Nel's New Day

August 3, 2012

Michigan Voters Win

Ten days ago, I wrote about how petitioners in Michigan went to the state’s Supreme Court to get a referendum on the ballot after it was refused by the Board of Canvassers in a partisan 2-2 deadlock. Their petition was to overturn the state’s emergency financial manager law that has allowed towns and school districts to be taken over and run by Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointees, disenfranchising the voters who selected the people who Snyder deposed.

The Board of Canvassers ruled against the petitions on the basis that they had  the wrong type font size despite the petitions’ approval bythe state’s Board of Elections. The state requirement for font size is 14 point. Petitioners used a Calibri font, making the 14-point size unacceptable to challengers. To see how hard the anti-referendum people fought to keep a legitimate referendum off the ballot, the ten pages following p. 16 of the Opinion make for good reading.

The petitioners won! In a 4-3 decision, the judges ruled today that the petitions met the state requirements and can be certified for November’s election. One of the four Republican judges broke from the other three to join the Democrats. The immediate result is that the law, which has been used for over a year, is now frozen for the next three months until the Michigan voters determine its outcome.

Putting the law in limbo creates confusing implications for towns and school districts that had lost its local leadership. In Muskegon Heights school district, the new emergency manager privatized all the schools into a charter system. In Benton Harbor, the new emergency manager sold the local park, donated to the city a century ago, to a wealthy developer. Three holes of the private golf course are already in place.

In Detroit schools, the new emergency manager ordered a ceiling of 61 students in every class. For the past two years he fired all the teachers. This year he has forced any rehired teachers to follow his personal contract with greatly reduced teacher pay and refused any negotiations with the teachers. Detroit leaders slashed the city workforce to avoid Snyder’s assigning the city an emergency manager. The question is whether this agreement will stand because it was done under duress.

Flint, Pontiac, and Ecorse all have governor-appointed emergency managers as do public schools in Detroit and Highland Park. River Rouge and Inkster also have consent agreements to avoid an emergency manager.

Snyder said that the emergency managers will remain because an earlier law will go into effect. Challengers said differently, meaning that question will almost certainly go to court. The earlier law did not allow as much latitude for the manager in breaking contracts and removing pensions.

The repeal side is behind by 10 percentage points, but 20 percent of voters are undecided. A November vote at least gives people the right to determine their fate rather than handing it over to the governor’s appointees.

© blogfactory

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