Friday, April 29, 2011

Excellent Roger Bybee article on Snyder, Michigan, and Benton Harbor

Democracy vs. Profit is Central Issue in Takeover of Benton Harbor, Mich.

By Roger Bybee Apr 26, 2011

There is no place in the United States that more cruelly illustrates the intensifying conflict between corporate power and democracy than Benton Harbor, Mich., the first city to be placed under what some Michiganders call “financial martial law.”
(Photo by Daymon Hartley/

In March, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder won approval of Public Act 4 (i.e., the Emergency Manager law), which permits him to declare that a city is in fiscal crisis and then to appoint an overseer with unlimited powers including the elimination of existing union contracts. Significantly, chief sponsors of Public Act 4 were State Rep. Al Pscholka, who was a former aide to Whirlpool heir U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, and also "a former vice president for one of the major entities involved in building the luxury golf development,"...

...Benton Harbor's population is 92% African-American and deeply impoverished by the de-industrialization of the city and surrounding area. Whirlpool’s recent plant shutdown is the most recent, crushing blow as the corporation continues to expand significantly in low-wage plants in Mexico, despite taking $19 million in federal recovery funds. Benton Harbor is plagued by the lowest per capita income in Michigan ($8,965), with 42.6 percent of the population living below the poverty line, including a majority of kids under age 18.

Full article:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jesse Jackson calls for uprising in Benton Harbor

The Chicago Sun Times article:

is reprinted in the Michigan Messenger - the article and comments are worth reading. Here's the first part -

Benton Harbor’s finances are a mess. How could they not be in a town stripped of jobs and hope? So, the state has stripped its residents of their democracy. In what is accurately termed “fiscal martial law,” the state has named a czar to run the city. That appointee, Joseph Harris, has issued an order essentially stripping the elected city council of all powers. No money can be spent, no taxes raised or lowered, no bonds issued, no regulations changed without his approval. Benton Harbor’s residents now live in a dictatorship imposed by a Republican governor famous for his belief that the poor should be punished and the rich rewarded.
This appointed dictator claims breathtaking powers. He can sell public assets, dismiss pension boards and take control of public pension funds and revoke labor contracts. What triggers this takeover? The law is remarkably vague. The governor may act if a payroll is missed, if there are complaints of late bill payment, if pensions are underfunded, if there is a significant budget deficit, a term that goes undefined.
This takeover is a recipe for the worst abuses of oppression, cronyism and corruption. And here, too, Benton Harbor is the example. One of the few citizen treasures in Benton Harbor is the Jean Klock Park, a half-mile of sandy dunes on the edge of Lake Michigan. It was bequeathed to the children of Benton Harbor by the Klock family in 1917 in memory of their daughter.
But developers backed by Whirlpool now want to appropriate a large portion of the park to turn it into a Harbor Shores golf resort with a 350-room hotel, two marinas, a 60,000-foot indoor water park (for members only), and a fancy golf course open to all who can afford a $5,000 entry fee and be approved by the club. The town’s citizens have resisted this development, which is under litigation...Full article:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Listen to this EFMer - Joe Harris

Emergency Financial Manager Training - February 10 & 11, 2011 - Michigan State University

Play the audio here

"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."

"...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."

"...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!"

Hat tip to eclectablog
Posted by Libby Spencer, Mon, Apr 25, 2011, Detroit News
A question of timing

One question I haven't seen asked or answered in the story of Benton Harbor is about the timing of EFCzar Joe Harris' move to dissolve the city government. The law was signed on March 16, 2011. Section 141.1530:(30)(2) of the EFM law clearly states an existing EFM has to wait 60 days to exercise their powers under section 26(3), So how is it that Harris dissolved the Committees in 30 days? Is he somehow doing an end run because he didn't actually remove them from office, but merely prevented them from governing while allowing them to keep the title?

And as an interesting aside, the City Commissioners are only paid $90 a month yet word has it, they haven't been paid their monthly stipend for attending meetings since February. Which is before the law was even enacted. Looks to me like Mr. Harris is using his power simply to punish his critics.

From The Detroit News:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

End the Silence March and Rally Wed noon

This is going to be attended by people from many parts of the country and state.
Current projections say at least 1000 people will come to Benton Harbor.

Live coverage by MSNBC and Ed Schultz
Speakers include Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero

End the Silence March and Rally Wed. 4/27, 12noon, Benton Harbor, MI

March/rally in Benton Harbor, Michigan in response to the usurping of the rights and democratic process of their city government and their citizens by empowering a non-elected Emergency Financial Manager to take over the day-to-day operations of Benton Harbor.

Meet at the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce located at 38 W. Wall St., Benton Harbor - march to City Hall.

EFM Joe Harris "talks trash" about elected officials and union bargaining rights

If you scroll down at the following website you'll see a short video of the Benton Harbor, Snyder trained, EFM speaking. Text of the talk is also provided. His intentions are clearly not to help Benton Harbor.

Scroll to the bottom and find out more about tomorrow's demo, and other coming events.

Benton Harbor in the news

Monday, April 25, 2011

Benton Harbor takeover sparks furious reaction
Opponents mobilize protests, repeal campaign

By Eartha Jane Melzer 4.20.11

The impoverished former industrial town of Benton Harbor has become a flashpoint in the controversy over the new law that allows the governor to appoint Emergency Managers with virtually unlimited authority over local governments.

On Thursday the state-appointed Emergency Manager Joe Harris used the expanded powers granted by the new law to issue an order banning the city commission from taking any action without his written permission.

Benton Harbor City Commissioner Juanita Henry says her constituents are angry and looking for help, but without the power to hold meetings the city commission can’t
even provide an official venue for citizens to ask questions and get answers.

“They are using Benton Harbor as a test case,“ Henry said. “If they have disenfranchised the people so badly they just don’t respond to anything, they can do this all over the country.”

Community activist Rev. Edward Pinkney said that many Benton Harbor residents only learned that their city government had been sacked by reading about it in the paper days later.

Though home to the corporate headquarters of appliance giant Whirlpool, the city lost its last manufacturing plant this year, almost half the population lives below the poverty line and the public lakefront has been privatized as part of a luxury golf development backed by the Whirlpool corporation.
(An appeal of the conversion of the city park is underway in federal court.)

Gov. Jennifer Granholm approved a state takeover of Benton Harbor’s finances last year after the city needed help meeting payroll.

Relations have been strained between the elected officials and the Emergency Manager Harris. In January the city commission tried to oust him after criticizing his expenses and his plans to cut the fire department.

“People should be paying attention to what is happening here because Benton Harbor is GROUND ZERO for the future of what is to become of our state under Governor Rick Snyder,“ said Carole Drake, who fought the privatization of Jean Klock Park in state court.

Locals in Benton Harbor said they will work to repeal their state Rep. Al Pscholka, who sponsored the bill, as well as State Sen. John Proos and Gov. Rick Snyder who also approved it.

A group called Heartland Revolution is planning to rally at the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce and march to City Hall on Wednesday, April 27th to protest the takeover of the city.

The total suspension of power for local officials has brought Benton Harbor’s situation into focus for other Michigan communities, where people now worry that growing budget problems could mean that they will face similar loss of assets and control.

“I have been in touch with people all over the state via e-mail, face to face and Facebook … this is a hot
topic all over the place and our community FB page A Referendum to Reject PA 4 has quickly quadrupled in size in just the last 24 hours as we have reposted the link with our different contacts,“ said Traverse City activist Betsy Coffia. “I think Benton Harbor really shook some folks up.”

Coffia said that repeal advocates are talking with legal experts about how to draft official language for a petition.

According to information from the Secretary of State website, in order to have a referendum on a newly enacted law petitioners must gather signatures from 161,305 people — five percent of the number that voted in the last gubernatorial election.

The signatures must be submitted within 90 days of the end of the legislative session in which the bill was passed. If the group manages to gather enough certified signatures, the Emergency Manager law would be automatically suspended until a repeal vote can be held on the next general election date.

“Education is key as the groundwork is laid for an organized referendum to repeal,” Coffia said. “This motivates me to educate as many people as I can so that we will be fully prepared to sign our name as registered voters repealing this law.”

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Interesting comment from

"Louann", So the poor did it to themselves, isn't that always the case...according to people like you who more than likely have lived a privileged existence, this is the usual argument from those who have had it good. A very narrow minded view of humanity especially the underprivileged. How dare they need more than scraps. The very idea.

"Concerned Benton Harbor Citizen", thank you for setting the stage for a compassionate perspective. I mean really, the residents are human beings in need, but like the story all across this country people of color, make less have less, are worth less, and simply have so little compared to many in this country. But they do have more in that there are more of them incarcerated, get harassed and stopped more often, never given the benefit of the doubt, and generally are more inclined to be left out due to lack of opportunity. If someone does not believe me, look up the statistics, it is all there. In spite of a self described African American as the most powerful man in the world as president, there seems to be an undercurrent of disrespect for people of color. I am reminded of the interview between President Obama and Bill O'Reilly who interrupted the president 46 times and did not allow him a complete thought to be expressed; and Brett Baier who also did an interview with the President on FOX noise, he also interrupted so many times that the main thing the president said was that I'll tell you if you'll stop interrupting me.

I'm not sure why people of color are in the situation they are in, but I suppose if you have been considered to be just someone's property historically then those attitudes filter down. The older population that has the most racist views are dying out and that may be why the Tea Party came into existence, in spite of what they themselves claim.

There may be hope after all.

The Republican party seems to be ruled by the sentiments of Ayn Rand, who thinks altruism is a bad thing, and that being completely only selfish is a great philosphy. Which is different from self interest. Chimps have been observed to comfort fellow chimps who lost a fight with a stronger opponent. Competiton is not the way, cooperation is. Republicans love neoliberalism and they want all of America to be a series of everyone competing with everyone else to their own advantage. Democracy is a hindrance to neoliberalism due to its equalizing philosophy.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rachel Maddow Show

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Includes Benton Harbor residents protest at Council Meeting.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Two More Reader Comments from the Benton Harbor EFM article:

Comment: Joe Harris [BH EFM] was hand picked by Granholm, not Snyder. She couldn't leave office before giving the Whirlpool Corporation the final leverage in taking complete control of Benton Harbor's PUBLICLY OWNED JEAN KLOCK PARK on Lake Michigan. Granholm already handed THE CORPORATION the dunes for three holes of a PRIVATELY OWNED Jack Nicklaus Championship golf course. Next Snyder will let them have what remains of the public's land, the beach for an exclusive Harbor Shores golf and beach resort. Not only that - they are after the river front AND the entire city! Believe me! - BENTON HARBOR IS GROUND ZERO FOR THE EFM LAW!!!!

State Rep. Al Pscholka is responsible for submitting the EFM bill. Before becoming a state rep, Al worked for Congressman Fred Upton, grandson of the Whirlpool founder. Upton is extremely loyal to Whirlpool. Fred also works for the Koch brothers. And the Attorney General? - Whirlpool CEO gave a reception for him last summer at the Harbor Shores Golf Club and raised tens of thousands of dollars for his campaign.

Now that the EFM announced that he has stripped power from elected officials he is free and clear to work with THE CORPORATION ONLY and is preparing for the Kitchenaid/Whirpool sponsored senior PGA Tour. From a WNDU TV News Report:
"Harris introduced a two-year plan that would make cutbacks and new investments to get the city ready for the 2012 Senior PGA tour."

Comment: The people, for the most part, didn't vote for this overreach. Snyder first mentioned it at the State of the State, and three months later it's law and the existing EFMs like Joseph Harris and Robert Bobb are demonstrating just what the new law does to home rule and local authority. ...this law has been high on the Mackinac Center wish list.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

State Rep. Al Pscholka introduced EFM bill -
let's just come out with it: FOR WHIRLPOOL

The following is a very astute reader comment from the Michigan Messenger article.

No one seems to have noticed who introduced this bill. It was Rep Al Pscholka [517- 373-1403; represents St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, of course]

Please keep these dates in mind: April of 2010. Governor Granholm assigns an EFM to Benton Harbor. The EFM draws up a plan that if followed would have eliminated the City Manager and elected officials.

January 4, 2011
. The City Commission of Benton Harbor votes to "take back the power given to them by the voters" and passes a resolution stripping the EFM of his authority.

January 5, 2011
. Rep Al Pscholka sends a letter to now Governor Snyder requesting that the EFM be restored to Benton Harbor, saying the elected officials had no authority to do what they did. Apparently, it was realized that the regulations governing how and what an EFM can do were not sufficient, because on

February 8, 2011, Rep Al Pscholka introduced the new EFM legislation, which was passed and now signed by the governor, and which gives the EFM the authority to dissolve elected commissions.

Rich developers in St. Joseph have been itching to get their hands on the last bits of the Michigan lakefront belonging to the poor, majority black city of Benton Harbor. First they grabbed most of what used to be Jean Klock Park to build a Jack Nicklaus golf course. Now they want the rest of the park because a very valuable water system belonging to Benton Harbor is located there. Artesian wells, and all. I just wonder if the ink is already dry on that new EFM order for Benton Harbor?

2 more comments:
Wow- so this is all basically to facilitate a taking? Catering to the wealthy that want the lands for themselves? Will they squeeze the poorer land owners out? Pull one of the eminent domain kind of maneuvers?

What this means is that voters have ZERO representation in local government. The EFM answers to no-one but Snyder. A city government at least answers to it's voters. This power grab is turning voter's rights on their head and is most likely for the benefit of corporations who will reap lucrative contracts from the EFM at the expense of the mostly black Benton Harbor residents. Recall Snyder. He is toxic for the state of Michigan.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

SOS - Benton Harbor Is Now A Dictatorship

You can be sure that Whirlpool, and other corporations for that matter, are ruling Michigan, side by side with the new Guv, Rick Snyder, and cronies. This brief Michigan Messenger article provides a copy of the Benton Harbor EFM's Order, and a link to the recently passed state law giving him the power to issue it. Benton Harbor is a community which has been abandoned, kicked, beaten, and now suffocated. No population should have had to endure for decades what BH has.

There is an active discussion following this article online; we have included some selected comments.

Benton Harbor emergency manager strips power from all elected officials

By Todd A. Heywood 4/15/11

The Emergency Financial Manager of the city of Benton Harbor has issued an order striping all city boards and commissions of all their authority to take any action.

The order, signed Thursday, limits the actions available to such bodies to calling a meeting to order, approving the minutes of meetings and adjourning a meeting. The bodies are prohibited under the act from taking any other action without the express authority of the Emergency Financial Manager, Joseph Harris.

Actions such as Harris’ are explicitly allowed under a newly approved law which granted sweeping new powers to emergency financial managers. That legislation had drawn large protests, including attempts by some protesters to take over the state capitol building. The sit-in resulted in numerous arrests.

Harris’ move comes as Detroit Public Schools’ emergency financial manager Robert Bobb announced that he would use powers granted to him under the act to change union contracts.

Watch for more from Michigan Messenger’s Eartha Jane Melzer.

Comment: This is taxation without representation...oddly enough the rallying call of the original tea party..

Comment: The people who did this were operating under the power of the STATE constitution- not the US constitution. If they were using the US constitution they would not have had the power to do the legislation in the first place. And of course, one of the main things the tea partiers, who put these creatures in office, want is for state rights to take precedence over federal. They acted under state law and law they passed as the state legislature. So no, you do not get to throw the US constitution is the mix. This legislation that they passed and the subsequent actions they have undertaken is directly against the people of the community who put the local government in office. It is a very dangerous precedent for the governor and state legislators to undertake. People need to be standing up screaming over this abuse of power. It needs to be stopped post haste! [emphasis added]

Comment:'s unconscionable to be so willy nilly about grabbing power..and negating contracts at will.

Comment: ..This is illegal in every sense. Take it to the streets Michigan! You get it started and maybe we can head over from Wisconsin. This is a move to dismantle your resources and privatize your cities. STOP THEM!!!

Comment: Here we go folks…the elimination of local control and gutting of the public unions. Who wants to bet he contracts public services to his cronie friends. And it follows those contracted workers will be paid a low wage and pay for their own health care. Government for the rich and connected. At this point shouldn’t someone call the United Nations and complain that our country has been taken over by malicious corporate overlords! HELP…

Comment: ..we need to recall this guy [Snyder]. He apparently doesn't understand how things like government and democracy work.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Niles, Michigan fulfilled it's grant requirement; no longer needs black officer

Racism doesn't get much more straightforward. A couple years ago, the Niles police dept. applied for a grant to build a new station, but was rejected because the force was all white. By hiring Ivery Cross, the grant was awarded. He's now being framed (see post below.) It seems he's popular with the townspeople, but the (now white) police department wants him gone.

Berrien county uses it's courthouses to ruin African-Americans. That fact is crystal clear. Ivery Cross has had to appear in court 3 times recently; each time the court room was packed with Niles residents, blacks and whites in equal numbers. Tomorrow, Tuesday April 12, is the preliminary examination, where his 19 yr. old white accuser will testify. (If you'd like to attend, the Berrien county southern court is in Niles.)

Frame-ups in Berrien county, Michigan are, shall we say, thorough. Not only was Ivery Cross fired immediately after the allegation was made against him in March, but the bank in Niles where he had his house and car loan refused to take his money. Yes, these things occurred because of an ALLEGATION - neither police dept. or bank knew if it was true. Or, maybe they both knew it was false...

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Berrien County displays overt racism again and again and again

Now they're framing a 25 year old, college educated, star athelete, African-American, hometown Niles police officer

How do we know it's a frame-up? Well, it's no stretch whatsoever to believe it in this county, one of America's most bigoted. In fact, it's sort of a "duh?" moment. But here's some evidence: the first reports named the location where officer Ivery Cross supposedly sexually molested a 19 year old white male as a Niles jail cell. Oops. Cells have cameras. Now, reports have it happening in the jail bathroom - as stated by head prosecutor Art Cotter, major player in the life-threatening and life-destroying Berrien county courthouse. The 19 year old has a record, of course, making him easily bought.

Media like the Niles Star actually published details of the alleged assault. Remember the old adage about newspapers (media) playing "judge, jury, and executioner?" For examples of this, simply google: Ivery Cross and sexual assault.
Throughout this saga, Whirlpool has consistently done the wrong thing:

Tennessee Worker’s Harassment Award Against Whirlpool Affirmed April 5, 2011

A federal judge has affirmed a million-dollar judgment against Whirlpool Corp. in a sex and race harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency said.

Judge John T. Nixon denied Whirlpool Corp.’s motion to alter or amend the judgment of the court, entered on Dec.21, 2009, that Whirlpool pay $1,073,261 in damages to the discrimination victim.

“This woman was victimized by serious, ongoing abuse, and was severely and permanently damaged as a result,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Faye Williams. “A sizable amount of damages was called for, and we are pleased that the judge agreed.”

The EEOC’s lawsuit had charged that Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool violated federal law when it tolerated the harassment of Carlotta Freeman, a black employee at a Whirlpool plant in LaVergne, Tenn., by a white male co-worker because of her race and sex. The abuse lasted for two months, the EEOC said, until the co-worker physically assaulted Freeman and inflicted serious permanent injuries.

The EEOC suit was filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Following a bench trial, Judge Nixon awarded Freeman $773,261 in back pay and front pay, and $300,000 compensatory damages for non-pecuniary injuries.

Whirlpool Corp. questioned the award for front and back pay because the plant where Freeman worked had closed. But Judge Nixon declined to reconsider the damages, noting that the court had “ wide discretion to make whole the victim of unlawful discrimination.” Read more:

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Whirlpool, McDonald's, Bank of America, and GE:
Ethically, bottom of the corporate barrel

Bank of America has been named the worst bank in America by various sources.
Here's one:

General Electric - The corp. famous for paying nada in taxes.

McDonald's - We need not delve into the problems with this corp. since they're well-known.

Whirlpool - Simply take a look around this website in case you're not aware of the absence of moral values throughout this corp.

These corporate bottom feeders are getting together at a business college...where they likely made fat donations...

Top Execs to Attend Notre Dame Conference Report 4/6/11

The University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business will host its annual Diversity Conference this weekend. Executives from McDonald's Corp. (NYSE: MCD), Bank of American Corp. (NYSE: BAC), General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) and Whirlpool Corp. (NYSE: WHR) will be among those in attendance for the event. The two-day conference will focus on the processes in place to improve an organization’s ability to handle a diverse set of business issues.