Herbert Dyer, Jr.

The Supreme Court of Michigan ruled Friday that Michigan’s emergency manager law must be put up for a vote by the public on Nov. 6. Until then, the law is suspended and is to have no legal effect. The “suspension” of the law, however, is being interpreted to mean different things to both proponents and opponents, and thus the issue will likely be back in court to get a definitive definition of “suspension.”

A short history: As one of his very first acts as governor, Republican Rick Snyder signed a law passed by Michigan’s Republican-controlled legislature that allows "emergency managers" (appointed by the governor) virtually dictatorial and unchallengeable power over municipalities and parts of municipalities which are deemed “financially distressed.” Four cities and three school districts have emergency managers.

Specifically, Public Act 4 had allowed these non-elected emergency managers to exercise complete and total oversight over a municipality's day-to-day operations, including but not limited to:

  1. Hiring and firing of any city (or municipal body) employee;
  2. Forcing any changes to labor contracts, and even cancelling them;
  3. Not merely propose, but set and enforce a civic body’s budget, including raising and lowering of taxes;
  4. Create ordinances, regulations and rules on any matter affecting the body politic; and
  5. Sell or otherwise dispose of civic property.

This Republican Party-driven law is supported by those who claim that this is not simply the best, but the only way to cut “excessive” spending by profligate public bodies.

Led by local, state and national Democratic Party office holders, opponents of the law (church leaders, the local NAACP branches, community-based organizations, local PUSH/Rainbow branches) gathered over 203,000 signatures on petitions (only 161,000 were required) to put the law up for a state-wide vote. In a bizarre and strictly partisan ruling earlier this year, the state Elections Board decided that even though the 203,000 signatures were valid, the actual petitions themselves, on which the signatures were written, were not. Why? The typeface on the petitions was the wrong font size.

The Michigan Supreme Court's split decision (4-3) finally rejected and put to rest the faux font argument and declared that the law must be decided by the people.

The suspension suspense: Yet, both the state’s Attorney General Bill Schuette and Governor Snyder have not and will not accept defeat. They both have said that because the current emergency manager law is now suspended, an older version, Public Act 72, will replace it, and is now, in fact, in effect. PA 72 limits emergency managers to dealing only with financial issues, rather than the broad range of civic life as enumerated above. Opponents disagree, of course, saying that both laws are now null and void until the people decide in November. This is yet another issue that the courts must resolve, leaving, in the meantime, the whole question of "emergency managment" in a kind of legal limbo until they do so.

It is important to note that all four of the cities which were under “emergency management” are black majority cities. No white or Latino majority cities or municipalities have been targeted by the Republicans.

The Intersection of Voter I.D. and Emergency Management. Four congressional staffers of former Republican Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), who resigned from Congress on July 6, will face criminal felony charges for voter and election fraud. The charges were announced by Michigan’s Attorney General who described the effort as “blatant.” The congressional staffers are charged with forgery and faking petition signatures by using old signatures from past election forms.

“The approach taken was disgraceful,” said Attorney General Bill Schuette. According to a report by his office, McCotter’s staff had “completely lost its moral compass.”

Schuette further said the staffers performed ”cut and paste jobs that would make an elementary school teacher cringe…The district got stiffed. People got stiffed.”

The Detroit Free Press reports that McCotter’s staff “pasted signatures from 2006 onto petitions for this year’s election.” Michigan’s 11th district where the election fraud took place is one of Michigan’s wealthiest.

Republican legislatures across the country have passed voter ID laws and drastically cut early voting timeframes, claiming that fraud was rampant.

Emergency managers have replaced the will of the people in minority communities in Michigan, while Voter ID laws have simultaneously limited non-EM municipalities’ minorities access to the ballot box.

If you don’t see a pattern here, then you are way overdue for an eye exam.

Finally, should the Romney/Ryan ticket get punched in November, look for Michigan’s style of “democracy” to go nationwide.

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