MI Gov. Rick Snyder’s takeover of Benton Harbor tied to shoreline development – what Rachel missed

Last night on her show, Rachel Maddow connected some very important dots in the situation that led up to the Big Government TakeoverTM of Benton Harbor, Michigan by Joseph Harris, aka “The Czar of Benton Harbor”.

But she didn’t connect ALL of them.

In her piece we learn these facts about Benton Harbor and its twin city next door, St. Joseph.

St. Joseph Benton Harbor
Population 8,508 10,235
Demographic 89.5% white 85.5% black
Per capita income $33,034 $10,235

We also learn that one of the best parts of Benton Harbor is Jean Klock Park, donated by wealthy benefactors years ago with the stipulation that it be used for the public good and that it remain “the children’s” park.

We also learn that Whirlpool, in an effort to recycle some old manufacturing land on the shore of Lake Michigan, a brownfield, if you will, decided to build a $500 million golf course & residential development, Harbor Shores, on its land, part of which would heavily impact Jean Klock Park. Note that Whirlpool pulled its last manufacturing out of Benton Harbor in March of this year, driving the final economic stake into the heart of this otherwise depressed area.

We also learn that the Emergency Financial Manager bill (pdf) that allowed Governor Snyder to take over Benton Harbor’s government was sponsored by Al Pscholka. Al Pscholka has some interesting characteristics:

  • He is the former aid to Congressman Fred Upton who is a Whirlpool heir
  • He represents the area that includes … wait for it … Benton Harbor
  • He is the former vice-president of a development company responsible for building Harbor Shores.
  • He was on the Board of Directors for a nonprofit involved in the Harbor Shores development

There is one dot, however, that Rachel Maddow did NOT connect. As I wrote about yesterday, one of the first things that Joseph Harris did was to fire a number of people on both the Planning Commission and the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority in Benton Harbor and replace them with people he hand-picked. These two commissions are the ones most intimately involved in decision-making about real estate development in Benton Harbor. They will decide who gets permits, what developments will look like and who gets to pick the ripe plums present in Benton Harbor. And they are now staffed largely by people chosen by the Czar of Benton Harbor.

This is where the rubber meets the pavement. If you are looking for motivations for Snyder and his Republican friends to take over Benton Harbor, watch who gets development rights of the Lake Michigan shoreline. They are already setting things up to ensure that it is not the local residents of Benton Harbor.

IN OTHER NEWS…

  • Tempers flared at last night’s Benton Harbor City Council meeting:

    “Somebody is about to go and it about to be Joe,” one Benton Harbor resident vocalized to commissioners.

    “He’s not even an elected official and he’s going to fire the mayor? How are you going to fire a mayor,” another resident questioned over Joe Harris’ newly established power.

    “Adolf Hitler was a dictator. Now we have a dictator in Joseph Harris. We have allowed this man to be too comfortable in our home, in our city,” one man screamed out loud.

  • Whirlpool is dangling a $200,000 bribe over the heads of the city residents.
    Despite holding an open meeting to garner public input on how to use the $200,000 donation, Whirlpool officials will hold off on awarding it until Benton Harbor city leaders and Emergency Financial Manager Joseph Harris are able to agree on how to use it.

I’m just sayin’…

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