Benton Harbor, Joe Harris — February 18, 2012 at 8:33 am

Benton Harbor covered on the Rachel Maddow Show, my wife gets a shout out


Michigan embarrassed on the national stage

Rachel Maddow had another terrific piece on Benton Harbor last night. In it, she wonders out loud if the “non-profit” Cornerstone Alliance, the development arm of Whirlpool, might secretly be conspiring to buy the broadcast license of the city radio station, WBHC. During the segment, you’ll see a panoramic photo taken by my wife, Anne C. Savage, that shows you the impact of the Harbor Shores golf course on the beautiful Jean Klock Park. Watch for the “Anne Savage Photography” notation at the top of the screen.

One piece not mentioned in this segment that focuses a great deal on the Harbor Shores golf course is that Emergency Manager Joe Harris appointed himself to the Golf Course Oversight Panel. That bit of information gets a bit more chilling when you ponder what Maddow asks.

Over the weekend on eBay, there were three bids for WBHC. The initial asking price was $5,000 and then there was a bid for 5100 and 5200 and then the listing disappeared. Turns out federal law says you can’t sell a radio station licensed the way that the overseer was trying to sell it. So this listing on e-bay is against the law. The FCC has to approve any sale of a radio license, even a tiny station like Benton Harbor’s.

We know from talking to the emergency manager over the last few days, he still thinks he’s selling the town’s radio station. Under federal rules, it can only go to a nonprofit or a local government. Local government and the emergency manager guy is, himself, a one-man local government now. Who else can it go to? After reporting on this story last week, we heard from a nonprofit group called Public Radio Capital who said they want to find a Benton Harbor nonprofit and help that nonprofit to buy the station. They tell us they have tried for days to to get through to the emergency manager.

Meanwhile, the emergency manager wrote to us to say that he had a “bona fide buyer” and that it might take a couple of weeks to go through the legal steps. He also told the town newspaper that he hadn’t heard of this radio group. He wants to give the radio station back so it can be used by the town again.

So who is the emergency manager guy talking to about buying Benton Harbor’s town asset, it’s town radio station? It does not seem to be the public radio capital people who want to give it back to the town. they’re only now just getting their calls returned. so it’s not them. is it the other big nonprofit in town?

Is it the Cornerstone Alliance? The Whirlpool nonprofit with the executive that wrote the emergency manager law and the fancy golf resort where most of Benton Harbor can’t afford to play or live?

The emergency manager will not say. Nor do we know what the people of Benton Harbor want done with the station. This is the point. They have no say. Sometimes in politics and civil rights, we talk about losing a voice or having a say. We used to use those terms as a metaphor. This picture of Benton Harbor’s radio station up for sale illegally is not a metaphor for the people of that town having their voice taken away from them. They have their vote taken away, their elected officials taken away, their democratic means of decision-making taken away and now the means by at least which they could broadcast their voice to speak to one another, that, too.

Here’s the actual panoramic image. You can use your mouse to scroll around and zoom in and out. You can also make it go full screen.