Newly-minted Flint Emergency Manager Michael Brown got right to work last. On Friday (pdf) he fired seven staff members at City Hall and then eliminated pay and benefits for Flint’s newly-elected mayor and the City Council. The order says:
- Mayor Dayne Walling’s salary and all other compensation and benefits, including the accrual of post-employment benefits, are eliminated.
- Flint City Council members’ salaries and all other compensation.
Brown’s appointment as EM of Flint came the same day Mayor Walling was re-elected to his position as mayor. Walling issued a statement acknowledging and thanking the fired staffers for their service.
While the elimination of pay and benefits may appear a bit audacious, I think it’s at least more consistent than what happened in Benton Harbor where the City Commissioners continued to be paid for a job that Joe Harris made them incapable of doing. Brown at least is putting his money where his mouth is. He’s telling the current leaders, “You are not a useful part of the process of putting things right in Flint so you shall be paid nothing. The people may have elected you but I have UN-elected you. Go away.”
I’m asked repeatedly “What is YOUR answer then, if you don’t like the Emergency Manager law?” My answer is this: solving these municipalities’ problems does not start from the baseline that the locally-elected, democratically-elected officials are not a useful part of the process, to be shoved aside. Everything that happens should begin at the baseline that democracy is not just important, it’s essential, even if it’s not always pretty and even if it’s sometimes inconvenient in the rush to privatize everything that isn’t nailed down to funnel taxpayer money to private companies.
If we can start there, then we can have a conversation.
UPDATE: In addition to eliminating the Council members’ pay and benefits, Brown has also cancelled all future Flint City Council meetings until further notice. He needed to do that, of course, since they are no longer officially employed by the City.