On Monday, Michigan Democrat David Knezek introduced Senate Bill 734. The bill contains a single sentence:
The local financial stability and choice act, 2012 PA 436, MCL 141.1541 to 141.1575, is repealed.
Wouldn’t it be beautiful if the entire anti-democratic failed experiment known as Michigan’s Emergency Manager law, a law and policy that has done so much harm to our state, was brought down with a single sentence?
There has never been a time in Michigan when it was more clear that taking away democracy with the imposition of an Emergency Manager and the entire concept of Emergency Management is completely flawed and failed. There is a direct line between the presence of Emergency Managers in Flint and the poisoning of their drinking water with lead. There is also a direct line between Emergency Managers in Detroit public schools and the massive debt that has been run up in the past seven years and the scandalously deplorable and heartbreaking conditions inside so many of their school buildings and classrooms.
The time for pretending that the patriarchs in our state legislature and our state government – the same people who rant about “Big Government Overreach™” and overregulation – are not equipped or qualified to run an entire school district much less an entire city via a single governor-appointed overseer.
That hasn’t stopped the Republicans’ water carriers on the op-ed pages of our state’s newspapers from running to the defense of this failed experiment, however, and today we have the most laughable example of that in an op-ed in The Detroit News penned by the unfailing apologist Dan Calabrese. Here’s a taste of his drivel:
It’s no surprise that we’re already hearing voices demanding that Michigan’s emergency manager law be repealed, with the Flint water disaster as the rationale for why this needs to happen.
That would be a huge mistake.
The emergency manager law did not cause the Flint water crisis. People making bad decisions — including, but by no means limited to, the emergency manager — caused it. What’s more, people making bad fiscal decisions caused Flint to come under an emergency manager in the first place. […]
Emergency managers have to make better decisions than we saw in Flint, but until city councils stop mismanaging their way into financial desperation, emergency managers will continue to be necessary.
Calabrese is engaging in the same sort of red herring argument that is used whenever you see conservative corporatist pundits weighing in on the side of getting rid of the inconvenience of democracy in order to take over cities. He wants you to believe that the fiscal crises in Detroit, Flint, Benton Harbor, and other cities are the result of corruption, malfeasance, and incompetence on the part of the elected leaders. These things happen, of course. They happen in municipalities all the time. That’s the messy part of democracy. But we have mechanisms in place to fix these sorts of problems over time.
The common term for that fix is “elections” (i.e., more democracy.)
The common thread in all of the cities and school districts that have found themselves in deep financial trouble is the implosion of their manufacturing base through offshoring of their workforce to other countries and disinvestment by local, state, and federal governments. Anyone who attempts to ignore the historic events that led to the fiscal problems in these cities without even an acknowledgement of the complex causes of urban decay and distress should, frankly, be ignored. They are simply redirecting your attention away from how we as a society have so tragically failed our schools and urban cities for decades. And, more often than not, it’s the policies of corporatist Republicans that are at the core. The outrageous defunding of public education in Michigan is, of course, an obvious example.
Calabrese and people like him want two things: to destroy unions and to privatize as many public services as possible to funnel tax money into corporate bank accounts. He isn’t even trying to hide it. In his op-ed, he claims the reason Michiganders want to restore democracy in Michigan is to stop Emergency managers from having “the power to rip up contracts between cities and public employee unions.” This power is, he says, “one of the greatest threats imaginable to the Democratic Party.” They believe that running government like a business is the answer to all our state’s woes and continue to hold onto that precept tightly with both hands even in the face of incontrovertible evidence that it is wrong.
Nice try, Dan. It might be worth your time to pick up a copy of Thomas Sugrue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. A little history lesson like this might enlighten you about the true causes of the crises faced by our urban areas and our school districts today.
The two-dimensional view you have of the world we live in today is the comic book version of reality; shallow, uninformed, and lacking in historical perspective.