Michigan emergency manager law ruling leads to celebration and confusion

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Detroit Mayor Dave Bing talks during an interview with the Associated Press in Detroit, Thursday, June 14, 2012. Bing says the Motor City is in the late portion of its comeback effort, down double digits and he has the ball. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing talks during an interview with the Associated Press in Detroit, Thursday, June 14, 2012. Bing says the Motor City is in the late portion of its comeback effort, down double digits and he has the ball. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DETROIT – With Friday’s 4-3 ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court that Public Act 4, the state’s controversial Emergency Manager law, would be up for a repeal vote on the November ballot, opponents of the law trumpeted it as a victory for democracy. In cities already under some form of emergency management, confusion has started to reign.

“We respect the Michigan Supreme Court’s opinion, protecting the constitutional right of citizens to use the petition process,” Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said in a statement. Detroit is currently under a consent agreement with the state of Michigan, and certain elements of Public Act 4 apply.

“However, the Financial Stability Agreement remains in effect and is still a critical tool to help fiscally stabilize the city. The city is bound by the FSA to continue to restructure city government and to continue to execute the imposition of new labor terms.”

Detroit is one of a number of Michigan cities that has been under one form of emergency management. The city’s beleaguered public school system has been under an emergency manager since 2009 under the previous EFM law, Public Act 72, which was first signed into law in 1990.

“The bottom line is that there’s a very important word in the state’s emergency manager law, and that’s ‘emergency,’” Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder, told the Detroit News. “None of this would be necessary unless these communities and schools weren’t facing crises or the most dire of circumstances.”

Other cities that have a form of emergency management in place include Flint, Pontiac, Highland Park, and Benton Harbor – all of which are majority black. The emergency manager law has come under heavy fire from African-American residents who feel that the law is a racially motivated attempt to disenfranchise voters and take away their rights.

“We are ecstatic that the high court in Michigan upheld democracy on today,” said Rev. Alexander Bullock, a Detroit pastor and head of the Michigan Chapter of Rainbow-PUSH. “After months of collecting signatures and legal fights that were mere stall tactics, we are thrilled that the people’s right to decide has been protected in Michigan.

“In a season where voting rights are being trumped around the country, the Michigan Supreme Court has sent a resounding message to those in Michigan and around the country that justice is blind and should not be swayed by partisan politics. All the citizens wanted is the right to decide if emergency managers should be allowed to come into their cities and school districts and trump the rights of their duly elected officials.”

P.A. 4 was originally passed by the state’s majority Republican legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. Ironically, it was a Republican judge, Mary Beth Kelly, who cast Friday’s deciding vote.

After the ruling, chaos ensued, as many opposed to emergency managers thought that this ruling rendered all current appointments null and void. Some opponents demanded immediate resignations.