Rev. Al Sharpton and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder went head to head on Friday’s Morning Joe over Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law and Snyder’s recent takeover of Detroit under that law.
Acknowledging the poor condition of Detroit’s finances, Sharpton argued that Snyder “undermined the will of the voters” when he signed new emergency manager legislation into law only a few weeks after Michiganders repealed it in the November 2012 election.
Snyder’s defended the move, arguing the new law was different. “The old law went away, but we put in a new one that really was responsive to the issues that came up during that process,” he said.
He also push back against the criticism that by appointing an emergency manager, Snyder essentially became the only voter in Detroit, with full power to decide who leads it. “I’m also the elected official,” he said. “I was elected by the people of Michigan so there is an elected official responsible for this process and I think that’s critically important.”
Sharpton also brought up Pontiac’s experience with an emergency manager. In that town, manager Lou Schimmel has privatized and outsources many of the city’s services, decimated the public unions, reduced the public workforce by 90%, and sold the Silverdome arena for a fraction of its estimated value.
Snyder argued that mayors and cities in Pontiac and elsewhere are “still giving input” and involved with an ongoing process, although many elected leaders in those towns have argued the opposite, especially Pontiac’s City Councilman Donald Watkins, who said on Thursday’s PoliticsNation that the emergency manager law has led to “one man power corruption” which he calls “emergency mismanagement.”
Watch Donald Watkins on Thursday’s PoliticsNation.
Rev. Charles Williams II, who leads the Michigan chapter of Sharpton’s civil rights organization, says the people of Detroit are ready to fight for their rights. “The mayors and the city council–they lose all of their power, and all of that power is quite frankly entrusted inside of the emergency manager,” he said. “There are certain ones who are sitting there who may still have their paycheck and they may in theory still have their power, but if the emergency manager has a gun to your head, there’s not much you can do.”
Williams, who led protests against the appointment on Thursday, said Snyder is “disenfranchising the vote and dismissing democracy in Michigan” by taking this action after the law was repealed, pointing to the more than 2 million voters who rejected the emergency manager law in November’s referendum.
“The people should decide [if elections matter], but they don’t want people to decide who chooses our president, who chooses our mayor, or our city council,” he said.
Williams also argued that the emergency manager laws are part of a broader voter suppression plan, in line with gerrymandering and voter ID laws. “This is part of the Republican scheme to continue to disenfranchise voters,” he said, calling it a “suppressive tactic.”
“We’re going to stand up and fight back we’re not going to allow our voices to be dismissed.”