Thursday, June 07, 2012

Marcus Robinson (& Whirlpool) controlled mayor is censured

TEXT OF CENSURE RESOLUTION The following material is the full text of the resolution to censure Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower, as presented by City Commissioner Trenton Bowens in Monday's meeting: We the Benton Harbor City Commission, duly and fairly elected by the residents of Benton Harbor, present this censure on James Hightower, Mayor of Benton Harbor. We present this censure to display our disapproval of the mayor’s dismal leadership, non-inclusive self-serving behavior, and continued poor decision making. As Commissioners, we take great care to serve the residents of Benton Harbor who elected us to work together for the betterment and future of Benton Harbor, and to faithfully uphold the oath of office entrusted to us. It is a great responsibility, and we are united and determined to move forward together for the benefit of the city. As Commissioners, we are not bickering or fighting among one other. We are united and want positive progress, and we are ready to do the heavy lifting required by our office. However, the voices and best interests of the people of Benton Harbor, are being altogether silenced and ignored by the ego of the mayor and other interests his actions are directly influenced by. Since taking office, Mayor Hightower has demonstrated a glaring incompetence as it relates to the inclusion of all elected officials in the democratic process. His leadership has been impotent and divisive. The Emergency Manager law shouldn’t be used as a reason for the Mayor to not perform his duties as an elected official. Listed below are some of the reasons we the Commissioners present this censure of Mayor Hightower:

1. The Mayor has repeatedly delayed the $200,000 dollar Whirlpool donation because the Commissioners do not want to use the entire donation towards a swimming pool that directly benefits one of the Mayor’s own family members. The Commission; to include Mayor Pro-Tem Henderson; support using the donation to help fund multiple programs in Benton Harbor. We’d like to thank Mayor Pro-Tem Henderson for her high-level of professionalism and insight into where the delay lies throughout this process.

2. The Mayor has demanded no specific answers from the Emergency Manager as to the individual cost associated with the skyrocketing of water prices on the residents of Benton Harbor. Clearly the people are affected, yet he simply points the finger to the past, instead of seeking current solutions to aid residents with rising costs. The same bad water policies set in place by the Emergency Manager that sold the water lines to Benton Township, are the same Emergency Manager water polices that have led to the city being sued by that very same Township in about two years’ time. Water bills have become staggering to residents, yet the Mayor hasn’t asked any substantial questions that we can note; and still supports these policies of current EM.

3. Mayor Hightower attempts to operate as mayor of Benton Harbor, as if he were an elected Emergency Manager. That is not inclusive government. Instead of taking the decisions presented and passed by the other eight elected officials of the Commission to the Emergency Manger as a decision to be considered; he routinely disregards nearly all Commissioner inputs and decisions. He does whatever he wants in the name of the Mayor’s office; on behalf of the City of Benton Harbor; in the community and behind closed doors without consultation from the Commission. This puts the entire city at grave risk of potential conflict of interest troubles in the future behind solely his actions.

4. Since taking office, residents of Benton Harbor have lost their lives whose cases still remain unsolved. Shootings are heard more often than before. The Mayor hasn’t asked one question of note to the Emergency Manager as it relates to public safety concerns of the progress on solving those cases and the community impact caused by reduction of the city’s police force.

5. The Mayor has been grossly negligent in his duties by not appointing nor recommending appointments of elected commissioners over city-required committees or sub-committees. There is no information sharing, democratic inclusion, or elected official oversight on any actions done on behalf of the City by anyone. The lack of appreciation of the need for that oversight that mayor in turn has been highlighted by the city failing an audit, out of control water bills, and the improper attempt of selling and terminating city assets such as the city’s radio station. The mayor has made no effort to solicit ways to enhance and improve the radio station for the benefit of the residents of Benton Harbor.

6. The Mayor has removed the Commissioners from their rightful, individual workspaces, and no longer provides a meeting space for Commissioners; just a workspace for himself. The Mayor continues to be uncooperative and hostile towards the Commission. He has openly said he won’t work with us; and his actions have demonstrated that he refuses to try to find common ground to work together on for the residents of Benton Harbor. Instead, in an unprecedented action, has misused the office of the Mayor to openly represent other special interests found in the Benton Harbor Leadership Caucus. This is inappropriate as most members are related to him, the boss of someone related to him, or don’t even reside in the city of Benton Harbor. This is not how we want our mayor to represent us. These actions, along with others which we do not have the time to present, are not the type of conduct the people of Benton Harbor expect from their Mayor. We are willing to meet the Mayor on common ground and move forward together. However, Mayor Hightower must demonstrate he is willing to attend to the needs of all the citizens of Benton Harbor, not just his circle of special interest supporters.