Michigan locals fight for democracy
If Rick Snyder ever comes to help you, run away as fast and as far as you can.
Snyder is the right-wing, corporation-hugging governor of Michigan. The Mackinac Center, a front group bankrolled by the radical Koch Brothers, handed him an extremist anti-worker, anti-government agenda when he took office. The package included a doozie of autocratic mischief-making called The Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act.
This new law turned Synder into a perverse hybrid of a Soviet czar and a tinhorn banana republic potentate, and it has infuriated the public. Now trying to backpedal, the governor's new line is, "It's about helping communities."
Helping? This law allows him to seize control of any city, county, or school district, etc. that he decides is in fiscal trouble, authorizing him to appoint an "emergency manager," which may be a private corporation, to run the entity. This autocratic regent is empowered to cancel labor contracts, repeal the public budget, privatize government assets, dismiss elected officials, and even dissolve the local entity.
This is the kind of "help" that a fox brings to the henhouse, so the governor is now being sued by his own astonished citizenry. Snyder's tyrannical law, they point out, violates the state's constitution by usurping the right of local residents to elect their officials. As the director of a community legal group in Detroit puts it, the governor's designated emergency manager would control all local decisions, "including the right to enact or repeal local ordinances."
You might be thinking, "Thank goodness I don't live in Michigan." But if Snyder's anti-democratic coup succeeds there, you can bet that various Koch-backed right-wing groups will bring the Michigan model to your state. For information on the Michigan fight, contact Detroit's Sugar Law Center: www.sugarlaw.org/democracy-emergency/.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.