The term “Emergency Manager” was not invented by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and his corporatist Republican colleagues. In fact, Emergency Managers existed before that crew got around to passing what is perhaps the most anti-democratic legislation ever seen in the United States.
According to the U.S. Council of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), Emergency Managers are professionals whose job it is to “focus on preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters or crisis situations.”
“One thing must be made absolutely clear: the term ’emergency manager’ in the Flint, Michigan situation refers to a fiscal-only function that bears no relationship to the term as it is commonly and universally used on a national and international basis,” stated Robie Robinson, IAEM-USA president. “In the context of the Flint situation, emergency managers are actually municipal ’emergency financial managers’ (EFMs) established by the Michigan legislature and appointed by the governor to oversee jurisdictions in Michigan that are threatened with financial insolvency.” […]
IAEM urges all media, members of government, and other leaders to educate the public, and help clarify that, in Michigan, an individual who is appointed to oversee a governmental body or jurisdiction because it is threatened with financial insolvency is not an “emergency manager,” but rather an “emergency financial manager.” Further, real emergency managers work every day in support of public safety agencies, local volunteer and service organization, businesses, the media, and everyone in between, striving to build relationships in their communities to keep people safe. They cannot do this without the trust of the people they serve.
Turns out that REAL emergency managers are there to help people, not cut their services, make life harder, and, in the worst case scenario (Flint), make decisions that lead to the poisoning of their drinking water with the powerful, odorless, tasteless, invisible neurotoxin lead.
Here’s the problem, though. The first three versions of these laws up through Public Act 72 DID call them “Emergency Financial Managers”. It wasn’t until Public Act 4 of 2011 that the term was deliberately changed to simply “Emergency Manager”. That’s because Emergency Managers were given sweeping powers to remove elected officials, unilaterally toss out negotiated contracts, and even, in schools, make decisions on curriculum. This is despite the fact that Emergency Managers had no training in education of children. They had to remove the word “financial” because these appointed people were no longer making exclusively financial decisions.
So, as much as I commiserate with the real emergency managers of the world, they are not going to be successful in their efforts to reclaim their profession. The title of “Emergency Manager” is part of Michigan law. The concept of an emergency manager is now and forever tied to the poisoning of children and adults and with Michigan Republicans – led by Gov. Rick Snyder – who think that democracy is dispensable when it gets in the way of their corporatist ideology.
More’s the pity.