The reason Michigan matters, the reason why we can’t afford to stop paying attention to what’s going on here, is that it is a high-powered looking glass into the nuts and bolts of Republican revenge for Election 2012. We are all familiar with the term revenge, but if you want to get a good look at how political revenge truly operates and functions on the state level, and if you want to get an idea of what is written in the post Election 2012 Koch Brothers Playbook (aka “How YOU Can Still Strangle Blue States in the Crib”), then you need look no further than Michigan.
There are several significant battles going on, but for now we’ll focus on the Emergency Manager legislation which, you may recall, was supposedly defeated at the ballot box by the voters – especially Detroit voters who turned out in record numbers to toss out Public Act 4 (Proposal 1 on the ballot) by more than 80 percent. Normally this would mean that Public Act 4 should have died on that date, Emergency Manager Roy Roberts would now be a smudge in the rear view mirror, and the publicly elected Detroit School Board would be tending to the duties that the voters of Detroit elected them to do. But these are hardly normal times, which explains why Gov. Rick Snyder and Roberts have steadfastly refused to acknowledge the will of the voters.
During the now expired lame duck legislative session, Snyder and his peeps in the legislature conspired to draft a replacement legislation (referred to by our side as “Son of PA4”, known formally as PA 436) designed to purposely ignore the will of the voters and force a slightly different version of PA4 right back down their throats. Snyder has since signed the bill into law, which is scheduled to go into effect in March unless our side is successful in derailing it once again, which will not be easy. Snyder points to the changes made in the replacement legislation that he says have made it better and more responsive to the feelings of the voters. For example the new legislation supposedly does not force an emergency manager on a financially distressed municipality, but rather gives the struggling municipality options such as Chapter 9 bankruptcy or mediation. Presto! Brand new law y’all.
Such a nice boy that Snyder.
Except that, well, those nice new changes that Snyder put into the new law so it wouldn’t look so much like the old law we overturned only apply to those municipalities who may be facing financial emergencies in the future. Those like Detroit Public Schools, who remain under the thumb of an emergency financial manager, don’t get those same neat options. Our school board can’t choose bankruptcy or mediation (mediation, if allowed, would be the best option for DPS) because we have been effectively ‘grandfathered in’, meaning DPS is exempt from the new provisions in ‘Son of PA4’ because we’re still being screwed by Dear Old Dad, PA4 Senior. Even though PA4 is supposed to be dead. How does that work exactly? I mean getting screwed by…
Yeesh. I know.
Meanwhile, Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts continues to occupy the office that should be occupied by the interim Superintendent Dr. John Telford because, well, I guess because it’s a bigger, nicer office there on the top floor and he figures he should have it. He has also blocked the school board on numerous occasions from meeting on any school property, including the Detroit Public Schools building itself. This includes the board’s regularly scheduled weekly meetings which, in recent months have been held at the Detroit Public Library. But how can he…?
Hell if I know.
Anyway, what this means at the end of the day is that the population that is most responsible for overturning PA4, Detroit voters, and all those other communities whose democracy has been stolen from them by their own Governor and remain trapped in the Emergency Manager cage, are being told in the most dramatic means possible that not only does their vote not count, but that their vote must not be allowed to count whenever the governor believes he knows better. We have a vote as long as we vote the way massa says vote.
This sounds like a job for D’Jango…
Keith Owens (AKA Black Liberal Boomer) is a Detroit-based writer who has worked for The Detroit Free Press, Detroit’s alternative newsweekly the Metro Times, the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, and other newspapers. He was also a nationally syndicated columnist with Universal Press Syndicate for three years beginning in 1993.