How citizens can stop Public Act 4 from turning Michigan from a democracy to a plutocracy

In Ann Arbor, Michigan on Saturday, June 26th a group of citizens gathered at the Ann Arbor Community Center. The meeting focused Public Act #4, the Emergency Financial Manager dictatorship law. 


There is an direct reason why P.A. #4 is called a dictatorship based on a review the definition of the word from Wikiepedia.
Photo Credit-ROJS News
Citizens gather to hear about overturning Public Act #4
in Ann Arbor on June 26, 2011.

“A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictatorIn contemporary usage, dictatorship refers to an autocratic form of absolute rule by leadership unrestricted by law, constitutions, or other social and political factors within the state.”  

On Saturday, the non-profit public action group Michigan Forward C.E.O. Brandon Jessup, spoke before a crowd of 75 citizens from areas across the state. Jessup detailed how Governor Rick Snyder (R) P.A. #4 law, leads up to a power grab of local government control into the hands of the state or behalf of rich corporations.
Photo Credit-ROJS News
Michigan Forward C.E.O. Brandon Jessup on 6/26 in Ann Arbor

“This action against (Public Act 4) is about protecting Michigan’s democracy and freedom,” Jessup stated during the Saturday meeting. (Snyder’s) Emergency Financial Managers are not elected in anyway, to run a city, town, community of school board. They are appointed. This is takeover language, period,” Jessup cited.



Differences between former Governor James Blanchard‘s Public Act #72 versus Governor Rick Snyder (R) and GOP state Leaders Public Act #4, known as the Emergency Financial Manager law.

Originally, the Emergency Financial Manager bill -Public Act #72 was enacted by former Governor James Blanchard (D) in 1990. This measure was a slightly different act in terms of the power of the state, to interject in actions of local governmental entities,
particularly for unionized contracts and the removal of elected officials. 

Does an Emergency Financial Manager have authority to change existing labor contacts without negotiation?

No. While emergency financial managers are authorized to renegotiate labor contracts, they are not authorized to abrogate such contracts or obligations. Therefore, the Act 72 process offers no safe harbor to units of local government seeking to avoid improvidently entered into obligations.”

Does an Emergency Financial Manager have the authority to eliminate a department or transfer functions of one department to another, or eliminate positions? 

Yes.  Notwithstanding the provisions of any charter to the contrary, an Emergency Financial Manager may consolidate departments of a unit of local government, or transfer functions from one department to another department, and may appoint, supervise, and, at his or her discretion, remove heads of departments other than elected officials, the clerk of the unit of local government, or any ombudsman position in the unit of local government.”

Used solely for if local entity of facing serious financial distress, former Gov. Blanchard’s version of the Public Act #72, was designed limit unchecked power of a Emergency Financial Manager over the elected officials of a local community or school board. 

Why the Mackinaw Center, though Public Act #4, want to take control of local governmental entities, in Michigan

Photo Credit-Google Images
Logo of the Mackinaw Center for Public
Policy
Public Act #72 in its’ written form, was not good enough for Conservative “Think Tank” the Mackinaw Center. The group authored a Op/Ed back on January 10, 2011 -just nine days shy of Rick Snyder’s swearing in ceremony to Michigan’s governor office. The group demanded Blanchard’s version of P.A. #72 needed quick revision, for the state could to grab even more power of its’ local governmental entities.

“The state’s policy prescription for fiscally floundering cities should be to appointment far more powerful emergency financial managers than they have in the past. Changes could — and perhaps should — be made to the EFM law that would give these appointees more power,” stated the Conservative Mackinaw Center in a written statement. 

Mackinaw Center helped finance candidate Rick Snyder’s election in 2010. In turn for the favor they expected now, Governor Snyder to pass a law quickly allowing EFM’s the right to sell public properly, dismantle school boards, end unionized contracts and more, virtually unchecked by local citizens or an elected governmental board. 

Here is an description of exactly what the Mackinaw Center demanded in changes to P.A. #72 in January of this year. The Republican controlled state House and Senate quickly drafted a new expanded version of the law. Governor Snyder, just two months shy later in March 2011, signed what is now known as Public Act #4.

(From the Mackinaw Center Demands) 

The changes needed are as follows: 

  • Under current law, the EFM can be sued personally. Given that actions by an EFM will almost certainly be controversial, and harassing lawsuits are likely, it is essential that an EFM’s personal assets be protected. Making the EFM an employee of the state treasury department with access to the legal staff of the attorney general would make the present lack of indemnification for an EFM largely moot. Harassing lawsuits by local bargaining units or other affected entities or individuals would be defended by the state — an entity that has the depth of financial resources to discourage the filing of frivolous lawsuits. 
  • The present Act lists the powers of an EFM, which are extensive but are not all-inclusive. This can allow the governing body to impede the overall effort of the EFM to deal with the municipality’s fiscal crisis. The Act should state that the EFM replaces and takes on the powers of the governing body (mayor and council or school board.) 
  • Charter provisions, especially in old charters, can prevent or make it difficult for an EFM to make necessary structural changes to address financial problems. The EFM should have the power to review charter provisions that frustrate the process of cleaning up and streamlining a municipality’s financial functions. 
  • Presently, most labor contracts provide for mandatory continuation of an expired contract until a new one is negotiated. This means municipalities have no opportunity to take advantage of lower-cost service providers. Additionally, in the case of public safety unions, municipalities must adhere to the provisions of Act 312, which mandates that when a municipality and union cannot agree on the terms of a new contract they must go to binding arbitration. In most cases, it takes nearly two years or longer to complete the process, and the legal costs are substantial. Furthermore, municipalities rarely reduce costs by going through the Act 312 process but rather, at best, limit the amount of increased expenses. Act 312 should be repealed in its entirety.

If Michigan is sincerely interested in keeping and attracting new business it needs to face rather than ignore the issue of the state’s excessively high, non-competitive municipal labor costs. High labor costs for municipalities result in high municipal taxes, which in turn make municipalities unattractive and create major fiscal problems.

How Public Act #4 turns Michigan from a Democracy to a Plutocracy form of Government 

Does this sound like a version of Democracy to you? Let’s quickly define what a democracy looks like when it comes to local governmental control of their lands, property, school board entities and operational functions.
Photo Credit-ROJS News
Citizens attending the informational town hall
in Ann Arbor on June 26, sign the petition to repeal
Public Act #4

“Democracy is a form of government in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal (and more or less direct) participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law. It can also encompass social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination,” via Wikipedia.

Then there is a little cause in the Michigan Constitution that Gov. Snyder’s  and Republican legislators new version of P.A. #4 clearly violated, which is the “Home Rule” clause of Public Act 279

This clause was added into the state Constitution in 1909, to keep power separate but equal between the state and local governmental bodies. A review of the Justices Thomas Cooley and John Forrest Dillion rules, describes the differences between former Gov. Blanchard version of P.A. #72 and Gov. Snyder, Mackinaw Center and Michigan GOP party version of P.A. #4

Cooley Rule-People vs Hurlburt, “ Local government is a matter of absolute right; and the state cannot take it away.” 1871, Justice Thomas M. Cooley-A former Michigan Supreme Court Judge. 

Dillion Rule-“Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from the legislature.  It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so may it destroy, If it destroy, it may abridge and control.” Clinton v. Cedar Rapids, (Iowa). 1868 Judge John Forrest Dillon.”

Photo Credit-ROJS News
Lansing, Michigan Capitol Building
The state’s Constitutional mandate of “Home Rule” was reinstated by the Michigan legislator in 1963. ‘Home Rule’ gives local government by power of its’ citizens though electoral votes, to regulate themselves, thus, a vastly different from Public Act #4.

“Home Rule can be constitutional or legislative or both.  It is the power of municipalities to organize and govern themselves and to carry out a range of governmental activities to preserve the public health and safety and the general welfare.”

By the power of its’ people “Home Rule” in part believes that citizens  -not state government or ‘think tanks’ like the Mackinaw Center- should be smart enough to decide if their elected leaders are competent to handle financial local affairs. 

The elections process takes place in cities, villages, townships, charters and school boards across Michigan either every two or four years. It gives registered voters an opportunity to remove leadership of a community that choose not to follow the ‘will of the people’, by their legislative actions.

A unique difference in P.A. #4 is the Emergency Financial Manager Appointee is not govern by the populace of a local community. Actions the EFM could enact like selling off water treatment systems, public parks, ending all forms of local government, spending local tax revenue dollars, selling a public school system to a ‘for-profit’ corporation and more; wouldn’t have any form of checks and balances on behalf of a town or school board residents. 

“Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth,” via Wikipedia definition.

What can be done to stop Public Act #4 from destroying Michigan local governmental control?


Photo Credit-Google Images
A picture of the beginning document
of the Constitution of the State of
Michigan, written in the 1800’s.

Michigan has a Constitutional Referendum process which allows for its’ citizens for a immediate, temporary suspension the Emergency Financial Manager Law-P.A. #4 imposed by the legislator in March 2011, until a vote takes place.


Michigan Forward is leading the effort to obtain 161,304 registered voters signatures to place the validity of P.A. #4, on the November 2011 election ballot for a ‘up or down’ vote to get rid of the law, indefinitely. 



Citizens, by the power of their votes, can either choose continuing democracy for local government control or, allow for the plutocracy of Snyder appointed, Mackinaw Center approved Emergency Financial Manager’s to regulate our cities, towns, counties and school boards.


Petition signings are taking place statewide, organized by Washtenaw Community Action Group. It is important that Michiganders understand that the quality of life, as we know it, is under threat by Conservative ‘think tanks’ and their paid and brought leadership, against our rights to “One Man (or Woman), One Vote”.

One Man/Woman, One Vote is:

The principle that all citizens, regardless of where they reside in a state, are entitled to equal legislative representation.”

Equal representation cannot take place within one corporation or individual being paid up to $400,000 in tax payers dollars to destroy our local communities, by appointment of Governor Rick Snyder.


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