An undemocratic Detroit EM


An undemocratic Detroit EM

By Dawud Walid

We’re in our third day of emergency management in Detroit. No one knows the type of job that Kevyn Orr will do – or if a court challenge will unseat him. What many Michiganians do know is that the installation of an EM in Detroit was problematic in terms of process.

I don’t have trust in the capabilities of Mayor Bing to turn the city around, nor do I have a much confidence in City Council. That more clear cut, viable options for financial recovery have not been put forward is disconcerting, no doubt.

That in no way means that the installation of an EM is a sound democratic practice.

Last November, Michiganians voted against an emergency management for localities. Against the expressed will of the people, the lame-duck session of the state legislature passed a new emergency management bill. Some of those legislators were term limited – or voted out of office – and knew that there would be no accountability for voting against the will of the people. Knowing Michiganians’ disapproval, Governor Snyder signed the new EM bill anyway.

Keep in mind that Snyder is the only governor in America with the authority to appointment emergency managers, who then can make final fiscal determinations for cities, which can include liquidating assets.

I can’t think of anything less democratic in the U.S. in recent history where a people’s expressed will was completely ignored – and an executive decision was used to strip authority from elected officials who were voted in during a fair election. The closest travesty of voters being disenfranchised in my memory was when Vice President Al Gore lost Florida in the 2000 presidential election — and in which registered African-American voters were turned away from polls and votes were not counted properly due to “hanging chads.”

I agree that solutions need to be presented to fix Detroit’s woes. I also know that Detroit’s problems were decades in the making and that there’s merit in analyzing the history of the city’s revenue atrophy and governance issues.

However, I’m not a proponent of circumventing the desires of Michiganians through giving power to local czars over elected officials — even if the czars put on friendly faces and appear innocuous.

The courts will probably end up settling the EM issue in the short term. Snyder may pay during the next election for brazenly ignoring voters’ sentiments on emergency managers.


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