The state-appointed emergency manager of Benton Harbor, Michigan, has issued three new orders since the first of the year. The third one (pdf), screengrabbed below, removes one mayor pro tem and replaces him with another. The emergency manager has the right to make decisions like this under Michigan’s expanded emergency manager law, which he spells out in the order.
At first blush, you might think Mr. Harris was moving autocratically to sideline one of his critics. The now-former mayor pro tem, Marcus Muhammad, has called for an investigation into the relationship between Mr. Harris and the powerful nonprofit that’s building the Habor Shores golf result stock-imaged above. That nonprofit is backed by Whirlpool, which has its corporate headquarters in Benton Harbor and is the biggest economic player in the sad, busted-up town.
So it would make sense that Mr. Harris would want to quiet Mr. Muhammad. But it turns out that Mr. Harris says he made the move at the request of the new mayor, who wanted to appoint his own mayor pro tem. The new mayor can’t do that, because in an order last year (pdf), Mr. Harris stripped Benton Harbor’s elected officials of all powers except the ability to call a meeting to order, approve the minutes, and adjourn the meeting. Now the unelected manager is carrying out, autocratically, the normal duties of the democracy he gutted.
Which is weird. On Monday, protesters plan to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day marching to Governor Rick Snyder’s house over the emergency manager law. The state is inching closer to installing an emergency manager in Detroit, which Eclectablog reports would leave 75 percent of the African-American electeds in Michigan essentially powerless.
Eclectablog also posts the best catalog I’ve seen of Benton Harbor’s desperate largess toward Whirlpool, which was founded by Congressman Fred Upton’s family. One of the saddest things about Benton Harbor is that no one listens to the electeds when they talk about this stuff. And some of it is really amazing stuff.