Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Democracy" in Michigan

Right now the Michigan governor is deciding whether or not to appoint an "Emergency Financial Manager" (EFM) for the city of Detroit.  A Michigan political blog, the Eclectablog, points out that if the governor does so, 49% of African-Americans in the state of Michigan will be residing in places under EFM rule.

Why this is such a big deal, and why the EFM law is such a big deal to begin with, is that an EFM replaces local democratically-elected government with a person appointed by the governor.  The people residing in cities run by an EFM still have a mayor and city council, but the mayor and city council no longer make any financial decisions, which is to say they have extremely limited power.

Here's Rachel Maddow, a year ago, as the first city, Benton Harbor, was getting its EFM explaining how this is anti-democratic. (She starts talking about the EFM law about six minutes in.)





If you think this isn't really anti-democratic, consider this...  Last November, Michigan voters voted to repeal the EFM law.  It was the only one of six ballot issues where the vote didn't go our governor's way.  And Michigan voters thought this would do away with the EFM law and restore democracy.  What did our governor and legislature do in response to this clear statement from the Michigan electorate?  They promptly replaced it with extremely similar legislation.  It was one of those lame-duck legislation pieces they swept through this year along with making us a right-to-work state and a host of other things (reproductive freedom curtailed, prisons privatized...).  But this time they did the same trick to it that they did to the right-to-work legislation: they tied it to appropriations so that this time it's not subject to voter referendum.  Yes, that's right.  Our government heard the will of the people to repeal something, and then replaced it with the same thing but in a way that makes it impossible to repeal.  And they did so so that they could replace democratically elected government with appointed officials.  Governor Snyder said, "This legislation demonstrates that we clearly heard, recognized and respected the will of the voters."   Well, heard and recognized, anyway.  I think it would be more truthfully phrased, "We clearly heard, recognized, and have found a way to work around."

This is what we call "democracy" in Michigan these days.  And you can say it's not another sign of the New Jim Crow if you want, but African-Americans in this state in particular are losing voting rights regardless. 

1 comment:

JAVS said...

This is SO tragic. Michigan is my home state, and every time a Republican gets into the governors office, the environment and the well-being of the citizens of the state are compromised. Michigan may soon join the southern states near the bottom of income, education and social services in the U.S.