On Thursday, Michigan's Public Act 36 comes into effect and Detroit Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr becomes Emergency Manager (EM), granting him an expansion of his authority over the city, including the ability to unilaterally override collective bargaining agreements. However, a group of activists which includes PoliticsNation host Rev. Al Sharpton is working to strip him of those powers entirely. Sharpton's organization, the National Action Network, has filed a federal lawsuit contending that the Emergency Management system is unlawful.
Sharpton laid out the case against the EM system on the March 15 edition of Morning Joe.
"It undermines people's right to vote, because the only one who voted for Kevyn is you," he told Rick Snyder, the Republican governor of Michigan. "This is something that is very disturbing, that you have governors undermining the will of the voters. There was a referendum last year opposed to this kind of action; you did it anyway."
In November, Michigan voters approved a popular referendum which overturned the state's 2011 Emergency Manager law. The state's EMs reverted back to being Emergency Financial Managers, which have less authority over the cities they govern and cannot amend union contracts without negotiations. However, following the November elections, Michigan's Republican-controlled lame duck legislature passed a new bill which critics argue was a carbon copy of the law that voters rejected.
"The old law went away, but we put in a new law that really was responsive to the issues that came up during that process," said Snyder in response to Sharpton. "And if you look at it, I'm also the elected official. I was elected by the people of Michigan. So there is an elected official in charge of that process, and I think that's critically important."
But Sharpton insists that suspending the powers of local elected officials is "undemocratic." And he's not the only one who feels that way about the EM system: Robert Davis, a local activist, has filed a separate lawsuit which says that the process for appointing the Orr violated the Michigan Open Meeting Act.