Benton Harbor, Joe Harris, Michigan — April 18, 2011 at 6:49 am

Benton Harbor Emergency Financial Mgr. gets right to work


New Benton Harbor Emergency Financial Manager (EFM), effectively the “Czar of Benton Harbor”, Joseph Harris got right to work this weekend in his new capacity by reconfiguring the city’s Planning Commission and Brownfield Commission.

In two directives released Friday, Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joseph Harris removed members of the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and Planning Commission, appointed others, and reduced brownfield board membership from nine to five.

The commission and board were reorganized to make them more effective, Harris said. The changes were made “to include people who are interested enough and knowledgeable enough to show up and to make a contribution.”

Eight members of the brownfield authority were removed from office: Mary Adams, Eddie Marshall, Willie Williams, Charles Yarbrough, Don Mitchell, Willie Bledsoe, Mathew Bradley and Juanita Henry. Only authority member Emma Hull made it onto the new, smaller authority.

Darwin Watson, Ted Hanson, Sandra Dudley and Debbie Popp, all city employees, were appointed to the new brownfield authority.

He also removed four people from the Planning Commission and replaced them with four others.

Since these two commissions will make crucial decisions on the future development of this community on the shores of Lake Michigan, it will be important to watch how they operate in the coming months and years. Shoreline real estate is extremely valuable and who ends up with development rights there plays a big role in who is able to capitalize on that.

I just have to wonder where the anti-czar Republicans and tea partiers are in all of this. Also, here’s my tweet from this weekend:

Will tea partiers fight the Big Govt takeoverTM of Benton Harbor? Hahaha! Just kidding. BH is 90+% black. #racism

UPDATE: There is a protest being organized for a week from Wednesday. Facebook page is HERE.

On Wednesday, April 27th there will be a march/rally in Benton Harbor, Michigan in response to the usurping of the rights and democratic process of their city government and their citizens by empowering a non-elected Emergency Financial Manager to take over the day-to-day operations of Benton Harbor.

We will start at the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce located at 38 West Wall Street and then march to City Hall.

We need your help to get the word out to make this protest huge in numbers.

Thank you,
Heartland Revolution

UPDATE 2: Several updates here. First, in the Upper Peninsula town of Escanaba this past week, Governor Snyder’s representative, Greg Andrews, held a townhall-style meeting where he discussed the EFM situation.

Andrews addressed those assembled, saying there were several myths that need to be dispelled concerning enactment of the legislation.

“The appointment of an emergency financial manager dates back to 1988, when it was signed into law by then-Gov. Jim Blanchard,” said Andrews. “This law has been on the books for the past 21 years, and our current governor has taken a look at the law and how to make it work better.”

Andrews further explained that under the provisions enacted by Snyder, struggling units of government can receive assistance from the state much earlier, using an 18-point criteria.


Another myth Andrews sought to debunk is that any financial manager appointed by the governor would “swoop in” and dismiss elected officials. Elected officials have the option of cooperating with the financial manager or not, if they choose not to cooperate, only then may they be removed by the governor, following a recommendation from the appointed financial manager.

In other words, as long as they do what they are told, local elected officials can keep their positions.

Also, the State of Michigan has been holding two-day training sessions for prospective EFMs.

A two-day training session that begins today for prospective emergency managers and turnaround experts has drawn a huge response.

Seats at the Lansing Radisson were available for about 325 people, and more than 50 others who wanted to attend were put on a waiting list…

Two days of training and you’re ready to assume complete control over a city government. I had heard this was true but to actually see that it is shocks me.

I’m just sayin’…