Emergency Manager Law, Emergency Managers — January 20, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Emergency Management now a “thing”. First Michigan, then Indiana, then New Jersey, and now Illinois


One of the reasons I have written about Emergency Management in Michigan ad nauseum is because I contend that we are the testing ground for this anti-democratic move in state governments, the “beta testers”, if you will. With the evidence now in and showing it to be a colossal failure, other states are still moving forward with it. Indiana was the first. They were followed by New Jersey. And now it’s Illinois

First, let’s take a look at what’s happening in New Jersey. Atlantic City is struggling under an implosion of their gaming industry which has cratered their city budget (no thanks, in part, to presidential candidate Donald Trump.) Their emergency manager recommended passage of a package of bills to bail out the beleaguered city and the man who appointed him, presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie, vetoed them:

Despite changes made at his request, Gov. Christie on Tuesday did not sign bills designed to rescue the finances of the seaside resort, rocked by a cratering casino industry.

His so-called pocket veto of the Atlantic City legislation – on the last day he could have taken action – left local leaders aghast and fuming.

“Bankruptcy is now back on the table,” Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said. “It’s certainly very sad for somebody running for public office to head up our country to try to double cross and renege on his word.”

State Sen. Jim Whelan (D., Atlantic), a sponsor of the bills, called Christie’s actions “bizarre.” Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D., Atlantic) called Christie a “failure.”

The veto leaves the city with a $33.5 million budget gap even as it tries to fend off state elected officials who are proposing a municipal takeover. It also leaves the city vulnerable to future tax appeals from casinos, particularly the Trump Taj Mahal. Estimates have the city running out of cash by April.

Atlantic City mayor Don Guardian published an open letter to Gov. Christie, excoriating him:

The City is not mismanaging its finances. The State’s Department of Community Affairs, Division of Local Government Services and Local Finance Board through the State Supervision Act are in control of the City’s finances. Point in fact, the Local Finance Board adopts the City’s budget. During my tenure in office the Local Finance Board has approved each budget. Our last budget was not given to City Council for consideration, it was all done at the State level. In addition, the City has continued to show good faith by voluntarily entering into an agreement with the State. In other words the State, through a “Memo of Understanding” with the Mayor and City Council has veto power over all hires, fires, salary changes, redevelopment and contracts relating to finance and has placed a State Monitor over the City to ensure compliance with its directives. In a similar manner, the City has followed the recommendations and directives of the Division of Local Government Services as handed down by its State Monitor. No other City in the State has this level of supervision over its day to day operation and its finances. In other words, every major decision that the City has made during my administration has been checked, double checked and checked again. We couldn’t mismanage a paper clip without a review. The wakeup call to those above us is this: A simple one step to solve all the problems created over the past 35 years does not exist. And more to the point, they most certainly will not be fixed in just two short years.

New Jersey Democrats are furious, too:

Where’s the communication from the governor’s office on this? There wasn’t any,” said [State Sen. James] Whelan. “If we’re going to solve the problems here [in Atlantic City], there has to be some real cooperation, and that’s prefaced on real communication. And there hasn’t been that level of communication with the governor.”

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, who co-sponsored the bills, echoed that frustration.

“In completing these amendments, I thought we gave him what everybody could live with, including the governor,” said Mazzeo. “He didn’t even give a reason [for not signing the bills], so I’m disappointed.”

Whelan called the action “bizarre”:

“New Jersey has joined Alice in Wonderland,” Whelan said. “Gov. Christie has vetoed his own bills. Bills that he conditionally vetoed after months of silence from the governor. The legislature concurred with his version of the bills and now he is bizarrely vetoing them.

As in Michigan, the takeover of one of the state’s largest cities has led to protests and will likely lead to a complete takeover of the city by the state government.

Now, as I mentioned, Emergency Management is coming to Illinois, too. More particularly, the city of Chicago along with its public school system:

“Chicago Tonight” has learned that Gov. Bruce Rauner and top Republican leaders are planning to introduce legislation aimed at an emergency financial takeover of the city of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools. This comes in light of an imminent $500 million shortfall within the Chicago Public Schools system.

The Republican leaders are set to announce the legislation tomorrow, but Paris Schutz has the exclusive information tonight.

Sources tell “Chicago Tonight” that the governor and his top two legislative leaders – Senate minority leader Christine Radogno and House minority leader Jim Durkin will file a package of legislation Wednesday that would allow for an emergency financial oversight board appointed by the state to take over the financially strapped school district. Other legislation would allow for emergency financial oversight of the credit-beleaguered city of Chicago.

Here’s more from the Chicago Tribune:

Republican legislative leaders on Wednesday proposed a state takeover of Chicago Public Schools and permitting the troubled district to declare bankruptcy to get its finances in order, billing the controversial ideas as a “lifeline” and not “a state bailout.”

“We didn’t come to this lightly, but the track record of Chicago and its public school system is abysmal,” said Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno of Lemont. […]

“The mayor is 100 percent opposed to Gov. Rauner’s ‘plan’ to drive CPS bankrupt. If the governor was serious about helping Chicago students, he should start by proposing — and passing — a budget that fully funds education and treats CPS students like every other child in the state,” [Chicago mayor Rahm] Emanuel spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said in a statement Tuesday.

It’s almost as if none of the devastation being wrought in Michigan under Emergency Management has gone beyond our borders, just the concept itself. With the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water under the oversight of Emergency Managers ruling the city and the implosion of Detroit Public Schools making national news, you would think that it would but apparently that’s not the case.

For the second time in as many days, I’m compelled to channel my inner Samuel L. Jackson:

NEWSPAPERS, mother [expletive deleted]!!! Do you READ them???!

[CC Chris Christie photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr]