Chris Griffiths, Monica Patrick and Sandra Hines celebrate defeat of Public Act 4, Prop. 1. All are members of Free Detroit–No Consent.

  •  Detroit youth played major role; 82 percent of city voted NO on Prop 1
  • Snyder, Bing, et. al. connive to keep bank-imposed austerity measures 

By Diane Bukowski 

November 10, 2012

U.S. President Barack Obama carried Oakland and Macomb counites in Michigan, but they were among only eight counties that voted to keep PA 4.

DETROIT– After a strenuous grass roots battle, Michigan voters struck down Public Act 4, the notorious “local dictator law,” by a solid margin of 52 to 48 percent on Nov. 6. In Detroit, 82 percent of voters, including many youth,  opposed the PA 4 referendum, known as Proposal 1, tipping the balance.

Only eight of 83 counties voted to keep the act. Wealthy and populous Oakland and Macomb counties, which border Detroit, the largest Black-majority city in the world outside of Africa, were among the eight counties voting for Public Act 4, according to state election results. President Barack Obama nonetheless carried those counties in the race for the nation’s highest office.

Cecily McClellan, another Free Detroit-No Consent leader, shows off her power to Detroit sweatshirt at mayoral campaign rally for Tom Barrow Nov. 2, 2012.

“We did it!” exulted Monica Lewis Patrick during an impromptu celebration Nov. 9 at a downtown restaurant. She said chaos at many election sites in the city, including hours-long waits and a virtual uprising at the Coleman A. Young Recreation Center, did not discourage voters.

At one site, a young man with his wheel-chair bound brother said they were among many voters directed to the wrong polling place by City Clerk Janice Winfrey’s office.  At the initial site, they waited for two and a half hours, but persisted, going to the correct polling place afterwards to cast their ballots.

Video below, by Kenny Snodgrass, is a collage of rallies against PA 4 takeover of Detroit and other largely Black cities, with many youth.

“I saw young women with their babies waiting in line,” Patrick said. “When we were campaigning, we talked to many young people at clubs and other places, to educate them about PA 4. We found that many were already familiar with the issues.”

Patrick works with Free Detroit-No Consent, a small group founded April 4, after Detroit’s City Council voted 5-4 for a “Fiscal Stability [consent] Agreement” to stave off the appointment of an emergency manager under terms of PA 4.  Under that agreement, a nine-member corporate-dominated Financial Advisory Board, two state-appointed city officials, and the state’s treasurer and governor have veto power over the city’s elected officials.

The Detroit Public Schools district is also suffering the effects of PA 4, under EM Roy Roberts. More than half of the district’s schools are closed, and many others have been turned over to a state-run “Educational Achievement Authority.”

Detroit Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon.

Significantly, Detroit voters also passed local Proposal C, which cements the power of the city’s Corporation Counsel to interpret and enforce the City Charter, by legal action if necessary. Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon earlier challenged the consent agreement in court but was shot down by Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette, who said he did not believe that any city official could overrule the Mayor.

Since the passage of the PA 4 consent agreement, Detroit has unilaterally imposed lay-offs and wage and benefit cutbacks on its employees, while planning a pension system takeover.  The city has shut down three key federally-funded departments. It plans to cut the workforce of the city’s mammoth Water and Sewerage Department by 81 percent, and lease the city’s world-renowned island park, Belle Isle, to the state for a total of 90 years including renewals.

Brandon Jessup, CEO of Michigan Forward, initiated the petition referendum campaign to repeal Public Act 4. Here he speaks at Feb. 28 rally celebrating state-wide collection of over 240,000 signatures.

“We realize that, like in the city of Detroit, you have roughly 35% of the people trying to manage 100% of the city’s costs,” Brandon Jessup, 31, the young Detroiter who birthed the PA 4 referendum petition drive, said in an earlier interview with the Urban Policy Institute.

“We have some corporate entities in the city of Detroit that don’t pay their taxes annually,” Jessup explained. “They use the city of Detroit as a tax write-off. That’s not fair when we look at our city lights being off, our city buses pretty much breaking down, and you leave that to what, 30 percent of the community, that’s facing more pay cuts from whomever they may work for?  . . . Our problem is that we have too many hands idle in this state; we lost 867,000 jobs over a ten year period. So no matter what you do, the State can’t intervene, the State has to create jobs, they have to get people back to work.”

Gloria (Aneb) House, Steven Boyle, Monica Patrick and Valerie Glenn celebrating PA 4 defeat. They also belong to Free Detroit-No Consent.

Jessup founded Michigan Forward, working with a small crew and eventually with funds from the state’s largest public union, Michigan AFSCME Council 25, to gather over 240,000 petition signatures to put the referendum on the ballot. Attorneys from Council 25 and progressive law firms fought a drawn-out court battle which culminated with the state Supreme Court ruling Aug. 8 that the measure should go on the ballot.

The defeat of Public Act 4 is a Wall Street nightmare and may comprise part of what sent it into a tailspin after the elections Nov. 6. Most Wall Street pundits had said that stocks usually soar after a national election no matter which party wins the presidential race, but that did not happen.

Wall Street predatory lending to Detroit: Joe O’Keefe of Fitch Ratings and Steven Murphy of Standard and Poor’s tell Detroit’s City Council on Jan. 31, 2005 to approve a disastrous $1.5 billion pension obligation certificate bond, which Detroit has defaulted on twice. It added to the city’s mammoth debt burden.


PA 4 guaranteed payment of the massive debt to the banks owed by many municipalities and school districts in Michigan. It allowed state-appointed “emergency managers” or “consent agreement” administrators to unilaterally impose grueling austerity measures on the people to compensate.

These included seizing and selling public assets, dissolving or merging cities, townships and school districts, eliminating collective bargaining, closing vital public services without a hearing, and privatizing them without legislative oversight by bodies like Detroit’s City Council.

Protesters demand cancellation of Detroit’s debt to the banks during march in downtown Detroit May 9, 2012.

“It has always been a tenet of municipal credit that at some point paying debt service may come in conflict with, and be superseded by, a government’s obligation to provide essential services such as education, public health, and safety,” Wall Street bond rating agency Fitch Ratings said in an Aug. 20 report.

The report goes on to stress the necessity for state intervention in such cases, and says Public Act 4 was “perhaps the strongest program in the nation, as it allows a state-appointed emergency manager to ‘reject, modify, or terminate terms and conditions of an existing contract.’” By “contract,” Fitch referred to labor agreements. (Click on Fitch Ratings Local Govt Downgrades to Persist for full report.)

“Flint, Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Pontiac, and Detroit Public Schools have all had emergency managers appointed to administer their financial affairs,” Fitch said in a report issued Aug. 3 while the Michigan Supreme Court was deliberating the placement of PA 4 on the ballot. “Some were appointed under PA 4 while others were appointed under PA 72. 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. 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.”

Benton Harbor rally against first emergency manager, Joe Harris. Rev. Edward Pinkney leads march; Rep. Pscholka initiated PA 4 law.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette issued an earlier, non-binding opinion that the repeal of Public Act 4 would result in the restoration of the earlier, less stringent “Emergency Financial Manager” Public Act 72.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon at raucous Detroit Financial Review Team meeting, where the crowd drowned out deliberations by corporate members.

Until recently the daily media has repeated Schuette’s opinion like a mantra. The Bond Buyer reported Oct. 12 that Snyder, State Treasurer Andy Dillon and Budget Director met with all three Wall Street ratings agencies in New York to argue for a restoration of Michigan’s AAA bond rating in anticipation of a $100 million state general obligation bond sale Nov. 8, two days after the election.

They stressed that even if PA 4 is repealed, PA 72 would be restored.

“That law lacks what is considered Public Act 4’s most powerful feature, the ability to unilaterally amend or terminate a labor contract. But it’s still workable, Dillon said,” the Bond Buyerreported. “The state lived with PA 72 from the late 80s until 2011, so it works. What is better about PA 4 is the ability to come in sooner and get out faster. It would just take us longer under PA 72. If you can’t negotiate the contracts, then you just have to wait them out. It’s slower and more painful, but it will happen.”

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young.

However, Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young shot that argument out of the water during oral arguments on the PA 4 ballot question July 25.

Attorney John Pirich, who represented the AG’s office during the proceedings, argued that if PA 4 were repealed, its repeal of Public Act 72 would also be negated.

Young read into the record MCL 8.4, which says, “Whenever a statute, or any part thereof shall be repealed by a subsequent statute, such statute, or any part thereof, so repealed, shall not be revived by the repeal of such subsequent repealing statute.”

Young declared, “It’s still repealed, albeit by a law that might be suspended.”

Snyder, Dillon and Bing are now frantically scrambling to find a fix, including the introduction into the state legislature of a new version of Public Act 4. Meanwhile, lawsuits filed by the Flint City Council, the Sugar Law Center, and others are pending in various courts calling for a re-iteration of what the state’s Chief Supreme Court Justice has already declared:


Michigan’s people must be ready for a head-on assault by Wall Street on their right to control their own destinies, not face continued control by the banks and corporations which have devastated their lives.

“If it takes going to jail, that’s what we’re going to have to do,” one PA 4 opponent said Nov. 9 at the restaurant celebration.

PA 4 defeat celebration.

Related articles:

Brandon Jessup interview:   http://www.michiganpolicy.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1161:an-interview-with-brandon-jessup-michigan-forward&catid=62:urban-affairs-interviews&Itemid=251

Michigan Supreme Court oral arguments on PA 4:


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  1. Pingback: Democracy & Detroit 2012 « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

  2. Judi Briggs says:

    How did this go? I was there briefly in the rain at the Fisher Building, but I had to leave after an hour to go to a meeting at work.

  3. Today we’re going to pressure Roy Roberts with a number of actions that would have him understand it is time to go! Be at the Fisher Building at noon to participate. This is a half day of school, so bring the kids down to participate. We’ll be marching at 1:30 to the Detroit Financial Advisory Board meeting at McGregor Conference Center on WSU Campus which begins at 2pm.

  4. sherry says:

    Why is Roy Roberts still walking around the Fischer Building with his body guards, when we have 40 children in a kindergarten

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