Benton Harbor, Joe Harris — May 3, 2011 at 8:12 am

BREAKING: Benton Harbor City Commission declares EFM takeover unconstitutional


Yesterday, by a vote of 6 to 2, the Benton Harbor City Commission and Mayor declared the appointment of Joseph Harris as the Emergency Financial Manager and his subsequent stripping of the Commission’s ability to govern the City unconstitutional.

Whereas, The City of Benton Harbor declares the appointment of an Emergency Manager a violation of Article I §1, which states that all political power is inherent in the people and that government is instituted for their equal benefit, security and protection.

Whereas, The City of Benton Harbor declares the appointment of an Emergency Manager a violation of Article I §3, which allows the citizens of Benton Harbor the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Whereas, The City of Benton Harbor declares the appointment of an Emergency Manager a violation of Article VII §22, which affords Benton Harbor citizens the the power and authority to frame, adopt and amend its charter, and to amend an existing charter of the city or village heretofore granted or enacted by the legislature for the government of the city or village. Each such city and village shall have power to adopt resolutions and ordinances relating to its municipal concerns, property and government, subject to the constitution and law.

Whereas, The City of Benton Harbor declares the appointment of an Emergency Manager a violation of Article VII §34, which states that the provisions of this constitution and law concerning counties, townships, cities and villages shall be liberally construed in their favor.

Whereas, The City of Benton Harbor declares the appointment of an Emergency Manager a violation of Article IX §2, which provides the citizens of Benton Harbor the right of taxation with representation.

Resolved, The appointment of an Emergency Manager is in direct violation of the Michigan Constitution and therefore demands the removal of said Emergency Manager immediately.

Resolved, That the Benton Harbor City Commission is hereby directed to forward copies of this resolution to Governor Rick Snyder, State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, State Senator John Proos, and State Representative Al Pscholka.

Heartland Revolution released the following press release:


Joe Palmer
Heartland Revolution
[email protected]

Heartland Revolution Applauds Benton Harbor’s Declaration That Emergency Manager is Unconstitutional

Benton Harbor, Michigan- Last night in an act of patriotic defiance the Benton Harbor City Council declared the takeover of their city by an emergency manager unconstitutional. Heartland Revolution Executive Director John Waltz who stood in solidarity with the city last week had this to say.

“This is the first step in many to restore democracy in Benton Harbor and I am proud of the action their elected officials took last night. Our nation’s Declaration of Independence clearly states our government is instituted by the people and clearly this right has been violated. Thus it is the duty of the citizens to bring an end to the unconstitutional takeover of Benton Harbor.”

For more information, contact: Joe Palmer


Heartland Revolution | PO Box 930 Union, KY 40191

Given that Joe Harris has stripped the Benton Harbor City Commissioners of all power except to call meetings, approve minutes, and adjourn meetings, it will be interesting to see where this goes and how much impact it will have. Stay tuned.

I’m just sayin’…

  • redhousedayz

    So how does this impact the other EFM is Michigan and their powers?? Robert Bobb??

    • SW Michigan Resident

      It doesn’t impact anything, it’s a meaningless action. But no matter, Benton Harbor city councils have been pulling stunts like this for years. They regularly get shot down by courts for all manner of dumb stuff, and they have a long and expensive history of paying out judgments for bad actions. In the end, the state has the ability to dissolve city governments at will, there’s no constitutional–state or federal–protections for the establishment of cities.

      Take this vote six weeks ago, before Rachel twisted the debate and Jesse came strutting into town, and it’s probably 6-3 or 5-4 against such a resolution. As much as I like Rachel**, she’s got the Benton Harbor EFM situation a little sideways. There’s little argument that Benton Harbor is broken, or that the EFM is draconian. But what are the workable alternatives? Hoping the residents elect competent leaders is a non-starter. The structure of the city government is flawed first, and now on top of that it’s broken. The mayor can’t do it (no power), and the council is too big, fractured into reasonables and morons, and nothing can or will get fixed without a full reset.

      **I think Rachel should be on a much bigger network somewhere, maybe as host of a Sunday morning news show.

      • Rose

        I understand the fact that there were deep deep problems..but I do think the solution is more frightening than the initial problem. Its a horrible horrible precident. It absolutely cannot be done this way. I do find this statement problematic “Hoping the residents elect competent leaders is a non-started”. Umm..that is the risk everyone takes with democracy. We don’t take away people’s ability to vote because we don’t trust their choice.

        • SW Michigan Resident

          Nobody like the idea of the EFM, but what’s the alternative?

          I tried to lay out the reality of Benton Harbor. If something doesn’t change they aren’t far from the point where the water plant shuts down and the garbage goes uncollected and the cops don’t get paid. I’m serious…that’s where this city was standing 12 months ago, and a bloc of city council members whining about me me me me, making odd and bizarre deals in violation of Open Meetings Act, and protecting a couple favored vendors at the cost of running the city. Been like this for 20 years. Mayor is an impotent position.


      • dvdmc

        The solution is certainly not to dismiss democracy. Any such advocacy IS anti-thetical to the constitution and any supporter of the policies of Snyder should be labeled a traitor. I don’t say this lightly. The precedent being set is OPENLY fascist. The people of Weimar Germany were fooled into these same tepid waters before they at last had a boot on their neck. The problems must be solved by the will of the people. Period.

        • SW Michigan Resident

          The precedent being set in Benton Harbor is one of revival.

          Remember, we’re not discussing a city that was working, or one that is being taken over on a political whim. We’re talking about a complete disaster in all aspects of city management, which has been going on for probably 30 years. While it’s fun to use Godwin’s Law, it doesn’t demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues.

      • tompoe

        That is a mouthful of garbage, there, chum. Hope you didn’t get any on your clothes as you tried to type it all out. By the way, your idea of what Democracy is needs some remedial 4th grade education. In your case, I’d guess you didn’t even finish the 3rd grade.

        • SW Michigan Resident

          Do insults foster a meaningful discussion?

          Do you know more about Benton Harbor than I do? If so, I welcome you to correct any mistakes I may have made.

  • cattletracks

    Have the police give his a citation of trespass, forbidding him to be within 200 feet of any Benton Harbor city building.

  • TaxtheRichorEatThePoor

    I say, “Go Benton Harbor!”

  • winterinthehinterland

    There are many disturbing allegations that need to be thoroughly investigated and with Joseph Harris in place that is unlikely to happen. A FOIA request needs to be made before any important evidence is destroyed – that is, if it hasn’t been already.
    Public assets are being privatized (read stolen) or put up for sale without any public input, accountability or oversight. This is a pattern going on across the state and country and it needs to be stopped NOW!

    • SW Michigan Resident

      You know what the real fear is here? That FOIA requests and transparency of city actions will result in criminal investigations of dozens of city council members, mayors, and city employees. That’s what’s going on here.

      • winterinthehinterland

        Yes, most of us are aware of the allegations, but there is much, much more that needs to come out into the open, and fast!

      • Have you ever tried to FOIA the City of Benton Harbor? Good luck with that. And many explanatory, shall we call them, documents are maintained elsewhere. One would have to sue to enforce the non-public custodians of same to comply with the FOIA statute. Know anyone who has the time and money to do that? You see? Perfect plan!

  • What we’re seeing is the services economy in action. Benton Harbor government has had nothing to work with in a generation or more, so even the most erudite, sophisticated, Roberts-rules-of-Order-skilled officials would have had one heck of a time managing the city. They’re fighting over scraps – if that. Now let me ask you. When the manufacturing base was moved elsewhere and jobs removed, as well, and technological advances further eroded jobs, where was the private sector leadership? Were they advising communities that they’d better get hip to technology? Were they advising school-aged kids and their parents that only advanced degrees in specific fields would allow them to achieve employment security (or a sort)?
    No. This is part of a much larger conundrum. What do people do for a living, and how do communities survive? And how do we go forward in a world that can no longer base economies on consumption of increasingly scarce resources? In my mind that’s the question, and you have a little, dysfunctional city that embodies the future. People with choices left Benton Harbor long ago. (unless they’re on the receiving end of government funding – corporate welfare, I mean) Fewer Americans (and others) have a broad array of choices. So how do we address that?

  • MasonSky2002

    I don’t care about the situation. The government can at no time suspend democracy. NEVER. Ask yourselves, would democracy have lasted this long, over 200 years, if that were possible? People also are not understanding the roots of the problems are far from Benton Habor. They are just the result of what happens when government is corrupted, there is a redistribution of wealth to the top, and not enough taxes are collected to cover government expenses. Everything can be corrected once the government is back in the hands of the people.

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