The Snyder Takeover Of Michigan Towns And Schools
By James Donahue
Michigan’s new Republican Governor Rick Snyder and his GOP led pack of legislators have rushed
to pass a controversial Emergency Management bill that goes into effect on May 1.
The bill, which stirred public protests in towns across the state this week, allows cash strapped
communities and schools to seek emergency help from the state rather than turn to the courts for bankruptcy protection.
Snyder and the Republicans deserve to be drawing heat over this bill. Labor leaders see it as a
union breaker since it gives a state appointed financial manager the power to break union contracts as a way of balancing
community and school budgets.
We perceive the danger within this legislation reaching even farther than merely breaking the backs
of local unions. It also allows for the dismissal of all elected boards and puts the control of the operation of towns and
schools in corporate hands. The potentials for misuse of such power boggle the mind.
The Michigan Messenger recently stated: “Emergency managers appointed under this law certainly
will not lack for options, they are given near-dictatorial power to dissolve contracts, sell off assets and even disband elected
State leaders say people don’t have to worry. They assure us that the emergency management
program will only be used when town councils and school authorities request it. It is only a provision to assist when local
government boards are in danger of plunging into deficit spending, which is a violation of state law.
The problem with this thinking is that the above description may apply to most communities and
school districts in Michigan this winter. With extreme state and federal budget cuts the money funneling down to local government
and school districts is drying up. At the same time, with property values plunging, the amount of property taxes getting paid
into local government and school coffers also is declining. Yet the inflationary spiral continues and the cost of operating
governments and schools is going up.
It struck us just how serious this situation could become in Michigan when we recently watched
a local television news reporter’s interview with a region school superintendent. This man explained how his district
is caught between local demands for a broad and quality educational program, opposition to giving up extracurricular activities
and especially sports, is bound by teacher and school employee union contracts to meet salary demands, but cannot get voters
to approve additional millage to help pay to keep everything operating in the black.
This superintendent said that because he can no longer generate a balanced budget he would be willing
to turn his district over to the state for emergency management.
Are all of the schools and local governments meeting this kind of a cash crunch? If so, it might
be possible that the state will be putting the operation of nearly all of its cities and school districts over to corporate
If this happens, local autonomy will be lost. People could lose control of their governments and
schools. This smacks of a possible police state, where we all respond to the demands of a corporate board, the appointed emergency
manager or possibly the whims of the governor.
The law gives the governor ultimate power of decision. It authorizes the suspension of regulatory
statues or rules, the disbandment of elected councils and boards and even the seizure of private property “for the purpose
of performing or facilitating emergency management.”
The ordinance grants the state broad powers to “direct all actions necessary and appropriate
under the circumstances.” The governor may accomplish these things through executive orders, proclamations and directives
“having the force and effect of law.”
The ordinance requires that “all persons within this state shall conduct themselves and manage
their affairs and property in ways that will reasonably assist and will not unreasonably detract from the ability of the state
to cope with the effects of a disaster or an emergency.”
There is a written 28-day termination clause for such emergency controls, but they can easily be
extended by a vote of the House and Senate. The financial crunch is so severe that once these agencies fall under state emergency
management no one expects the issues to be resolved within 28 days.
As in other states throughout the nation where similar legislation is being quickly pushed through
by Republican governors and legislators, public rallies are calling for a recall of the thugs involved in a rapid corporate
takeover of our nation. In Michigan they want to recall Snyder and many of the Republican legislators that supported and voted
for this bill. If the effort fails, Michigan residents may soon find themselves living in a Snyder enforced police state.