by the Democratic Staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary detailed many problems with the law, including expert opinion that the law is unconstitutional and potentially violates the Voting Rights Act. For these reasons, I have suggested to Governor Rick Snyder that our state would not be well served by continuing down the partisan path of confrontation and litigation concerning the emergency manager law. Instead, I believe he should work with all stakeholders to enact a law that allows for cooperation and oversight for financially troubled local governments as has worked in other cities, notably New York, Cleveland and Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, the results of our dialogue thus far have not been promising.

The Snyder administration has reacted to the filing of the petitions by declaring that it would simply operate under the prior law, which allows the governor to appoint an emergency manager to a municipal body after placing it in state receivership. However, this prior statute was repealed through the enactment of the emergency manager law at issue here. Essentially, Governor Snyder's actions ignore the clear signal from Michigan voters to pursue a more conciliatory path to resolving the financial struggles of our state's local governments.

The governor has shown similar contempt for the rule of law and the application of state regulations. Following the Ingham County Circuit Court's ruling that implementation of the emergency manager law in secret violates Michigan's Open Meetings Act, the Snyder administration responded by reappointing the same official for Highland Park Public Schools, and creating the subterfuge of subcommittee meetings in Detroit. These actions snub the rulings of the courts.

Furthermore, the Snyder administration has done nothing to repay the revenue sharing that was promised to the cities, including Detroit, to the tune of more than $200 million.

As I noted in my op-ed, "Our nation was built on the fundamental building blocks of voting rights and guarantees of contract and collective bargaining. Unfortunately, the emergency manager law abandons these precious rights in a futile effort to balance our cities' books." The efforts undertaken by the Snyder administration have not worked, and the emergency manager law itself is unconstitutional. Let us move forward, together, and find a solution that respects the democratic process.