Michigan Supreme Court rules that PA 4 repeal must go on Nov. ballot
- Free Detroit-No Consent mobilizes for Council meeting Aug. 7, 10 am
- Detroit Board of Education meets Aug. 7 at 2 pm
- AFSCME Co. 25 meeting to organize to defeat PA4 Aug. 7 3 pm
- Opponents to confront Detroit Financial Advisory Board Aug. 13
Wall Street’s Fitch Ratings has fit
By Diane Bukowski
August 6, 2012
DETROIT – In the wake of the Michigan Supreme Court’s order that a challenge to Public Act 4, known as “the dictator law,” must go on the state’s November ballot, newly energized organizers are mobilizing to force the immediate nullification of actions taken under PA 4. They are gearing up at the same time to turn out a massive vote in November to strike down the law, passed last year.
The State Board of Canvassers will meet Wednesday, Aug. 8 in Lansing to certify the referendum petitions. Once that happens, state law requires the nullification of PA 4 until the voters decide the matter in November. Stand Up for Democracy collected over 220,000 petition signatures to put PA 4 on the ballot.
“This law should never have been enacted in the first place,” Sandra Hines of “Free Detroit-No Consent” said. “It is unconstitutional and violates basic civil and human rights.”
The Supreme Court’s order has sent Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Treasurer Andy Dillon, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts, among others, scrambling to shore up actions taken so far under PA 4, claiming the law now reverts back to its predecessor Public Act 72 of 1990.
Snyder plans to ask the state legislature to pass a temporary law re-appointing emergency managers in the cities of Benton Harbor, Flint, Pontiac, and Ecorse, and the school districts of Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights. He also wants to ensure that “consent agreements” tied to Public Act 4 remain in place in Detroit and Inkster.
Roberts jumped the gun the day the Michigan Supreme Court ruled, sending out a release to his DPS constituency declaring that he still maintains absolute authority until he is re-appointed under PA 72. The release said in bold capital type:
“MR. ROBERTS HAS DIRECTED THAT ALL STAFF CONTINUE WITH YOUR DUTIES WITHOUT INTERRUPTION IN CONDUCT OF THE AFFAIRS OF THIS DISTRICT UNLESS AND UNTIL DIRECTED BY HIM OTHERWISE. THE BOARD OF EDUCATION HAS NO AUTHORITY TO DIRECT DPS PERSONNEL TO TAKE ANY ACTION TO THE CONTRARY.
Wall Street’s Fitch Ratings agency expressed alarm, threatening credit ratings in Detroit and Michigan.
Unphased, Cecily McClellan, Vice-President of the Association of Professional and Technical Employees (APTE), said ,“PA 4 has been repealed, and the state’s previous PA 72 is repealed. All emergency managers and PA4 consent agreements must go out the window now. We plan to ask the Detroit City Council tomorrow to cease and desist moving forward on any plans under the consent agreement. Project Management Director Kriss Andrews and Chief Financial Officer Jack Martin must resign. The Financial Advisory Board (FAB) must step down.”
The Council has called a special session for Tues. Aug. 7 at 10 a.m. to discuss the diversion of federal funds from the health and workforce development departments under the consent agreement, but will likely take up the Supreme Court ruling as well.
“We are demanding that all employees laid off from those departments as well as Human Services because of PA 4 should be restored to their jobs immediately,” McClellan said. She represents workers in all three departments.
McClellan said consent agreement opponents will attend the next meeting of the nine-member, corporate-controlled FAB, appointed under the PA 4 consent agreement. It has said it will meet the second Monday of every month at 2 p.m., making its next meeting Mon. Aug. 12, unless the state treasurer calls on it to meet earlier.
Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson said she has asked Detroit Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon to issue a legal opinion to City Council on the impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“If PA4 is no longer the law, PA 72 would not come back,” Crittendon earlier said at the June 28 general membership meeting of the Detroit NAACP.
Attorneys Herbert Sanders, representing Stand Up for Democracy, and Melvin ‘Butch’ Hollowell, representing the Detroit NAACP, have agreed with Crittendon. The day before the Supreme Court ruling, the Detroit NAACP had called on President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to intervene against Public Act 4, saying it violates the National Voting Rights Act.
Under its provisions, over half of Michigan’s African-American residents are disenfranchised, controlled by EM’s or consent agreements that have the power to sell off or privatize city assets, abrogate union contracts, and otherwise lay waste to their jobs and lives.
A similar appeal by U.S. Rep. John Conyers to Holder, sent last December, has gone unanswered.
“It is urgent that provisions including the ‘City Employment Terms’ [CET] unilaterally imposed on city workers under the consent agreement go out the window immediately,” Attorney George Washington, who has represented APTE, Michigan AFSCME Council 25 locals, and Detroit’s Board of Education, said.
“It’s pretty much open and shut that key sections of the FSA are now null and void, including its ban on collective bargaining,” he explained. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law. It’s outrageous and likely unconstitutional that Snyder wants the legislature to pass a temporary bill to keep the EM’s in place. The whole point of this delay on the referendum against PA4 all along has been for them to get in and do as much damage as possible before any repeal.”
He said that the Board’s power at least over academic matters must be immediately restored, in keeping with an earlier ruling by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Baxter under PA 72. Board of Education member Elena Herrada said the Board plans to meet Tues. Aug. 7 at 2 p.m. to discuss the ruling and retake its power.
The Board is currently challenging Snyder’s establishment of a separate allegedly state-wide district for “failing” schools, all of them in Detroit. (See VOD article on Educational Achievement Authority.)
Rev. David Bullock heads the Detroit chapter of Rainbow: PUSH, which marched on Snyder’s house on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Jan. 16, and on the Supreme Court during oral arguments, along with numerous other groups opposing PA 4.
He also organized a busload from “Free Detroit-No Consent” to support Crittendon in her challenge to the consent agreement before Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Willian Collette. Collette dismissed the case, and Crittendon has not said yet if she will appeal.
Bullock said, “Our organization plans to focus on massive voter education and mobilization to ensure that PA4 is defeated in November. The other matters will likely have to be fought out in court.”
Snyder expressed dismay at the court ruling.
“The bottom line is that there’s a very important word in the state’s emergency manager law, and that’s ’emergency,'” Snyder’s representative Sara Wurfel said in published remarks.
‘None of this would be necessary unless these communities and schools weren’t facing crises or the most dire of circumstances. The governor must remain focused like a laser beam on helping address the challenges facing our struggling communities and schools. Ensuring they have the tools they need to get back on sound financial footing and provide core, effective services to their residents, parents, and students is a top priority.”
Dillon and Detroit’s Mayor Dave Bing said the terms of Detroit’s April 4 Fiscal Stability [consent] Agreement will remain in place.
In its July 3 order, the Supreme Court order declared, “Because a majority of this Court holds that a new writ of mandamus should enter directing the Board of State Canvassers to certify plaintiff’s petition as sufficient, a majority of this Court directs the Board of State Canvassers to certify plaintiff’s petition for the ballot. . . we direct the Clerk of the Court to issue the judgment order forthwith.”
Justice Mary Beth Kelly, not known for her special sensitivity to people of cities like Detroit, where she served as Chief Judge of Wayne County Circuit Court, wrote the decision, parsing it down to its most minute aspect.
“This appeal concerns a big constitutional issue, even though its focus is somethingas small as 14/72 of an inch,” Kelly said. “This matter turns on what many citizens may regard as a trivial issue: Whether a heading on a petition signed by over 200,000 people satisfies the statutory requirement that the petition heading be in ‘14-point boldfaced type.’ As technical as this appears, the rule of law is implicated here because this issue concerns the constitutional foundation of how we govern ourselves.”
Kelly said the law requires the measurement of a 14-point FONT, which includes the white space around a letter, not the measurement of the TYPE itself, and that therefore the referendum petition was in exact compliance.
Her opinion struck down an earlier appeals court ruling that “substantial compliance” was sufficient, causing her three Democratic colleagues to issue separate concurring opinions differing on that point.
The Supreme Court decision reverberated all the way to the canyons of Wall Street.
“As Detroit’s fiscal stability agreement has several features that rely on the existence of PA 4, most notably the ability to suspend collective bargaining, the repeal of PA4 could weaken or nullify the agreement,” Wall Street bond agency Fitch Ratings declared in a statement.
“This may have an adverse effect on the city’s ability to continue the reforms already begun under the agreement and therefore stabilize and improve its credit quality. We also believe the prospects for financial stability among entities assisted by emergency managers now, or those that might need them in the future, are unclear.”
Fitch thus threatened to further destroy Detroit’s credit ratings, as well those as of cities, corporations and nations across the world. Wall Street wants the “99 percent” to continue to succumb to austerity measures to ensure the repayment of gargantuan debt loads to banks already bloated with trillions in tax-payer bail-outs.
On April 9, Detroiters held a march calling the banks as the architects of the city’s ruin. They demanded moratoriums on the debts of both Detroit and its public school systems.
“This demonstration is the first that has told the truth about the Financial Advisory Board,” Jerry Goldberg of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition said during the rally. “The Financial Advisory Board is all about robbery by the banks. The city itself has been victimized by predatory lending. This year, it paid $597 million out of a budget of $1.2 billion on its debt. The consent agreement is a grab by the banks for our tax dollars, even if it means destroying every city service.”
In addition to the city’s debt, 80 percent of DPS state per-pupil aid is set aside to pay the banks, resulting in the closure of hundreds of public schools, tens of thousands of lay-offs, and massive New Orleans-style charterization.
City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson recently called for the city to re-negotiate its debt to the banks rather than laying off 2500 workers, shutting down departments, and leasing out assets like Belle Isle.
Read DPS EM’s release on the day of MSC ruling. Roy Roberts on MSC ruling.
Read Supreme Court full opinion at MSC opinion PA4 referendum.
Article in current Final Call newspaper by this author on Detroit crisis: http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/National_News_2/article_9091.shtml
Posted by: mgtvvanessa
Video now online for the Michigan Supreme Court Oral argument for the case Stand Up For Democracy v Secretary of State and Board of State Canvassers (emergency financial manager ballot referendum case taped on July 25). http://www.mgtv.org/video/video-gallery/.