The thrust [of the Berrien county courthouse] is to physically remove and destroy families through the use
of the criminal justice system. Every person they can put in jail; every person whose voting rights they can
revoke with a felony conviction; every person they can cause to lose their job by putting them on probation;
every person they can cause to lose the ability to pay for basic necessities through imposing ruinous court
costs and probation is all part of the process. In the 1960s, it was called Negro removal. In Bosnia, it was
called ethnic cleansing. It could be called genocide, the removal of the minority population for the purpose
of redevelopment of the land. That’s what’s happening in Benton Harbor and the foremost leader
of the resistance is Rev. Edward Pinkney. --Civil rights attorney, Hugh "Buck" Davis
Monday, July 30, 2012
"Can any good come out of Nazareth?" Farrakhan asked during a sermon to an audience of about 400 people. The question, which was the title of his speech, echoed a question in the gospel of John about Jesus.
"Jesus came out of a bad part of Benton Harbor," Farrakhan said.
"We can unite Benton Harbor and make a powerful presence in Detroit and Lansing, and you will take back your city without ever using violence," Farrakhan said.
Benton Harbor residents may have elected their representatives, "but the government in Lansing said, 'No, that's not good enough,'" Farrakhan said, referring to the state takeover that happened when the Treasury Department appointed an emergency manager to the city.
It happened, Farrakhan said, "Because Whirlpool might want this side of town.
"They make it sound so good, like they're going to save the city," Farrakhan said. "The devil promises only to deceive. You should know that by now. It started with 40 acres and a mule."
Farrakhan said the method has played out before. Rich people find land they want and raise the taxes so that poor people have to move away, and then the rich people buy the land cheap.
Farrakhan said Benton Harbor City Commissioner Marcus Muhammad is standing strong in Benton Harbor. Muhammad is a member of the Nation of Islam. Also at the speech were other commissioners, including Juanita Henry, David Shaw and MaryAlice Adams, and former Benton Harbor Mayor Wilce Cooke.
Farrakhan commended controversial local activist Ed Pinkney for speaking truth to power, saying that though some people may call Pinkney a troublemaker, "if you're a slave, shouldn't somebody trouble the master?"
America has voted into office its first black president, Farrakhan said. "Because of that act, young children will never go to bed thinking they can only be basketball players."
But President Barack Obama is a black man elected to handle the affairs of white people, Farrakhan said. "This is their government, we live in it."
"Jesus ain't Obama, you know," Farrakhan said. "Jesus is not a Republican and he sure ain't a Democrat. When Jesus comes into the world, he comes with a government to replace the U.S. government.
"All governments are going to be sent down when Jesus comes. None of them pleased Jesus Christ or his father," Farrakhan said.
"What happened to us as parents that we lost control?" Farrakhan asked. He asked what happened to law enforcement that average people have to carry tasers and handguns as if they're in the jungle.
"Here we are in 2012 and the world is falling apart with us in it," Farrakhan said.
Jesus was not white, Farrakhan said. "Boy, he better come white, though."
Farrakhan said that if Jesus arrived at most white Christian homes as a black man, "You might have trouble receiving him."
He asked the audience whether they thought Jesus would forgive white people for being slave owners and the children of slave owners.
"White folks understand that justice has to come," Farrakhan said. "When you're sowing bad seed, the harvest has to come."
Farrakhan railed against genetically modified food, Planned Parenthood and putting faith in medical doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists instead of religion.
People are being monitored through their own devices, such as their cellphones and computers, Farrakhan said.
"If they find you just looking at a website that has pornographic material involving children, they arrest you on the spot," Farrakhan said. "You see, these are traps made by Satan."
Farrakhan said Friday was his 80th birthday. Despite his age, and despite the fact that he observes Ramadan and so hadn't eaten since before sunup, Farrakhan was energetic at the church Friday evening, shouting into the microphone and cracking jokes when an audience member's cellphone went off.
Friday, July 27, 2012
Thursday July 26, 2012 ~ Kalamazoo GazetteBy Ian Kullgren | firstname.lastname@example.org
BENTON HARBOR, MI — Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris said state officials are in the process of forcing him out of office, bending to pressure from a group of high-power political adversaries of his.
Harris said he recently received confirmation of the decision to remove him via the state treasurer's office, although he still is not sure when he will be required to step down.
Harris said the move was sparked by a group of his adversaries, who convinced the state to remove him for "political" reasons. Although Harris would not disclose the individuals' identities or provide more detail, he said he has evidence that five individuals had a meeting in January with state officials to discuss the possibility of an emergency manager change in Benton Harbor.
"Knowing what I know, there's no question that it's political," Harris said during an interview on Wednesday with the MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette about the future of the state's role in governing Benton Harbor.
Harris said he did not wish to share any more information about those involved, except they are powerful community leaders in the Benton Harbor area. He said he did not want to stretch an already tense relationship between himself and the unnamed leaders by creating a media controversy.
"I just don't need to create any more tension or animosity," Harris said. "If that's the way the game is played, so be it."
A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder wouldn't comment on Harris' statement that he is being forced out.
"There is no set decision or timetable for any change at this point in time," Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said. "We're currently looking at the next steps."
Under Public Act 4, the governor appoints and removes emergency managers from a community.
Harris' statements came the same day the Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments on a case involving the validity of a petition aimed at repealing the emergency manager law. The hearing drew more than 200 protesters in Lansing, both in the court room and outside on the lawn.
Proponents of the law are attempting to block the measure from the November ballot by claiming the petitions were printed in a smaller font than is required by state election law.
Harris, who served as Detroit's auditor general from 1995 to 2005, said he will officially announce his departure when a new emergency manager is ready to take over.
Harris has been Benton Harbor's emergency manager since 2010, and faced public criticism from Democrats as controversy surrounding the law grew.
Harris said he did not know exactly when he would be leaving, but said it would be within "the next few months," or sooner if he finds a new job. To his knowledge, a successor has not yet been chosen.
"It's like a judge's ruling, it's like a referee's ruling," he said. "You accept it and move on."
State Treasurer Andy Dillon said on Tuesday he expects Benton Harbor to be back under local control within six months. But Harris said despite the progress he has made, it might take three more years for the city to pay off its roughly $2 million in outstanding liabilities.
Harris said he is proud of Benton Harbor's progress.
"There's nothing the (city) commissioners or naysayers can say to offset all the joy that people have expressed to me," Harris said.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PETITION TO OVERTURN EMERGENCY MANAGER LAW AT ISSUE IN CASE MICHIGAN SUPREME COURT WILL HEAR JULY 25 Petition’s opponents claim type size in heading violated statutory requirement, but Michigan Court of Appeals found “substantial compliance” with type size rules
LANSING, MI, July 23, 2012 – A petition to overturn Michigan’s emergency manager law – and whether that petition will appear as a referendum on the November 2012 ballot – is at issue in a
MICHIGAN SUPREME COURT
case that the Michigan Supreme Court will hear argued this week. In Stand Up for Democracy v Secretary of State, the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered
Office of Public Information
the Board of State Canvassers, which had deadlocked 2-2 on whether to certify the petition, to place the measure on the November 2012 ballot. If successful, the referendum would overturn contact: Marcia McBrien (517) 373-0129
2011 PA 4, the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act (MCL 14.1501 et seq.), the state’s emergency manager law.
Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, a group that opposes the referendum, argues that the petition signature forms did not comply with a statutory requirement for the petition headings to be in 14-point type. Stand Up for Democracy, the group that seeks to have the measure placed on the ballot, contends that the petition does comply with the statute. Even if the heading type is smaller than 14 point, the group argues, the petition is in “substantial compliance” with statutory requirements. The Michigan Court of Appeals, while finding that the petition “contains a fatal formatting defect,” nevertheless ordered the Board of State Canvassers to place the measure on the ballot, finding that the petition did substantially comply with the heading type size requirement. The appeals court added that it would reach a different conclusion if the panel were not bound by an earlier Court of Appeals decision, Bloomfield Charter Township v Oakland County Clerk, 253 Mich App 1 (2002), which states that “substantial compliance” with statutory referenda requirements is sufficient.
The Supreme Court will hear the oral argument in its courtroom on the sixth floor of the Michigan Hall of Justice on July 25 starting at 10 a.m. The Court’s oral arguments are open to the public. The arguments will also be broadcast live on Michigan Government Television (mgtv.org).
Please note: The summary that follows is a brief account of the case and may not reflect the way some or all of the Court’s seven Justices view the case. The attorneys may also disagree about the facts, the issues, the procedural history, or the significance of the case. Briefs are available at http://courts.michigan.gov/supremecourt/Clerk/07-12/145378/145387-Index.html. For further details about the case, please contact the attorneys.
STAND UP FOR DEMOCRACY v SECRETARY OF STATE, et al. (case no. 145387) Attorney for plaintiff Stand Up for Democracy: Herbert A. Sanders/(313) 962-0099 Attorney for defendants Secretary of State and Board of State Canvassers: Heather S. Meingast/(517) 373-6434
Attorney for intervening defendant Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility: John D. Pirich/(517) 377-0712 Attorney for amicus curiae Governor Richard Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette: John J. Bursch/(517) 373-4875
Attorney for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan: Mark P. Fancher/(313) 578-6822 Lower tribunal: Michigan Court of Appeals
At issue: The plaintiff seeks to have a referendum placed on the ballot to overturn the state’s emergency financial manager law, 2011 PA 4. Did the plaintiff’s petitions comply with a statutory requirement for the petition heading to be in 14-point type? If the heading petition is smaller than 14-point type, does the petition nevertheless “substantially comply” with the statute, and if so, must the measure then be certified for the ballot? Was Bloomfield Charter Township v Oakland County Clerk, 253 Mich App 1 (2002) – the Court of Appeals decision which states that “substantial compliance” with statutory referenda requirements is sufficient – wrongly decided?
Background: In 2011, the Legislature passed 2011 PA 4, the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act (MCL 14.1501 et seq.), which provides for management and control of local governments’ finances in financial emergencies. PA 4 replaced 1990 PA 72, the Local Government Fiscal Responsibility Act (MCL 141.1201 et seq.). PA 4 granted broader powers to emergency managers than PA 72 did.
Stand Up for Democracy, a citizens’ group and the plaintiff in this case, filed a petition with the Secretary of State seeking a referendum of the emergency financial manager law. The group’s ballot proposal would repeal PA 4 and reinstate PA 72. At issue is whether Stand Up for Democracy’s petition signature forms complied with a requirement for the petition heading to be in 14-point type.
MCL 168.544d provides in part that petitions circulated countywide “shall be on a form prescribed by the secretary of state . . . .” In memos issued in January and June 2011, the Secretary of State prescribed that any petition form include a heading with the words “REFERENDUM OF LEGISLATION PROPOSED BY INITIATIVE PETITION,” and that the heading “shall be printed in capital letters in 14-point type on the left margin of the signature side of the sheet or at the top of the signature sheet. (MCL 168.482(2)).” The Secretary of State memos also require the filing of a printer’s affidavit to accompany referenda petitions submitted for Board of State Canvassers approval. The June memo included a sample printer’s affidavit; the Secretary of State also urged proponents to submit a proof copy of their petition to the Board of State Canvassers for approval as to form before circulating the petition.
On February 29, 2012, Stand Up for Democracy filed its petition with the Secretary of State. The group had not previously submitted the petition to the Board of State Canvassers for
approval as to form. Stand Up for Democracy also did not include a printer’s affidavit with the February 29 filing; the group later submitted a letter from Bruce Hack of Inland Press, stating that “to the best of our knowledge, we did not make any changes to the document and printed it as provided.” The Bureau of Elections ultimately concluded that plaintiff had submitted over 203,000 valid signatures and reported this result to the Board of State Canvassers. The bureau rejected the printer’s letter; on March 14, Stand Up for Democracy submitted a printer’s affidavit, which included a statement that the petition heading was in 14-point type.
On April 9, 2012, Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, the intervening defendant in this case, challenged the certification of the petition before the Board of State Canvassers, contending, among other matters, that the type size of the petition heading was too small. Citizens submitted affidavits from commercial printers attesting that the type size was too small. Stand Up for Democracy countered with its own printer’s affidavit that the heading was in 14- point type; the group also argued that the petition form substantially complied with the statutory requirements and must be certified for the November 2012 ballot.
The Board of State Canvassers heard Citizens’ challenge on April 26, 2012. The hearing included statements from Bruce Hack, whose company printed the petitions, and printer Michael Migrin; both opined that the petition’s heading met the 14-point size requirement. Hack indicated that Calibri was the font used for the petition, and that he used a program called PDF Suite, rather than a ruler, to determine whether the text was in 14-point type. Migrin used a printer’s “cell” and a magnifying glass to measure the type size: “So I would invite anybody to take this cell and have a ten-power magnifying glass and to lay this cell onto this typeface here and compare if it is 14-point or not.” Ultimately, the board split 2-2 over the type size issue; because of the tie vote, the petition was not certified.
On May 3, Stand Up for Democracy filed a complaint for mandamus in the Court of Appeals, asking the appeals court to order the Board of State Canvassers to certify the petition for the November ballot. The Board of State Canvassers had a clear legal duty to certify the petition because the petition was in 14-point type as required by MCL 168.482(1), the plaintiff argued. In the alternative, the group maintained that it had substantially complied with the type- size requirement, and that substantial compliance is legally sufficient for the petition to be certified for the ballot. There was no evidence that the type-size in the heading was confusing or misleading to petition signers, the group stated.
In a unanimous published opinion, the Court of Appeals held that the petition substantially complied with the statutory requirements, although the panel concluded that the petition headings were not in the proper type size. “Type” and “font” are two different things, the Court of Appeals explained:
It is clear from the record evidence that plaintiff’s petition heading is printed in Calibri, the current default family in Microsoft software. It is further undisputed that the font was categorized by the Microsoft software as “14-point.” However, as conceded by the printers and by plaintiff in this case, the actual size of text varies depending on the font family chosen. In other words, “14-point” Calibri font measures in a different type size than “14-point” Arial font. Therefore, text in a so-called 14-point font may not necessarily meet the 14-point
type standard of 14/72 inches. Because a heading of 14-point type is plainly and unambiguously prescribed by the Secretary and MCL 168.482(2), text that does not measure 14 point, or 14/72 inches, is insufficient under the statute. Here, the Calibri font utilized in plaintiff’s petition heading is smaller than the prescribed 14-point type measurement of 14/72 inches. In fact, the heading on plaintiff’s petition only measures 12 point on an E-scale ruler. Thus, plaintiff’s petition contains a fatal formatting defect, and the petitions are invalid under the Secretary’s prescribed format and § 482.
But despite the defect, the Court of Appeals ordered the petition to be placed on the November 2012 ballot. The panel said it was bound by an earlier Court of Appeals opinion, Bloomfield Charter Township v Oakland County Clerk, 253 Mich App 1 (2002), which held that substantial compliance with the statutory referenda requirements is sufficient. In Bloomfield, the annexation petition at issue did not comply with a statutory requirement to have petition warnings in 12-point type. Although the Bloomfield court acknowledged that the “annexation petitions indisputably contained several variations from the statutorily prescribed language,” the court upheld certification of the petition. The Bloomfield court said that, “
whether language on
the petition “appears in sufficiently clear terms
The Court of Appeals in Stand Up for Democracy said that Bloomfield was binding precedent which the Stand Up panel was bound to follow. But Bloomfield was wrongly decided, the panel said:
The Bloomfield Court’s conclusion that initiating petitions need not “ the Legislature’s use
of the term “shall,” a clear expression of its intent that the form of an initiating petition be in a specified type, and
In the instant case, the expression of legislative intent is even clearer. As we earlier mentioned, the Legislature amended § 482(2) in 1965 by striking the language permitting the petition heading to be in “type of the approximate size set forth” and replaced it with the mandatory language, “shall be . . . in 14-point boldfaced type.” The inescapable conclusion to be derived from this amendment is that the Legislature no longer wished to permit heading type of an indefinite size, but instead intended to require the heading to be a uniform, standardized dimension – that of 14- point type, or 14/72 inches .... Thus, but for MCR 7.215(J)(1), which requires us to follow the holding in Bloomfield, we would conclude that the petition heading is fatally defective, that plaintiff has no clear legal right to certification of the referendum for placement on the November 2012 ballot, and that the Board is mandated to reject the
petitions as invalid.
The panel called for the convening of a special conflict panel of the Court of Appeals. Under MCR 7.215(J), where a Court of Appeals panel indicates that it disagrees with, but is bound by, a prior published Court of Appeals ruling, “the chief judge must poll the judges of the
As a general principle,
all doubts as to technical deficiencies or failure to comply with the exact letter of procedural
requirements are resolved in favor of permitting the people to vote and express their will on any
proposal subject to election.” Bloomfield also calls for courts to determine
so that those signing the petition can be assumed
to have understood to what it was they were appending their signatures.”
exactly match the
Michigan Election Law requirements for form and content” ignored
constituted an improper failure to recognize and defer to a
legislative mandate ....
Court of Appeals” to determine whether a special seven-judge panel should be convened to rehear the case and potentially revisit the earlier ruling. In an order issued June 14, 2012, the Court of Appeals stated that a special panel would not be convened.
Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility seeks leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, asking the Court to reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and to overrule the Bloomfield Twp decision. In an order dated July 11, 2012, the Supreme Court stated that it would hear oral argument on July 25 “on whether to grant the application or take other action.” The Court directed the parties to address “(1) whether plaintiff actually complied with the 14-point type requirement in MCL 168.482(2), specifically given the terms ‘point’ and ‘type;’ and (2) if not, whether substantial compliance with the 14-point type requirement in § 482(2) is sufficient to give plaintiff a clear legal right to certification of the petition.”
-- MSC --
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Dated, but very relevant
He presides over an area of the country with some of the most serious and oppressive racism in the US. The Berrien County Court regularly imprisons teenagers and innocents from Benton Harbor, Mich. Law enforcement harasses, sexually and otherwise, and sets dogs on residents. It’s a desperate existence which Fred Upton and Whirlpool Corp. are in complete control of.Pat Foster Says:March 18, 2011 at 11:23 am
I worked with a young man who was investigating an earmark that Fred attached to a bill giving $5 million to Benton Harbor for low income housing. The check was issued by HUD to the City of Benton Harbor, and they turned it over to Whirlpool’s nonprofit, the Cornerstone Alliance, because those poor black folk don’t know how to spend their own money.
Since HUD funds must be open to public inspection, this young man went to the Conerstone Alliance and asked to see their books because no money had been spent on housing. Instead of showing him the books, they said no, and hired a major law firm specializing in “crisis management”.
He speculated that the money was used to take over Jean Klock Park. He also investigated the geology of the land that they now control supposedly to put a golf course on and found that it sits on one of three deep well aquifers in the State of Michigan. If Aubrey McClendon destroys all our drinking water using his fracking method to drill for natural gas, then the only clean water around will be controlled by the Whirlpool group.
Whirlpool corp pays no federal corporate income tax and has not and wont for years due to a loophole they lobbied for and received. The made $618M in profit in 2010 and didn’t pay a dime. That does not prevent them from applying for and receiving federal grants, like the one they got for the Yakima wash call center in 2007 which just closed. I have written the local paper website 4 times to point out whirlpools contribution to the federal budget; the 1st one got in, the others were screened out and not posted.December 13, 2011 at 4:11 pm
Thanks for the enlightening journalistic work. I’d like to add another piece to the mix. We are a small business that has been in Benton Harbor for 90 years, employing 100 people in one of the nation’s most unemployed city. Harbor Shores has stolen our land, built around us, and has many ways of putting the pressure on us. Not that an automotive supplier needs more pressure, thank you! Here’s a site describing the problems:http://www.WhatIstheBigSqueeze.com.
This site doesn’t even touch on all the political forces that affect us. We are having difficulty seeking a tax abatement, that has been quite easy for other businesses ($300M in tax incentives to Whirlpool this year). Large incentives have been given to businesses to move to Benton Harbor, like Intermet, a direct competitor. Whirlpool has carved up a new district, Benton Township, with a wealthy tax base, land donated by Benton Harbor, and a new water plant bent on destroying the “undesirables” of Benton Harbor.
We welcome your comments on our site and support on Facebook. The louder we are, the less they are able to squeeze us out of business.http://theblindedeye.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/who-is-fred-upton-r-mi-6/
Monday, July 16, 2012
Saturday, July 14, 2012
We are downgrading our long-term recommendation on Whirlpool Corporation ( WHR ) to Neutral. The company might face significant headwinds due to its high customer concentration, rising input costs and price increments of its products.
Following the rise in material costs (mainly the price of steel), Whirlpool has increased the price of its products. This strategy might be detrimental to the company's market share, provided some of its major competitors from Korea, including LG Electronics and Samsung, retain their existing prices.
In addition, the company has a high level of customer concentration. Its large trade customers include Sears ( SHLD ), Lowe's ( LOW ), Home Depot ( HD ), Casas Bahia, Best Buy ( BBY ) and Ikea, that command significant leverage as buyers and can demand favorable pricing from Whirlpool at the cost of its margins.
Also, most of Whirlpool's products are not sold through long-term contracts to these customers. Sales volumes undergo frequent adjustments and might affect operations.
Whirlpool posted mixed results in the first quarter of 2012. The company saw its adjusted earnings increase to $1.41 per share from 64 cents last year, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.12 in the process.
Also, revenues in the quarter dipped slightly to $4.35 billion from $4.40 billion last year, as an improvement in product price/mix was offset by unfavorable currency, lower industry demand and lower monetization of tax credits. As a result, Whirlpool failed to meet the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $4.37 billion.
However, we are not discounting Whirlpool completely, keeping in mind its industry-leading position. Whirlpool is the largest manufacturer of home-appliances in the world, ahead of companies such as Electrolux AB ( ELUXY ), LG, Samsung and General Electric Co. ( GE ).
The company's operations are spread across the globe. It derived 51% of its revenues from North America, 27% from Latin America, 17% from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and 5% from Asia last year. This geographic diversification has enabled Whirlpool to keep its top line stable in difficult economic times as it eliminates some of the risks arising from concentration in one region.
Moreover, Whirlpool is highly focused on product innovation. The company's consistent investment in research and development (R&D) is reflected by its R&D spending of $500 million in 2009, $532 million in 2010, and $578 million in 2011. Whirlpool's R&D efforts are bearing positive results as its new products are gaining acceptability among consumers and driving the company's positive price-product mix.
Our recommendation on Whirlpool is backed by a Zacks #3 Rank, reflecting a short-term (1 to 3 months)
BENTON HARBOR - A new dialysis center is being built in Benton Harbor on what should have been parkland.
Construction crews are already laying the foundation at 338 Eighth St., but a Michigan Department of Natural Resources official confirmed Tuesday the property is a mitigation parcel meant for park use.
The land was among several parcels designated as public space for mitigation of a piece of Jean Klock Park along Grand Boulevard, which was converted for residential development in 2004.
The DNR did not know about the sale of the Harbor Town parcel, said Steve DeBrabander, the DNR manager of grants management. The DNR contacted the city about the problem last week.
The construction site's fence runs along the block's sidewalk, in front of a sign on the plot that says, "City of Benton Harbor open public space." The plot, about the size of a city block, was supposed to be designated as public park land in perpetuity.
"Frankly, it's very frustrating," DeBrabander said.
Emergency Manager Joseph Harris said Tuesday someone failed to record the property as a mitigation parcel and so that fact didn't come up in a title search.
The title company isn't at fault because "there wasn't anything there to miss," Harris said.
But Harris said he doesn't know whose responsibility it was to record the mitigation designation - the state or the city administration at the time the parcel was designated.
"I don't know who dropped the ball," Harris said.
The parcel, called the Harbor Town parcel because it's near the Harbor Town development, was considered to be in a good location because it would be near a residential development, according to minutes from a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board meeting.
The city will have to find an acceptable replacement, Harris said.
Liberty Dialysis is working with two other organizations to open the $1.8 million outpatient hemodialysis treatment center. A spokeswoman for Liberty Dialysis said the company deferred to the city on the property question.
The city will have to replace the property with one of equal or greater market and recreational value, DeBrabander said.
"We need to get this corrected," he said.
DNR staff will meet with city officials to make sure the city knows which properties are mitigation parcels, DeBrabander said. The DNR hasn't given the city a deadline to find a replacement property, but DeBrabander said the DNR would make sure the city makes progress.
Municipalities must follow a process to sell mitigation parcels, and the city's actions in this case violated the city's agreement between the DNR, DeBrabander said.
The city should have gotten DNR approval beforehand, but can remedy the situation by finding land to replace the property, DeBrabander said. The replacement land has to be upland and developable, and it's replacement as mitigation land also needs to be approved by the DNR.
The DNR has issued several grants to Benton Harbor. Each time a grant is issued, a project area is designated, DeBrabander said. That project area is supposed to be committed to public recreation in perpetuity.
The Harbor Town parcel was chosen in 2005 as replacement park land in exchange for about 4 acres of Jean Klock Park land along Grand Boulevard.
But the property was an empty lot in June when officials from Liberty Dialysis, Lakeland HealthCare and Lake Michigan Nephrology broke ground on the dialysis center.
DeBrabander said the DNR will have to look into whether the city should have been actively developing the parcel for park use.
If it should have been developing the park, it will have to develop the new plot, DeBrabander said.
Harris said he's been told the city can't substitute a park that already exists, but will have to substitute vacant land and turn it into a park.
There are incentives for the city to follow the DNR's rules. If the city were to turn around and sell this new mitigation parcel, the DNR could make the city ineligible for future grants, DeBrabander said.
If the DNR's regulations were to be blatantly disregarded, the DNR could take legal action against the city, DeBrabander said, adding that he hoped to get compliance from the city long before that.
Friday, July 13, 2012
I saw many police and sheriffs, all with cameras, engaged in the intimidation tactic of photographing and taping protesters. Some were right up in peoples' faces.
At one point, four military-looking men emerged from an SUV and begain photographing.
Upon nearing the golf course, I observed officers reprimanding protesters, but being helpful to people attending the PGA. The difference in treatment and demeanor was stark.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Joe Harris, state appointed emergency manager in Benton Harbor, Mich., unlocks the door of the city manager's office.
On January 20 the progressive think tank Michigan Forward and the Detroit branch of the NAACP sent a joint letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder expressing concern over Public Act 4, the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act. Signed into law in March 2011, it granted unprecedented new powers to the state’s emergency managers (EMs), including breaking union contracts, taking over pension systems, setting school curriculums and even dissolving or disincorporating municipalities. Under PA 4, EMs, who are appointed by the governor, can “exercise any power or authority of any officer, employee, department, board, commission or other similar entity of the local government whether elected or appointed.”
What are the qualifications for such a powerful office and the six-figure salary that accompanies it? Not much: PA 4 requires “a minimum of 5 years’ experience and demonstrate expertise in business, financial, or local or state budgetary matters."
Last year the state held a pair of two-day training sessions for EMs, both run primarily by companies that provide outsourcing services to municipalities and school districts. Yet PA 4 made the emergency manager the single most powerful person in the city.
Results were swift. In April the Benton Harbor EM, Joe Harris, decreed: “Absent prior express written authorization and approval by the Emergency Manager”—himself—“no City Board, Commission or Authority shall take any action for or on behalf of the City whatsoever other than: i) Call a meeting to order, ii) Approve of meeting minutes, iii) Adjourn a meeting.” The move in effect abolished Benton Harbor’s elected City Commission and replaced it with an unelected bureaucrat, perhaps the first time this has happened in US history.
The implications went beyond Benton Harbor. “Since the beginning of your administration, communities facing or under emergency management have doubled,” Michigan Forward and the NAACP wrote to the governor, citing a “failure of transparency and accountability” in the process of determining which jurisdictions need an emergency manager. The financial review team assigned to Detroit, for instance, had recently met in Lansing, nearly 100 miles away—“a clear example of exclusion and voter disenfranchisement,” according to the authors. On February 6 an Ingham County circuit judge ruled that the Detroit team’s meetings must be held in public.
Of Detroit’s 713,777 residents, 89 percent are African-American. The city of Inkster (population 25,369), which recently got an EM, has a black population of 73 percent. Having EMs in both cities would mean that more than half the state’s black population would fall into the hands of unelected officials.
* * * * * * *Everyone agrees that something must be done to “fix” Michigan’s struggling urban centers and school districts, although news of a $457 million surplus in early February prompted the state budget director to declare, “Things have turned.” But at what cost? In 2011 Governor Snyder stripped roughly $1 billion from statewide K-12 school funding and drastically reduced revenue sharing to municipalities. Combined with poor and sometimes corrupt leadership and frequently dysfunctional governments, these elements have brought Michigan cities to the brink of bankruptcy. Residents of the hardest-hit places have fled if they are able.
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The state’s first emergency managers—previously known as emergency financial managers—were appointed between 2000 and 2002 by Republican Governor John Engler in the cities of Hamtramck, Flint and Highland Park to prevent them from declaring bankruptcy. Although all eventually left when their job was done—the last in 2009—all three cities are back in the red. In January the Highland Park School District was assigned an EM. (That city—population 11,776—is 93.5 percent African-American.) Others followed, in Ecorse, Benton Harbor and Pontiac, as well as Detroit public schools.
Under PA 4, EMs have proven to be a divisive solution. Outsourcing services to private companies and abolishing collective bargaining takes a page right out of the right-wing playbook: a 2011 report titled “101 Recommendations to Revitalize Michigan,” published by the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy, calls for ending “mandatory collective bargaining for government employees who already enjoy civil service protections.” Many are worried that EMs will hasten the gentrification of places like Benton Harbor, pushing out poor residents to make way for developers. In one of his first acts under PA 4, Joe Harris replaced nine people on the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and all nine members of the planning commission.
Despite their relatively short history, EMs have a record of abusing their powers. This past summer Arthur Blackwell II, Highland Park’s former emergency financial manager, was ordered to repay more than $250,000 he paid himself. In Pontiac EFM Michael Stampfler outsourced the city’s wastewater treatment to United Water just months after the Justice Department announced a twenty-six-count indictment against the company for violating the Clean Water Act.
Multiple efforts are under way to rid Michigan of PA 4. The first is a lawsuit brought in June 2011 by the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice and the Center for Constitutional Rights challenging the law under the state Constitution. Despite efforts by the Snyder administration to bypass the legal process and force the Republican-controlled state supreme court to hear the case immediately, the lawsuit is pending. Representative John Conyers is pursuing the issue through the Justice Department, arguing that the law’s impact on minority populations may violate the Voting Rights Act.
But Michigan Republicans seem to be most concerned about a petition drive, organized by Michigan Forward, seeking a citizen referendum to overturn the law. As of mid-February the petition had more than 200,000 signatures, well over the number necessary to put the law on hold. The group plans to turn in the petitions on February 29. Since PA 4 replaced the law that created emergency financial managers, this could eliminate the positions in Michigan until the referendum is voted on in November.
GOP lawmakers are discussing replacement legislation, with Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger warning about “the chaos that could ensue if the emergency manager law is suspended.” Since Michigan law prevents referendums on appropriations bills, PA 4 opponents fear that any such law will contain an appropriation to make it “referendum proof,” a tactic already used by the state GOP this year.
The outcome of the citizen referendum and the constitutional challenges may well determine if laws like PA 4 remain unique to Michigan or become the national standard for dealing with impoverished urban areas. With the Indiana Senate having just passed an emergency manager bill of its own, we may be heading down that path. by Chris Savage