John Conyers Worries Michigan’s New EFM Law Could Unfairly Target Black Communities

Darrell Dawsey, Michigan Live, March 14, 2011

U.S. Rep. John D. Conyers (D-Detroit) is criticizing a proposed state law to drastically strengthen the powers of emergency financial managers, calling it unconstitutional and saying it implicitly targets minority communities.

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The bill–which will give EFMs in troubled municipalities and school districts the power to void collective bargaining agreements, sell off municipal assets and dissolve elected bodies–has been approved by the state House and Senate. Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign it into law this week.

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Of course, Detroit and majority-black suburbs like Inkster and Ecorse aren’t the only municipalities struggling. Allen Park, for instance, is 95 percent white and in the grip of serious fiscal issues. And Hamtramck, with only a 15 percent black population, is on life support.

But Conyers still raises a point worth considering. Over the past 11 years, Michigan governors have declared financial emergencies in seven municipalities, including the largely black cities of Ecorse, Benton Harbor, Highland Park, Pontiac and Flint. Meanwhile, the state has taken over Detroit’s public school system twice since 1999, both times with dismal results.

In almost all of these instances, of course, the financial troubles have been dire indeed. But rather than acknowledge the debilitating affects of deindustrialization, white flight and corporate disinvestment on places like Detroit and Flint, too many observers have been content to simply blame changing racial dynamics. Has this then made it easier to target black-run cities in Michigan with legislation like the proposed EFM law? And will the new law be driven by, or exacerbate, these perceptions?

{snip}

U.S. Rep. John D. Conyers (D-Detroit) is criticizing a proposed state law to drastically strengthen the powers of emergency financial managers, calling it unconstitutional and saying it implicitly targets minority communities.

{snip}

The bill–which will give EFMs in troubled municipalities and school districts the power to void collective bargaining agreements, sell off municipal assets and dissolve elected bodies–has been approved by the state House and Senate. Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign it into law this week.

{snip}

Of course, Detroit and majority-black suburbs like Inkster and Ecorse aren’t the only municipalities struggling. Allen Park, for instance, is 95 percent white and in the grip of serious fiscal issues. And Hamtramck, with only a 15 percent black population, is on life support.

But Conyers still raises a point worth considering. Over the past 11 years, Michigan governors have declared financial emergencies in seven municipalities, including the largely black cities of Ecorse, Benton Harbor, Highland Park, Pontiac and Flint. Meanwhile, the state has taken over Detroit’s public school system twice since 1999, both times with dismal results.

In almost all of these instances, of course, the financial troubles have been dire indeed. But rather than acknowledge the debilitating affects of deindustrialization, white flight and corporate disinvestment on places like Detroit and Flint, too many observers have been content to simply blame changing racial dynamics. Has this then made it easier to target black-run cities in Michigan with legislation like the proposed EFM law? And will the new law be driven by, or exacerbate, these perceptions?

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